Retail Reflections

Shoptalk 2023 Day Four: Made in Huddersfield

Shoptalk 2023 Day Four: Made in Huddersfield

Breakfast this morning was quiet, at least it was when I got there at 8am, but there again, I did bail out early from the White Beach Party with Nelly yesterday evening. I always recall that before I lived in the Bahamas, I couldn’t stand reggae but after a few years there I grew to love it. Not sure if the same will ever hold true of rap music however. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

So it was that I made it to the Apollo theatre (I forgot to mention that all the stages were named after famous theatres in keeping with the theatre theme this year) on time, ready to take in what turned out to be a great session with the wonderful Kate Hardcastle who not only chaired a panel but treated us to some of her wisdom around brands and their relationships with their customers.

Because, let’s be honest, unless you’re still in mourning for Woollies pick ‘n mix, your average consumer doesn’t really give a flying SKU for any particular brand or retailer. Except that Kate put it far more eloquently than I. The gentle challenge she presented to the brands in the audience was delicious.

Just as an aside whilst writing this back in my room, it seems that the wonderful MGM Rewards app isn’t quite as wonderful as I first thought because I got a knock on the door. It was housekeeping asking if I was intending on vacating the room anytime soon? I explained that via the app I had arranged for a late checkout, only to be told that they don’t receive that information. Wouldn’t take much surely?

Anyway, I digress. It was great to catch-up with Kate, her knowledge and experience of the retail scene and the customer is unrivalled. And during the course of our conversation over a coffee, we discovered that we both hail from Huddersfield. At Retail Technology Live in a few weeks, she’ll be chairing the headline stage one day whilst I have chairing duties on the other. However for those who’ve ever done that kind of thing, it’s 100% full-on and the opportunities to chat with friends are virtually non-existent.

Themes From Shoptalk 2023

And to what has become one of my highlights of Shoptalk – the roundup session on day four of the key themes which emerged from the conference.

But first, the themes which Shoptalk had going into the show:

And those kind of echoed what I would have imagined. Because as I noted yesterday, it’s all about not only the customer, but their relationship and engagement with brands. I’ve said it before during this conference but it’s worth repeating: brands think their customers are loyal, but customers simply enjoy the interaction in the moment. It’s a bit like a one night stand, enjoyable, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to go there again. Those brands who understand this are the ones more likely to succeed.

And to do so, perhaps they need to look to other sectors to better understand the dynamics of the relationship. I happen to support Chelsea FC, have done ever since I was eight years old. I’ve seen them get relegated, and I’ve seen them win the Champions League and as it happens I’m now witnessing them stumble their way through the season like a drunk in a hurricane. But I’m not about to swan off and support Arsenal. That would just be unthinkable. There’s a lesson there for brands.

And then we saw the themes which emerged from the conference:

Generative AI was clearly the star of the show and I for one will be experimenting with ChatGPT, although you’ll be pleased to hear (or maybe not) that it will never write one of these.

Purpose, along with being real and authentic, stand out for me from the list above. But only because that as consumers, is what we are constantly seeking out. And perhaps the one clear difference in 2023 is that we can detect insincerity and a lack of that authenticity a mile off.

Until Next Time

And that might have been the end of my Shoptalk roundups for 2023, however, in six weeks time, we do it all again at Shoptalk Europe in Barcelona. It will be fascinating, coming so close together, to compare and contrast the themes emerging from the capital of Catalonia. Once again I’ll be live from the conference floor and documenting my thoughts.

However, between now and then, in five weeks time, I’ll be back in Vegas, this time to take to the stage myself, when I bring Shopper Mark Two to town at the Smart Retail Tech show to be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Which is where I’m off to now as I’ve got time to kill before my flight. One thing I’ve learnt when speaking at events is that you can never be over-prepared. I can hardly wait.

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