A Quick Chat About ShopTalk

Judging from the 10,000-plus people who attended ShopTalk in Las Vegas last week, the retail industry was more than ready for a return to in-person events.


“Being away from people for a couple years has taught us all a lot about ourselves and our businesses,” said John Willkom, The Mars Agency’s SVP-Ecommerce. “While times and technology never stop changing, I fundamentally believe in the power of human connection. It was great being together as an industry again.”


Here are few top-line observations from our team members who attended the event.


1. The hottest topic of conversation on stage and in the aisles was the marketing potential for — or should we say inthe Metaverse. The potential is so strong, in fact, that PacSun president Brieane Olson suggested that CEOs themselves should ensure that every function within their organization develops a metaverse strategy. (PacSun recently opened PacWorld, a virtual experience on the Roblox gaming platform that lets players try their hand at operating a mall.)


2. Robots, self-driving cars and other technologies are the new tools of the retail trade as fast, efficient order fulfillment continues growing as a determining factor in shopper choice. Uber Technologies CEO Dara Khosrowshahi outlined his company’s plans to “out-Amazon” Amazon by expanding beyond grocery delivery and becoming “a local Shopify” for small retailers.


3. You think first-party data (the secret sauce making retail media networks all the rage these days) is cool? How about zero-party data, which makes it even easier for brands to deliver the personal, one-to-one experiences shoppers now demand because it comes directly from them rather than through a retailer.


4. You can’t talk data without discussing measurement, and an intensifying need for brands these days is cross-functional alignment on KPIs that will have the entire organization heading in the same direction. (Given the recent price volatility in the marketplace, one speaker suggested switching from dollar sales to unit sales as the go-to metric.)


5. While data (at any degree of separation) is more critical to success than ever, attendees also discussed the danger of brands getting so deep into the algorithms that they lose focus on the shopper experience, noted Amy Andrews, The Mars Agency’s SVP-Client Leadership. Shoppers, not to mention marketers themselves, still crave a little fun — a sentiment that was pretty obvious last week in Las Vegas.