Retail Wrap: The Scuttle from Shoptalk 2023

Prevailing thoughts and takeaways from the retail changemakers at Shoptalk

PUBLISHED: 4/17/2023

There’s no denying that for many of the biggest names in retail, the annual Shoptalk event serves as a bona fide can’t miss assembly. With an agenda that traverses the latest technologies, trends, and business models in the industry, Shoptalk 2023 featured 275 senior-level speakers who serve as retail industry leaders and innovators from companies ranging from well-known brands to burgeoning startups and savvy investors. 

MERGE was on-hand, attending and listening in on the multiple speaking sessions that took place over the four-day event, compiling our most important takeaways.

Taking ownership of data and technology to “move at the speed of the customer”

An enormous challenge for any retailer is to build a brand that is agile and forward-thinking enough to keep up with both the evolving buying habits and competing interests of the customers they serve. For many brand leaders, the task can feel a bit like hitting a target while blindfolded, calling for a “balance of magic and logic,” to use the words of Joanne Crevoiserat, CEO of Tapestry. Leveraging AI to understand what consumers are responding to is the “magic,” borrowing from Crevoiserat’s statement, while building emotional connections with customers that are authentic and intentional serves as the “logic.”

It’s also about brands understanding themselves while also being daring enough to take calculated risks to appeal to consumers, according to Morgan Flatley, Global CMO at McDonalds.

“Knowing what your brand stands for and having a level of clarity allows you to stretch and take risks,” said Flatley, who cited McDonald’s relationship with musician Travis Scott as evidence of that blue sky approach.

“Bring others in and allow them to help with creativity. Those creative brains have pushed our brand to deliver greater relevance to consumers.”

Personalization doesn’t need to be enterprise wide

One of the biggest misconceptions in the retail industry, according to Amanda Bopp, VP of North American Marketing at Kate Spade, is the notion that personalization needs to pervade every nook and cranny of a brand. That’s not to say that personalization doesn’t matter, but rather, for Bopp, it’s about avoiding the urge to try and solve for the data you think you want.

“Have a clear end goal in mind and understand what you are trying to solve for the consumer first,” said Bopp. “Personalization data is vast. Don’t let yourself stray from the customer’s POV to solve their needs.”

Brick and mortar is here to stay

With e-commerce rising year over year, many have reasonably wondered what, if any, future there will be for traditional brick and mortar storefronts. However, according to Chip Bergh, President and CEO of Levi’s, there is no doubt in his mind that brick and mortar is here to stay.

While Bergh acknowledges that e-commerce has and will continue to proliferate amongst consumers, Levi’s is “doubling down” on both its digital and physical retail offerings. Per Bergh, Levi’s opens roughly 100 physical locations a year, as consumers in the U.S. still demonstrate a strong desire to frequent brick and mortar sites.

Fiona Tan, CTO at Wayfair, and Christiane Pendarvis, Co-President and Chief Merchant at Savage X Fenty, supported Bergh’s assessment, as both executives expressed that the presence of a physical storefront allows for even more integration in the consumer experience. In fact, all three executives spoke of the desire to introduce more new tech to help facilitate product discovery both online and in-store, specifically in the form of AI models and 3D body scans that provide more accurate and relatable measurements for customers.

The Wrap

As expected, Shoptalk 2023 lived up to its billing as one of the premier events on the retail industry calendar, delivering an illuminating glimpse into the industry's current and future challenges and opportunities. And while these items only scratched the surface as it related to the event’s agenda, the team at MERGE walked away with a trove of invaluable insights to help brands reach their goals.

To learn more about how MERGE can keep your brand ahead of the curve, connect with our team of experts.