In three short years, Shoptalk, which will draw 8,000 retail professionals to Las Vegas from March 18th to the 21st, has emerged as a giant, must attend retail conference that now rivals the National Retail Federation Big Show that kicks off the retail year every January.
Here are some things I’ll be looking out for at this year’s show:
The Platform Battle between Amazon and the Google X WalMart partnership (and is there room for anyone else?)
WalMart is leading traditional retail’s response to Amazon; buying Jet and seeking to build a platform business with support from Google. Meanwhile Amazon is building services that it may seek to sell to traditional retailers and other brands (Amazon Pay for one and speculation that Amazon Go will be more of a license play than a new, large chain). All three companies are sending multiple executives to speak at Shoptalk and it will be fascinating to try to read the tealeaves from what they may imply in their sessions. The show will also be a good opportunity to get a read on whether there is anyone else in traditional retail (Target?) and technology (Facebook? Alibaba?) who has the scale and will to participate in these battles.
Has the niche direct to consumer startup trend peaked or is there still room for more growth?
This trend started a few years ago with disruptive brands like WarbyParker and Harry’s and has now exploded. Dozens of these companies are speaking or exhibiting at Shoptalk. I’ll be looking to see if this is this a trend of the moment or one with staying power, as well as which of these companies will become category leaders. Also of interest: how many of these brands will remain pure D2C, how many will partner with traditional retailers like Nordstrom, and which one will be the next Bonobos-style acquisition for WalMart?
Which emerging CommerceTech and MarTech categories seem ready to go mainstream?
In Commerce related technology, I’ll be looking for emerging technologies that have the promise to solve some of the barriers in categories like apparel where the online experience has much room to improve. Who’s working on sizing and fit solutions to raise consumer confidence in their order and cut down on both cart abandonment and the need for returns? Which on site search tools seem to have the strongest offer and how are Artificial Intelligence (AI), visual and voice impacting the search experience? Are there implementable Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality solutions that will improve the shopping experience in categories like furniture and apparel?
MarTech: There are many fast evolving sub categories of marketing technology (including Multi-channel Attribution and Location Based Marketing) where I am always keen to see the latest innovations. A super interesting Tuesday panel on AI-based marketing automation is sure to expand my view of what is possible.
The category that I think will get the most attention this year is Personalization. These solutions are reaching enterprise maturity and I think a couple of companies are ready to break out from the pack. I’ll also be listening to panelists from retailers to hear if anyone other than Sephora is effectively extending personalization from online marketing through to the in-store experience.
Look for Lenati’s brand new whitepaper on personalization at booth the Dynamic Yield’s booth 3417 in the exhibit hall. It’s a guide to getting real traction for a Personalization strategy that aligns to your overall experience and your business goals.