ShopTalk 2017: The Art of What’s Next

I was curious about all the ShopTalk buzz when the event debuted last year, but couldn’t attend the conference due to a scheduling conflict. I made sure that didn't happen this year. I just returned from a busy week in Las Vegas, attending multiple tech events, but one of my main missions of the trip was to discover the secret of ShopTalk’s success.

What I learned was that even though ShopTalk promotes a great lineup of C-level speakers, the enthusiasm and excitement of the event comes from the ground-up, from the attendees, instead of from the stage down, from the speakers.

If you are interested in great speakers, you should definitely go to ShopTalk. It is hard to beat a lineup that includes the CEOs of Target, eBags, Brookstone, HSN, Sam’s Club, Harry’s, Modcloth, Kohl’s, Rebecca Minkoff, Houzz, and eBay. (For a good inside look at what the speakers had to say at ShopTalk be sure to read Mike Troy’s story written on-site at the event for Retail Leader by clicking here.)

Despite the great content, which is delivered in small bite-size, conversational chucks about 30 minutes long, most attendees go to the conference to network and wheel and deal. Unlike many other retail industry conferences or conventions, ShopTalk is not primarily attended by retailers.

Of the approximately 4,500 attendees at the 2017 event, which represents a big uptick from last year, only about 1,500 attendees were retailers. The rest were established technology solution vendors, technology startups, agencies, investors, and consultants.

The retailers in attendance were so outnumbered that one executive I met from Kohl’s was walking around the conference with his name tag flipped around so he couldn’t be identified as a retailer.

The upside of this kind of attendee mix is that enthusiasm and excitement are high because they are the coin of the realm for entrepreneurs, marketers, and biz-dev deal makers. The show floor is filled with change agents and future-forward thinkers. Disruption and explosive growth are truly fun if you can pull it off, and many attendees were clearly in this kind of buzzy, upbeat mood.

For some background on ShopTalk’s founder, long-range plans and mission statement, which goes a long way toward explaining how ShopTalk managed to attract this unique attendee base, click here.

No other retail conference I have attended over the years has pulled together such a blend of Silicon Valley-type enthusiasm, shark-tank-type excitement, and VC-fueled ambition. The closest I have personally witnessed is at SXSW Interactive, which is a very cool experience, but for those of us in the retail industry ShopTalk is a much better fit.

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