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By: Steven Duffy

I’m coming off a bit of a “high” after attending four days of Shoptalk with over 8,400 attendees journeying toward the next curve of Retail Innovation, fueled by the 4th industrial revolution engine – AI. Many have contributed to the topic of Retail Transformation; however, Shoptalk’s synergistic gathering of significant thought leadership encompasses an international ecosystem of innovators, brands, data sciences, and comprehensive spectrum of technology firms. The conference time maximized collaboration and facilitated an immersive exchange of information.

The Shoptalk team structured content around a series of tracks including; The New Digital Retail Organization, The Transformation of the Retail Industry (I’ll have a few more insights to follow). The New Era of Marketing ROI and Attribution, Next Generation Ecommerce and Omnichannel Retail, Technologies Creating New Retail Experiences, and Leveraging AI and Machine Learning. It also included Advances in Store Layout and Design, Improving Operational Efficiencies, Innovation Strategies for Brands and Retailers, and Building Brands for Today’s Consumers.

Retail Relevance is the connective tissue for all these themes. The challenge for the attendee is which sessions or tracks to attend? How to curate a personalized and relevant series of issues – to participate in a specific path of topics or jump between tracks? During the four days of sessions, a majority of attendees moved between a series of concurrent tracks; given the numbers attending this was not a frictionless process. However, each day held content-rich presentations of information; my focus encompassed how can/will retail’s physical environment transformation bridge the Omnichannel chasm seamlessly? As a Retailer and Designer for the majority of my career, today’s verdict for retail has pronounced it dead; however, physical retail remains relevant rooted in the need for social exchange and experiential retailing.

Reinterpreting the retail experience with new tech is another given. However, the caution of tech for the sake of tech has no purpose – it must hold relevance to the customer and user; most speakers evoked this consistent theme. Another idea echoed was to question and validate the ‘WHY’ before pursuing an appropriate technology solution to enhance the experience, relentlessly driving the process efficiencies, or increased sales and delivering improved ROI’s validated by the data – data led design and decision making …

Shoptalk exchanges, whether in one on one or group sessions, were about asking challenging questions and establishing the mutual value proposition. The backbone of the conference is rooted to consider all manner of AI enabled data sciences transforming, interpreting, and anticipating customer needs while striving to deliver on the unique promise of personalization. My closing comments address “The Transformation of the Retail Industry.” The framework of the Omni – Bridge to our future retail state has form but yet there are gaps in its structure. We are nearing a phase of where the promise of a frictionless experience is closer than we know. Quoting Bill Gates ” We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

Back to our title – Shoptalk collaborative convergence has created a new “Third Place for Retail Transformation”: A community of like-minded thought leaders actively considering the future state of retail. The energy generated by this community-based ecosystem “in scale” will continue the accelerate the Retail Transformation. I’m looking forward to 2020.