Top Insights from Shoptalk 2019

Jennia Williamson profile picture
Last updated: 12 Mar 2019
I just got back from 3 days in Vegas while attending Shoptalk 2019. The insights gleaned at the show were too good to “stay in Vegas”, so I wrote-up this blog post to share my key takeaways from the event.

In today's world where digitally native brands are moving into physical space and traditional retailers exploring innovative use cases online - and while there are a few great conferences out there, none of them succeeded in becoming the missing link between the colliding worlds of online and offline the way Shoptalk has.

Anil Aggarwal (Founder, and CEO of Shoptalk) during the opening night said:

“We are a new generation of event that takes a proactive role in moving the needle to get the right kind of people talking about the right kinds of things in the right ways”.

This was not an overstatement! I had a blast at Shoptalk 2019: from having deep, mutually educational conversations with retailers, brands, and other vendors too, demoing an integration between Moltin and Zendesk and voice commerce with our partners from Particular and MyPlanet, to attending tech-talks and spending quality time with puppies at the NSPCA booth sponsored by Zaius - it was a fantastic experience filled with new learnings and ideas!

Top Takeaways

“Headless” Commerce is becoming more diverse and accessible by brands of all sizes

While commerce components are becoming more interconnected, and responding to the consumer demands for the seamless and fluid shopping experience, Headless Commerce is the ultimate engine that is flexible enough to sustain such rapid change. After being at Shoptalk 2019, it has never been more apparent that API commerce combined with independent microservices is on the rise.

In comparison to last year’s Shoptalk where most of our conversations with brands and potential tech partners started with: “So what is Headless?”, this year conversations were more tactical: “How can I start taking advantage of Headless Commerce now?”.

For those not familiar with the “headless” concept, it means a decoupled architecture, where all back-end logic is abstracted from the front-end enabling brands to build engaging commerce experiences unique to their businesses in an agile and cost-effective way.  

The rising number of technology companies focusing on Headless Commerce is, on its own, a sign of increasing demand for building unique commerce experiences your way. This new approach to building and delivering commerce experiences is making the space diverse and accessible for brands of all sizes, business complexities and need of speed and innovation.

Brands need manageable solutions that are easy to iterate on

For the technology to be successful at penetrating the market, it must be lightweight and flexible enough to fit into the existing legacy stack. It was great to see complex solutions requiring a lot of hardware and integrations in the past finally becoming more manageable and adopted by major retailers:   

  • Connected buildings with beacons allowing a high precision tracking of customer journey across the shopping floor, and personalized in-store customer experience.
  • Mixed reality solutions such as virtual simulation not only of an individual product but of the entire store space for training and design purposes.
  • Automation around micro-fulfillment and curbside pickup which largely benefit the grocery space with its low e-commerce penetration.

In the rapidly changing commerce world, brands are more opportunistic than ever to introduce a small MVP-style use case to their existing legacy stack as a part of their innovation strategy.

Together with Stance we built and launched Mobile Self-Checkout in just under 7 weeks, and this was a great example of how innovative brands can start offering unique engaging experiences to their consumers now.

Not all data made equal

The Shoptalk floor was flourishing with new technologies around AI and machine learning personalization, beacons and robotics. While it was exciting to talk about how these new technologies can make the consumer journey more convenient, often it is hard to tell which of them are ready to become the new norm and which are still need a bit more time to be adopted by brands and consumers. The main challenge yet to be solved is that the data feeding these solutions are still hard to collect in a meaningful way. For example, app adoption and email opt-in both continue to be challenging for most brands.

What we gathered from talking with retailers and listening to the Shoptalk sessions is that the industry must think differently about engaging with customers and maintaining their interest:

  • Is offering a promo code the right incentive to collect consumer emails?
  • Will it make them come back?
  • Is a native mobile app the best way to engage with the consumer outside of the website?

Grab-and-go stores and mobile self-checkout has shown that consumers are willing to share their information in exchange for convenience and speed.

For example, Stance noticed a 91% email capture in Moltin Self-Checkout when offered an e-receipt option.

There is always going to be an exchange happening between the brand and consumer, it is up to the brand to provide an engaging shopping experience to obtain loyal customers willing to share their data.

Conclusion

Every brand and retailer in attendance at Shoptalk was there with a company mandate of finding new ways to leverage technology that enables commerce business model transformation and deliver more innovative commerce experiences to consumers. In order to make this happen, there was an overall notion at the event of moving from complex solutions to lightweight ones:

  • From kiosks and mobile apps to single-purpose Progressive Web Apps;
  • From enormous warehouses to hyper-local delivery utilizing store space;
  • From a monolithic architecture to microservices and APIs.

These are exciting times of change and we are proud to be a part of it!

Thank you, everyone, who stopped by our booth to connect on the future of retail and what we can do together to innovate and bring commerce experience to the next level!

If you’re looking to innovate quickly with flexibility, speed and control, Moltin can help:

  • Extend: you can seamlessly extend your current eCommerce platform to deliver new, innovation use-cases exponentially faster than what is possible with your current platform, such as mobile self-checkout
  • Build: if you’re looking to deliver an innovative new commerce experience, we have the tools to help you build quickly.
  • Migrate: Moltin makes it easy to migrate from legacy to modern using our wrapper API

Let's build something amazing with Moltin