What started as a murmur grew into a full-blown roar – ShopTalk, the inaugural industry event featuring established retailers, innovative disrupters, tech companies and venture capitalists, owned industry mindshare over the past few months.
On Monday, the curtain opened. As advertised, this was a content-rich and panel-focused day headlined by dozens of practitioners and thought leaders. Wait, doesn’t that sound a lot like other big retail shows? Well, yes, however, as the Huffington Post noted, “The pace of change in retail, it seems, is approaching escape velocity — the speed at which it becomes nearly impossible for a human being to keep up with new products, new ideas, new entrants, new sources of funding and new paths through the crowded field to keep up, get ahead or break through.”
That said, there is apparently an unyielding hunger for information and peer-to-peer networking among retailers to help them navigate the dramatic changes.
The ShopTalk format made for two segregated conversations; the on stage panels in full storytelling mode, providing a number of perspectives on the current and future state of digital, and a social community that generated more than 3,000 Tweets over the first 24 hours. Here are the key content themes from day one of ShopTalk:
– Storytelling wins: the discussion has shifted from content and commerce to content IS commerce. Leaders from startups like Parachute, Dollar Shave Club, and established brands like Banana Republic are betting on authenticity and storytelling to connect with shoppers and deliver an experience.
– Mobile-first isn’t coming, it is here. Those waiting to make investments in mobile will have a hard time catching (if they can catch them at all) those that are already running with shopper-first experiences that focus on mobile web optimization. Brands and technology companies are well on the way to supporting the next generation of mobile-only shopping only.
– Everyone seems to agree that friction remains in digital commerce, specifically in mobile payments. PayPal, Android Pay, Chase Pay and Amazon payments echoed each other’s sentiments throughout a panel discussion on the topic, with each focused on helping the shopper accelerate and streamline their checkout. With these heavyweights all looking through this lens, it begs the question of whether customer adoption of mobile wallets is the biggest opportunity in digital, or whether there are there other phantom, unforeseen obstacles lurking?
The day closed with a trio of heavyweights sharing their retail enabling wares – Pinterest, Facebook and Google. Each lays claim to throngs of monthly active users and a platform that connects retailers with shoppers. The storylines moved between optimizing for the local shopper, mobile’s dominance and accelerating the purchase process from attraction through purchase.
Interesting as it was, it was hard not to walk away from the sessions unimpressed by the visions and approaches of each.
ShopTalk is starting out on top, with big names and commerce visionaries and leaders telling their stories and driving the next commerce narrative. Those executives proved to be inspirational throughout the day. The coming days promise more content diversity, moving beyond one-way panel discussions to interactive breakouts. If the full-capacity late day sessions are any indication, the audience is engaged and interested in the curated content developed and shared here at ShopTalk.
Stay tuned for more observations.