_Shoptalk 2024 Recap.

Last month, I attended the annual Shoptalk conference in Las Vegas and marveled at how much it has grown since the inaugural event in 2016 with around 3,000 attendees. Shoptalk capitalized brilliantly on an unmet market need and has grown tenfold as a result. What was that unmet need? It was the bringing together of tech innovators, consumer brands, and enterprise retailers for direct dialogue and peer-to-peer learning.

One of many notable things about Shoptalk is that half the attendees are female, unlike most other industry events that are at least eighty percent male in attendance. To reinforce this, there was a “Women in Retail” pavilion on the show floor with continuous content. Also, a full-service daycare center was provided throughout the show. I imagined it being filled with a complete Playmobile® retail store for all those future retailers to enjoy!

The event kicked off with a sharktank pitch event moderated by Deborah Weinswig, CEO of Coresight Research. The winner was Psykhe AI, a machine learning and psychology-powered recommendation-as-a-service platform that enables retailers to hyper-personalize the customer experience.

What a well-orchestrated conference! In just forty-eight hours, I had twenty curated one-on-one meetings, attended ten keynote & breakout sessions, enjoyed five meet-up meals, caught up with three RevTech portfolio companies, attended two special events, and enjoyed several moments of serendipity.

Speaking of serendipity, I’ve predicted for some time that AI – if well implemented – can produce serendipity on demand for consumers, provided a brand or retailer has actionable data to know just what a customer wants, when and where they want it, and how to deliver it before they expect it. Maria Renz, Global Head of Commerce at Google summed up this concept nicely when she said, “Endless Aisle” is being replaced with “Best Aisle.”

Takeaway from Keynotes and Breakouts

  • Robbie Brenner, President, Mattel Films – Shared how “The year of Barbie” ended Mattel’s long decline.
  • Shailesh Jejuriker, COO, Proctor & Gamble – Shared how a hundred-year-old CPG titan approaches innovation.
  • Karin Tracy, Head of Retail, Fashion & Luxury for Meta – Shared how Meta’s arsenal of AI tools enhance both curation & commerce.
  • Steve Dennis – Shared learnings on leadership from his experience working at Sears as it declined from being the world’s #1 retailer to its present position.
  • Craig Brommers, CMO, American Eagle – Shared how his company “celebrates failure” with no punishment to employees for trying new things. He shared that store associates wearing AE apparel drive more sales than models/influencers wearing AE apparel.
  • Eva Press, VP Global Business, Meta – Shared that creators with short-form videos drive great demand for brands and constitute 40% of content on the Meta platform today.
  • Tom Kingsbury, CEO, Kohl’s – Shared the profound impact that the Sephora store-in-store has brought to his store traffic and demographics.

Back to serendipity. Besides the run-in with numerous industry connections, including a couple with the great Deborah Weinswig (Note: I’m a confessed Weinswig groupie), I’ll never forget what happened while waiting in the mile-long line for cabs to the airport. I wound up bypassing the line by sharing a black car to the airport with Angela Song, Chief Growth Officer for KiwiCo, a fast-growing direct-to-consumer brand that delivers kids’ subscription boxes and STEM, STEAM, science and art kits that provide serious fun and hands-on learning. Angela has a prior leadership background at Meta, Google, Minted, and PayPal. An amazing new connection!

– David Matthews, Managing Partner

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