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Shoptalk 2022: Day 1 Recap

Greetings to you all from sunny Las Vegas, Nevada, where we’re back at Shoptalk after a two-year COVID hiatus, along with 10,000 other people just as excited as we are to be back in person.

As in prior years – and with Groceryshop last Fall – we aim to provide you with a recap of key themes each day and an overall review at the end of the event. So, without further ado, let’s dive right into the three key takeaways from the first day.

  1. Technology underpins what retailers will be doing over the next 5-10 years

Admittedly, this is the most obvious of the takeaways, but it’s worth highlighting because of how important technology is when it comes to better serving your customers, now and beyond. Katia Walsh from Levi Strauss & Co. said it best: “Every [retailer] is now a data and technology company, whether they know it or not.”

According to Sara Araghi of Franklin Templeton, at the macro level, retailers are taking what they learned from the pandemic and using CapEx to invest in consumer experiences even if there’s a slowdown in spending. We know from our work that much of this CapEx spend revolves around automating and digitizing processes while enhancing ecommerce capabilities.

Two helpful questions to ask yourself to determine your priorities and initiatives came from Chris Rupp of Albertsons:

  • What areas do we need to improve for our customer?
  • What steps are we taking to implement that?

The answer to these questions often leads to digital solutions, which can be embraced by your organization to remedy customer pain points.

2. Sustainability is moving

For many years, sustainability was a niche priority for retailers with unclear ways to bring initiatives to life for customers or in the enterprise. Rising energy costs – exacerbated by geopolitical conflict – and increasing costs of climate change – marked by supply chain disruptions – have changed the paradigm. Sustainability is coming into focus for retailers.

One obvious connection with sustainability is the growing resale market across different segments of retail. We heard from Niten Kapadia of Farfetch who highlighted the retailer’s Second Life market that allows customers to sell second-hand handbags on their platform. To grow their offering, they want to add more products and services, including product repair or recycling certain materials. This is all part of the company’s 2030 goal to be more “circular than linear.”

A panel of venture investors also discussed the growing opportunity to get behind startups focused on sustainability. Anna Barber of M13 proposed three opportunities around innovation in the space:

a) material science to improve the types of materials going into products
b) data and overall transparency to consumers around materials going into products and their associated carbon emissions
c) reverse logistics and last-mile delivery to reduce costs and the associated emissions

Retailers are in the early innings with regard to sustainability, but it’s clear the conversation is now mainstream. The rising costs of fuel and climate change, coupled with their importance to customers, have forced retailers to look at this differently.

3. Attracting and retaining talent is more critical than ever for retailers

With a tight labor market and retailers now competing with software companies for technology talent, attracting and retaining talented employees is more important than ever for retailers.  Companies are wrestling with return-to-office plans and whether to allow a hybrid or fully remote option, all while trying to build a culture to attract and retain employees. It’s a tall task for any leader.

Anthony Soohoo of Walmart shared several key takeaways to retain and attract talent that may help you as well:

  • Provide clarity with candidates – and employees – about their role to ensure expectations are the same, which means avoiding buzzwords to upsell the job
  • Consider the problem that is being solved and what skills are needed to solve that problem for a role rather than focusing on qualifications
  • Be mindful that people with more experiences grow over the long run so don’t focus on a “linear” career path

Most retailers continue to wrestle with the questions around remote work and the need to be in person, but a focus on shared culture and personal growth will be critical, regardless of where the work gets done.

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