5 key takeaways from Shoptalk

Brands talked survival strategies at the retail conference

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Shoptalk 2019
Shoptalk 2019 Credit: Shoptalk

That's a wrap on Shoptalk, the annual retail conference that ran from Sunday through Wednesday. Now in its fourth year, the Las Vegas event attracted 8,400 attendees as well-known brands took to the stage to talk about themes including partnerships, technology and customer experience. Below, a few takeways:

It's the place to be for retailers big and small

When Shoptalk first started in 2016, it attracted only a fraction of the audience the 2019 iteration saw. It was largely focused on direct-to-consumer startups eager to break into the industry and gain larger followings. Ryan Babenzien, founder of Greats, a sneaker brand, attended the conference every year and notes how intimate it used to be. These days, however, the event touted executives from big names like Walmart, Nordstrom and Dick's Sporting Goods, as well as newer players including Greats and Zola, a wedding company.

"If you're a retailer, you have to be at Shoptalk," says Kevin Lavelle, founder of menswear brand Mizzen & Main.

Blurring the d-to-c lines

Much of the buzz around d-to-c has been focused on native e-commerce brands, like underwear startup Lively or mattress company Casper. Yet older brands have had their own stores and sites that sell directly to consumers for years; they're now amping up their efforts. Both Levi's and Nike talked about how they're rethinking products and in-store experiences from a d-to-c standpoint. Brands need to "keep up with a very empowered consumer," says Amy Lanzi, North America Commerce Practice lead at Publicis Media.

Convenience stores try for a digital upgrade

Just like apparel brands are looking to leverage technology to improve the brick-and-mortar store experience, convenience stores like 7-Eleven are hoping to also create seamless experiences. The difference is that in a store like Macy's, consumers are encouraged to linger; at grocery stores, they want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Convenience stores are exploring scan-and-go and digital app options to upgrade the process for shoppers. Companies like Walgreens are exploring digital ads in stores already.

Find a buddy

The number of retail partnerships has been on the rise as larger brands realize they can learn from a digital pal and startups try to build awareness from a collection with a more established player. Nordstrom has been at the forefront of selling capsule collections of smaller brands like Greats and Lively. Underwear brand Cosabella has also been trying on new partnerships and collaborations to expand its reach. "There was a thread of 'We need each other to survive,'" says Lanzi. "These brands are working together, not competing."

More digital vendors

The Shoptalk exhibit hall was packed with vendors eager to make favorable impressions on retailers desperate for tech partners to help them use customer data and perfect the jumps from digital to physical. Experts said the number of startups—firms that dabble in facial recognition software, or applying robots to production, for example—seemed more plentiful than in previous years.

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