This year Tinyclues went to Shoptalk 2022 in March in Las Vegas. Normally, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas but in this instance we are going to dish.
Shoptalk is one of retail’s biggest events attracting leaders from diverse departments from some of the world’s biggest, most influential brands. There was also an incredible array of partners spanning from supply chain management to payments to marketing solutions and everything in between.
The attendees were retail focused from just about every facet including apparel, CPG, beauty, and more. The event had a lot to offer attendees including content sessions that were divided thematically into different tracks. Additionally, there were opportunities for retailers to explore partner solutions and attend events as well as meeting opportunities for networking.
So, what were the major themes at shoptalk 2022?
There was lots to discuss at Shoptalk 2022, but within the content, 1-1 conversations, and presentations there were some key themes that emerged. Here’s a quick summary of what we saw….
1. Omnichannel distribution
Omnichannel was huge this year. It had several dedicated content sessions but also made its way into other topics as well. Consumers, post-pandemic lockdown, are making their way back into physical stores as Covid apprehension continues to wane.
There’s no doubt that digital remains hugely important and that the pandemic changed the way consumers shop online and that behavior will remain forever impacted. However, it was clear that customers are returning to stores.
The return to brick-and-mortar drove a lot of discussions around what effective omnichannel shopping experiences look like and the need to connect online and brick-and-mortar experiences as the two further become connected.
This impacts personalization strategies as retailers look to create relevant, personal experiences that are effective both online and offline, and a strategy that connects the journey for both. Consumers are increasingly doing product exploration and purchasing on a combination of both channels…not just one.
2. The emergence of the metaverse
Love it or hate it, the metaverse was a big theme in 2022. This was the topic of a major keynote that showcased a few retailers who were really leaning into the metaverse in innovative ways. Retailers such as Forever 21 and PacSun are bullish on this new and evolving medium. It’s important to note that both of these companies are focused on Gen Z audiences that can be found in abundance in the metaverse.
There are two camps of retailers: 1. those that view this as a passing fad and 2. those who believe that although this will likely evolve and change, the metaverse is here to stay, and will continue to further impact the way customers shop and brands communicate with audiences.
The metaverse is a place where people can create digitized versions of themselves. These avatars may closely resemble who they are in the real world or they can be completely fictionalized images of themselves. The point is, in the metaverse, the possibilities are endless and walk the line between fantasy and reality.
The brands that are bullish on the metaverse see opportunities that span marketing, customer service, and the shopper journey. Strategies range from in-metaverse advertising to creating personalized digital “stores” that shoppers can explore and customize to their liking.
A customized store? Talk about hyper-personalization!
The metaverse is even an opportunity for new product development. Either products that are completely digital (one example was a pair of golden wings that could be worn by an avatar), or products that exist in both the digital and physical worlds.
The metaverse provides a new opportunity for individual expression and exploration that hasn’t existed in the past. There may be a bubble happening but even if it bursts, the metaverse will continue to emerge as a major channel for brands to take advantage of.
The takeaway is that the time to get involved, build a strategy, test, and learn is now.
3. A focus on Gen Z
The oldest members of this generation are now entering their mid-20s. Which means many brands are focusing on building relationships with them and learning as much as possible about what they value and what they are influenced by.
This is a generation that has grown up with a digital world fully available to them. Unlike millennials, the oldest of them existing before the internet, Gen Z was born into a world of connected devices and a sophisticated internet.
One interesting takeaway is that despite being the most digital generation yet, Gen Z actually enjoys in-store shopping experiences. For many of them, the mall is still a major place to hang out and spend time with friends. An in-store strategy is essential for brands looking to reach Gen Z.
They value inclusion and individual expression so the metaverse is a medium they are embracing fully. These consumers will expect brands to create personalized and relevant experiences in both worlds.
The brands they like will need to reflect their own personal and collective values.
4. Sustainable retail
Businesses have been increasingly focused on sustainability. Both the earth’s climate and the business climate are becoming increasingly inseparable. Sustainability is not a new concept but as the impacts of climate change and pollution become increasingly apparent, brands are taking more action.
Consumers are more likely to expect sustainable practices from the brands they buy from. Sustainability impacts all elements of the supply chain from marketing, to transportation, to the materials used to make the products.
During one of the sessions focusing on sustainability, there was a conversation around the notion of cost-to-the-consumer. Sustainability costs a premium in most cases (although these costs will likely decrease as sustainable practices continue to scale).
The point was made that people will pay more for things they value. The example of consumers will spend more on luxury goods. The counter point is that many of these products remain too expensive for average consumers to consider.
It seems the future of sustainability, in retail, is about scaling practices that are friendly to the environment down the supply chain in addition to making sustainable goods available to a wider market. This will only happen when the cost efficiencies of scaling sustainable practices are fully realized through increased adoption.
2022 is all about new media, new audiences, and earth-friendly ways of bringing products to market. We are coming out of the pandemic lockdown economy and the impacts are arguable but a change of focus is certain.
It will be interesting next year to see if topics such as the metaverse continue to be front-and-center or if the industry switches focus. Inflation and the economy could play a huge role in how the remainder of the year plays out.