Sixteen hour days, a constant round of interviews and content creation could only mean one thing; Shoptalk Europe 2022 was back at the ExCel in London. And this week, amongst other things, despite the best efforts of Mick Lynch and the RMT union, I got to travel on the new Elizabeth Line. But that’s not the main reason for writing of course, because this is all about Shoptalk.
So, let’s get the (slight) downside out of the way first. Whether it was for the above reason or down to others, but attendance seemed markedly down on what was perhaps expected. Indeed, talking with a veteran of retail event organising, he told me that the organisers would most likely be very disappointed by the modest turn out. As were the dozens of vendors who had no doubt paid handsomely to be there.
But for me that didn’t detract from the conference in any way. Because speakers from the likes of Ahold Delhaize, Zolando, John Lewis, Situ Live, Meta, Estee Lauder, Lego, Levi Straus and Sephora amongst many others delivered some insightful content across the three days.
As a general observation, if I recall my days as a retailer and attending events like this, I think now it is ever more of a challenge to avoid becoming completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of niche vendors who are now appearing. And more than one delegate told me that the industry has to consolidate, otherwise, the number of relationships a retailer needs to manage will rapidly become unmanageable. Will be interesting to see how that scenario plays out over the coming years.
Aside from that, it was great to catch-up with many retail industry colleagues, and a special mention here goes to the brilliant team at ReTHINK Retail who hosted a happy hour meet and greet on the afternoon of day two. Yes, retail and Prosecco go very well together! I even managed to turn the tables on ReTHINK Retail’s Paula Macaggi by interviewing her – look out for my LinkedIn feed to catch up on the great chat we had.
The Retail Game
It’s always hard to distil down to a manageable list, the trends which emerge from retail conferences, especially now, where there is just so much going on in the industry; however, with a little help from the content team at Shoptalk, it came down to four key pillars to help ensure success in ‘the retail game’.
1. Supply chain
We knew even before the pandemic that global supply chains were beginning to feel the strain and of course the last couple of years has for the most part pushed them almost over the edge. No longer fit for purpose, they are being radically overhauled and in this new world, speed, resilience, visibility and agility are all key.
There was much discussion at Shoptalk about final mile, the merits (on the environment) of click & collect / BOPIS but one thing was evident, the supply chain will be brought closer and closer to the consumer. However, whether in a cost of living crisis, we will be willing to sacrifice an element of speed in favour of a more attractive price point, is yet to be determined.
Payment options are an integral part of the overall experience, of that we’ve known for some time. What’s different now is that there are a growing number of those options. Not only that, but payment options will need to fit the purchase.
In other words, whether it’s frictionless, flexible, crypto, quick or streamlined (checkout), the payment mechanism needs to be aligned with not only the product but the customer journey.
Now I could wang on about this for hours, but there were some interesting points being made about the metaverse during the conference. It was off the record so I can’t share it here, however, I had a very interesting conversation with someone from Meta about the metaverse. Maybe another time.
But in terms of ownership, for example, within a brand or retail organisation, who actually owns it? Marketing, digital or e-commerce? Or all three? Either way, it will surely underline why retail organisations must consign their silo’ed organisational structures to history.
And of course, for those planning on entering the metaverse, a key decision will be whether to build, buy or partner? It’s still in development, and there are no standards yet, but the message was clear: don’t dismiss it.
Digital overload leading to digital distraction is shaping the relationship with the consumer. Inspiration and ease need to be balanced so that a customer’s time must be respected. And in this regard, it is interesting to note that IKEA, for years a champion of store layout complexity, is trialling a different format where we are not obliged to navigate the entire store, simply to find the exit.
Another example of this is Target, who are introducing a new concept in some of its stores, by having two entrances. One, an ‘inspiration’ entrance whilst the other is labelled an ‘ease’ entrance. And as you have probably guessed, the inspiration entrance is for those longer shopping journeys, whilst the ease entrance caters for those who need to get in and get out.
It’s often the most simplest of ideas which are the best.
Over the course of the three days at Shoptalk there were many memorable quotes, such as that from Nicole Srock Stanley from the dan pearlman group who said, “Whoever brings leisure KPIs to retail will own the high street” – absolutely.
Or this from Sophie Moreau, President at Sephora, “In stores we believe – they are our social hubs”. Totally.
But the prize for the best must surely go to Shoptalk’s very own SVP of content, Krystina Gustafson, “Even if the metaverse doesn’t happen, the technologies used to build it surely will. That alone is a good reason to keep an eye on it”.
Couldn’t have put it better myself.