Cementing its reputation as a must-attend event on the retail calendar, ShopTalk 2018 opened with three big announcements from mega-retailers Amazon, Target and Macy’s.
Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette, the first of the heavy hitters to appear in an impressive opening block of keynote speakers, announced that Macy’s stores will roll out mobile checkout in its stores that enables shoppers to just scan products, pay in the Macy’s app, and leave. The scan-and-go capability will be part of a much broader expansion of Macy’s overall mobile app strategy in 2018, which will also include in-store navigation and augmented reality features.
Target CEO Brian Cornell was up next and announced plans to become the first retailer to offer same-day delivery nationwide. The plan leverages Target’s recent acquisition of Shipt, a same-day delivery service, which currently has the ability to operate in 70 markets. According to Cornell, same-day delivery is the cornerstone of Target’s mission to set the retail standard for last-mile fulfillment, which currently includes an offer of free two-day shipping.
The third major takeaway came from Dilip Kumar, vice president of technology at Amazon Go and Amazon Books. Kumar stated that machine learning as a discipline permeates everything at Amazon. This focus is brought to life in Amazon Go stores, according to Kumar, where a combination of computer vision, machine learning, and a long list of specially created algorithms enable the store’s sophisticated technology to disappear in the background. The effect is to make the shopping experience seamless, which is what customers really care about.
Day One at ShopTalk
The secret to ShopTalk’s rise to success is that it was the first to welcome into its tent a large ecosystem of entrepreneurs, startups, investors, financial analysts, advisors, consultants and other similar players. This ecosystem, although one step removed from the traditional retail pillars of merchandise management, supply chain, store ops, marketing and labor management, is the primary engine of growth in retail today. Until ShopTalk began in 2016, this ecosystem had largely been ignored by retail’s other major conventions.
The upside of this unique attendee mix is that ShopTalk has an exciting, buzzy atmosphere that emanates from the ground up as opposed to the top down. The enthusiasm and excitement are high because these qualities are the coin of the realm for an ecosystem of biz-dev deal makers, change agents and future-forward thinkers.
Attendance at this year’s event is 8,400, nearly double from last year. If attendance doubles again it will outgrow its new home at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas, just as it outgrew last year’s location at the Aria.
Attendees crowded into early afternoon sessions that focused on a start-up contest and a grocery track, which attracted standing-room-only crowds with many attendees sitting on the floor. The opening keynote block of speakers began late in the afternoon.
Before the keynote speakers began, the audience was treated to pulsing club music provided by a DJ, laser-like spotlights sweeping the room, and a daredevil Cirque du Soleil act, which served as a good metaphor for the high-risk, high-reward nature of today’s competitive retailing.
Over the next three days ShopTalk will feature 340 speakers comprised of 55% startups, 40 CEOs, 110 women leaders, and 60 global speakers. Four Innovation Zones will focus on artificial intelligence, the store of the future, emerging technology, and grocery, which is the largest retail vertical and least represented online, according to ShopTalk founder and CEO Anil Aggarwal.
In his opening remarks, Aggarwal noted retail has entered a period of “a sustained new normal where disruptive innovation is adopted and proactively embraced by the mainstream. Disruptive innovation is now about who, what, when and how. It is not about what or why. It is getting comfortable with uncertainty and knowing that failure is essential to a culture of learning.”