April 15, 2022
Sci-Fi films and TV shows like Black Mirror, Upload, and The Matrix love to point out the dystopian possibilities of our digital futures. However, “Retail’s Big Reunion” at Shoptalk 2022 highlighted the numerous ways in which digital can elevate human capability to bring us closer.
Shoptalk’s largest event yet marked a thrilling return to in-person gatherings. Over 10,000 retailers and industry insiders descended on Sin City to explore rapidly evolving industry trends.
Themes of the week: the return of the store, what we got wrong about personalization, headless technology, and (of course) the Metaverse.
The store is back, but with an expanded role
Three years ago, stores were liabilities. With declining brick-and-mortar locations, experts were forecasting (not for the first time) a “retail apocalypse.” As consumers turned further to online shopping, merchants prioritized their digital presence. Lucky for us, our experts collected data and projected different potentials for the future of retail in our first Future Studio Report to make sure we were ready for any possibility. But—along with Y2K, roller-skates, and (unfortunately) mullets—stores are back, with an even stronger emphasis on the customer experience:
An increase in self and mobile checkout options mean more flexible, frictionless transactions for customers. With further investments in autonomous checkout (where customers can walk in and walk out with their products), long checkout lines are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Enabled by digital tools, store associates are freed to become true ambassadors for the brand. With robotics and machine learning facilitating inventory and checkout, associates can offer a more personalized, client-led experience for consumers.
Our view of personalization was too simplistic
Consumers can’t be segmented into pre-determined groups anymore — customers are not simply “one person” in that they have different moods and modalities; they change and evolve.
It is very difficult for technology to recognize these shifts, and this is where human emotional intelligence is required. Data certainly helps process vast amounts of data and can contribute to an interpretation of the consumer's mindset and needs. Ultimately, humans need humans to properly define and understand others’ needs and emotions. The more a consumer feels understood, the deeper the relationship between them and your brand.
Headless Commerce is here and now
Headless Commerce has made waves in the Commerce world and is driving the future of digital experiences. Retailers are recognizing the value of a front-end-back-end breakup in their technology stack and discovering how the front-end can flourish independently without the back-end holding it back. With a headless approach, merchants are creating frictionless omnichannel shopping experiences for customers, allowing them to keep up with changing consumer expectations.
The topic on everyone’s mind: the Metaverse
There was no escaping the Metaverse at this year’s Shoptalk. Muttered in almost every conversation (some excited, some weary) was the notion of the further blending of the digital and physical world.
Brands like Nike, Adidas and Zara are already engaged — the sports brands are releasing NFTs while the fashion label debuted a “metacollection” of garments that can be worn both inside and outside the Metaverse.
Content fuels Commerce: the storytelling methods of marketing used today on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, etc. envelop the customer, and the Metaverse is a climate where all channels will merge to completely immerse the consumer. Brands need to be thinking about how to blend the universe of shopping in both the online and offline worlds.
Learn more about the appeal of the Metaverse and its place in the future.
“At the end of the day, the future of retail will integrate a lot of human interaction with technology,” said Charles Desjardins, SVP and Managing Director at Valtech. “It will blend together.”
What do the changes to the world of retail mean for your business? Let’s talk about the threats and the opportunities. Contact us.