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Retail’s Big Reunion: Shoptalk 2022 Key Takeaways

After two years of virtual meetings, Shoptalk was back in-person and at full strength. March 2022 brought nearly 10,000 retail changemakers to Las Vegas to discuss everything from the latest technologies, trends, and business models to the rapid transformation of consumer buying.

The conference inspired many of my conversations with industry leaders about how we make retail spaces more sustainable.

So, if you missed “retail’s big reunion,” here is a program summary and a few key takeaways from Shoptalk 2022. 

Meet this year’s themes: supply chain, sustainability, and metaverse

Supply Chain

COVID-19, followed by panic buying, over-ordering, cargo ship mishaps, and port logistics, profoundly impacted–then intensified–the effects of the pandemic on supply chains. Many stores had no contingency plans for these unpredictable challenges. And even though retailers are adjusting to a new normal that is anything but, they’ll tell horror stories of the past two years’ supply chain issues for generations to come.

Fortunately, conditions are improving monthly. Conversations are shifting from optimizing for efficiency to more resilient and adaptable logistics. Many retailers are rethinking inventory locations, shipping directly from the store (vs. from a warehouse or distribution center), and leveraging existing stock for customer pick-up orders. Based on my Shoptalk experience, it’s clear retailers are open to all ideas to help them maintain inventory, keep their shelves full, and ship customer orders on time, regardless of what events are impacting the global supply chain.

Sustainability

The importance of sustainability was front and center at the Las Vegas conference. Retailers saw Shoptalk leadership “walking the walk” when they introduced environmentally-friendly actions, including:

  • Implementing a waste reduction plan for the event
  • Using biodegradable materials
  • Committing to removing 100 plastic bags from the coastline in Goa, India, for every registered conference attendee

As a part of Acuity Brands, I was especially happy learning Mandalay Bay, the host resort, recently changed more than 250,000 incandescent light bulbs, including those in our specific location, the Bayside Exhibit Hall, to LED.

Shoptalk 2022 participants avidly discussed waste management, recycling, and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting. They were also keenly interested in hearing about the environmental impact of goods received, shipped, and recycled. In fact, the daily program featured at least one dedicated sustainability track. Speaker Irene Quarshie, VP of Global Supply Chain and Logistics for Target Corporation, touched on reverse logistics and “re-commerce” of items and properly moving clearance and out-of-season merchandise via the Target Forward ESG initiatives. Our Atrius team knows how dedicated Target is to its ESG initiatives. We’re proud they choose us as a solutions partner and hope their leadership in the retail space inspires others to improve their sustainability practices using Target’s methods as a guide.

Attendees also had the opportunity to celebrate the inaugural Shoptalk ATLIS Awards, recognizing the U.S. retailers and brands setting new standards for sustainability, customer health and wellness, and diversity and inclusion.

Metaverse

While still controversial—or confusing—for many, the metaverse generates undeniable buzz. And Shoptalk 2022 attendees were buzzing about when, or if, retailers will play a more prominent role in the space. Some Shoptalk speakers viewed the metaverse as a glorified website; others, like Estée Lauder, tout it as a must-do and the future of retail. Luxury brands are currently showing the greatest interest, but commodity-driven retail chains and individual stores are taking notice. Regardless of one’s personal opinion about the metaverse, the topic is worth paying attention to as the technology continues driving discussions about retail’s future.

Other Themes

Look to Back-of-House For Order Fulfillment

“Where are my goods?” The question every retailer dreads having to ask, especially if they’re looking for a product inside their store or warehouse. Conversations at Shoptalk revealed that brick-and-mortar retailers are focusing on warehouse operations to support online or ship-from-store fulfillment, making back-of-house inventory visibility key to quickly and efficiently processing orders. Steve Miller, SVP for Dick’s Sporting Goods, shared their 750+ stores do 70% of their online fulfillment, underscoring the sales power of well-run warehouses.

And the critical importance of maintaining in-store operations that can support physical and digital shopping experiences. In a pre-COVID retail world, there was a greater focus on leveraging the back-of-house for only in-store purchases. Many retail stores have become their own mini-distribution centers shipping online orders. This overall industry shift aligns with my opening comments about how the pandemic transformed the supply chain.

Truly Knowing Your Customers is Key

Keeping pace with ever-changing customer preferences and needs is challenging. Understanding shoppers on a deeper level helps retailers keep up with fluctuating customer behavior. Understanding what bothers them and their daily challenges builds empathy, another useful resource. Cara Sylvester, EVP and chief marketing and digital officer for Target Corporation, talked about customer empathy, suggesting retailers examine more than the shopping experience when attempting to understand their ever-changing customers.

Leaders from Forrester, Macy’s, and CNBC echoed this same message, discussing how retailers can seamlessly guide the omnichannel consumer along their shopping journey. They described how breaking down data silos is one way smart retailers can develop more connected shopping experiences for their customers. The right technology simplifies the process. Atrius solutions, for example, provides easily shared, real-time and historical data as map-based visualizations. Our customers rely on these heat maps for enhanced views of what’s happening in their retail spaces.

Going forward

Unlike past Shoptalk conferences that focused on omnichannel experiences, this year’s program addressed operations, fulfillment, sustainability, and the ever-changing customer profile. Atrius proven retail solutions resolve pain points associated with these challenges.

For customers, we empower them to find products quickly and remove friction from the shopping experience. For retailers, our comprehensive solutions unlock deep insights into in-store behavior, support marketing efforts, and provide tools for asset awareness, energy management, and proactive maintenance. This kind of multi-faceted visibility into enterprise retail operations will make the retail industry smarter, safer, and greener – and will continue to dominate the conversation at industry events for years to come.

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