April 7th, 2022 | 8 MIN READ

Shoptalk 2022 Recap: What We Heard and Saw in Vegas

Written by Pranav Bahadur

Pranav Bahadur is a Product Marketing Manager at Elastic Path living in the Boston area.

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Shoptalk was back in 2022, a four-day event that's has been dubbed the 'biggest retail conference of the year.' Considering the years we all spent in various states of separation, getting back to in-person events was a welcome change of pace.

It was full of long-overdue meetings between old friends and colleagues in the industry, a chance to make new connections, and be inspired by the passion, dedication, and ingenuity of the players in the industry. 

Elastic Path was in the thick of it, even taking over the Vegas strip.

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On the show floor, we enjoyed hosting some fireside chats with our fabulous customers Serena & Lily, Pella, and Deckers Brands at our booth.

Our customer Serena & Lily shared some of what they are looking to accomplish in creating new customer experiences online.

“Part of the fun of design and our brand is putting together a room that feels very you. We want our website to replicate the experience in our design shops, where design advisors help customers through the design process. We don’t currently have that online, so we want to create experiences that allow for that. That is a future goal for us.” Check out the full live stream here

 

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or see how Pella is looking at establish a new direct to consumer model. “As the consumer expectation is shifting and digital is becoming more influential on how a customer learns about our products and ultimately configures and purchases, we want to be on the forefront of that by being one of the first national windows & doors distributors to have that presence and own that space online."

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Keep an eye out for a few others coming soon. Beyond sharing the stories of our customers, we met and heard from a variety of brands, partners, and thought leaders in the commerce space. This post will run through some key takeaways and predictions about the future of retail that were making waves at Shoptalk 2022. 

What We Heard on The Show Floor

The excitement on the show floor was palpable. Brands shared their challenges and latest wins, vendors demoed their latest technology, and industry experts predicted the future. Let's dive into a few common themes we heard:

Composable Commerce is Here

The first was that the Composable Commerce Movement is now firmly established and is here to stay. Brands have recognized the benefits of this approach by leveraging best-of-breed solutions to quickly launch and optimize brand-centric experiences. Learn more about the Composable Commerce Movement here.

It is no longer a question of when it will take over as the de-facto commerce approach. Instead, some of the brands still on older monolithic architecture (all-in-one solutions) were trying to get to grips with how they could break free of the restrictions and innovate with new experiences that their customers have come to expect. 

Partner-First For Commerce Success

The second theme was best-of-breed partners critical to a successful Composable Commerce approach to deliver innovative experiences. These partnerships were heavily represented in two ways, first from the presence of some of our partners like Vue Storefront, Bloomreach, and Amplience championing a headless Composable Commerce approach by showcasing the experiences they were instrumental in delivering.

 Along with Elastic Path, we work with our partners are crucial in powering a complete solution, like our new Pre-Composed Solution to deliver best-of-breed merchandising & commerce experience management. 

And secondly, exciting development backing a Composable Commerce approach was seeing the litany of new technology providers that fill essential gaps in existing commerce technology stacks. 

From AI vision powered solutions to create product data to live streaming partners that will be a crucial new channel in the coming years for retail brands to deliver their messages and products in a seamless and frictionless way. I would be remiss not to mention the buzz around the possibilities the Metaverse offers.

Though exciting, the consensus was that it was one for the three to five-year vision. Some brands like Forever 21 & Pacsun are already experimenting with NFTs for the Metaverse. Watch this space to see how the strategies shake out and where retail is headed in the Metaverse. 

Brands Are Outgrowing Monolithic Solutions

A third theme was hearing from numerous brands that they struggle with their existing commerce platforms like Salesforce Commerce Cloud. To highlight three common complaints:

1. Brands are suffering from complicated catalog management due to the restrictive design of these traditional solutions. If this sounds familiar, learn how Catalog Composer  can help alleviate those ailments with a faster, easier, and infinitely more flexible solution to a core commerce capability.

2. Another common complaint from brands on traditional commerce platforms was the fear of re-platforming. We often heard, "we just re-platformed; we're not ready to do it all over again yet." Thankfully, the answer is it's easier than ever to get started on a Composable Commerce journey.

You can replace the pieces causing the most headaches first and follow that up with others at your own pace. We like to call this approach "progressive re-platforming," a solution to start using highly extensible modern technology so your brand can be ready for the rapid and seismic changes the retail space will see soon. 

3. The third common complaint we heard was around speed. This problem is twofold, first is the speed of adoption of new channels and experiences. Slow innovation and adoption on traditional monolithic platforms apply to both established cases (like venturing into the B2B space, new geographies, etc.) and innovation with new channels like live-streaming and eventually even into the Metaverse.

With a Composable Approach, adopting these new channels is significantly more accessible since new integrations can be delivered in weeks rather than running a complicated months-long project on a monolith. 

 

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The second aspect of the speed complaints is overall site speed. In traditional monolithic architecture, there are limits on the results from site speed optimizations that developers can hope to achieve. The limiting factor is often the monolithic architecture in itself. Fortunately, these performance limits do not exist with a Composable Commerce approach's decoupled architecture. To learn more about how site speed can impact your brand, check out our blog.

Key Predictions About The Future Of Commerce

Beyond the chatter on the floor, there were more general points of discussion on the future of retail. 

1) Stores Are Back! 

With much of the world emerging from the pandemic, brick-and-mortar stores are beginning to regain prominence. Some brands like Warby Parker, which started as an online-only glasses shop, now is seeing the positive impact of having physical stores. However, where these stores are delivering value is removed from traditional values like location and access to customers.

An interesting theme emerged around the "influencer potential" that people in-store could have. By having store associates be a touchpoint to build the voice and identity of a brand, they can be an instrumental part of telling a brand’s story. Particularly as brand authenticity continues to gain momentum as a central pillar in positioning strategy as it resonates well with today's customers as gen Z becomes a more active part of the overall retail picture. 

  2) New Customers = New Expectations.

Beyond the usual tropes of customers who "want it now," an exciting theme developed around delivering context-relevant solutions—for example, someone looking for a summer dress during the peaks of winter. A search like this signals the current mindset of that buyer. They are looking forward to the near future.

Tomorrow's customers expect a buying journey that is relevant to that context and introduces complexity and nuance to strategies brands can adopt to provide such a buyer journey. Whether this spans multiple channels and touches, a Composable Commerce approach is well suited to solve for such complexity by empowering brands to incorporate best-of-breed personalization and content management system (CMS) vendors into their composed solution.

3) Customer Loyalty is Evolving.

"Personalization is the new loyalty" was a phrase repeated in multiple sessions. What does that mean? Like the context-relevant buyer journey, providing a frictionless shopping experience relevant to an individual shopper is going to be a vital part of building customer loyalty.

As customer expectations evolve, two points: personal relevance and brand authenticity, will be the key drivers of loyalty. As with most hot button issues in the commerce world, plenty of vendors offer personalization solutions that can be incorporated into your brand's Composable Commerce solution.

 4) Investors are Focusing on Profits Again. 

This new focus will be crucial to the success of any retail brand in the future. It is a significant shift away from recent years, where customer adoption was the main focus, and the high 'burn rates' fuel those adoption numbers being a side note.

With profitability coming to the forefront, ensuring that your costs are manageable from an eCommerce perspective will be vital as brands endeavor to deliver customer-centric experiences into the future. Check out our Total Cost of Ownership guide to learn more about using a Composable Commerce approach can help reduce costs compared to traditional monolithic platforms.  

Shoptalk was an exciting return to in-person events, packed with enthusiasm and innovative ideas. Is your brand ready for the future of retail? 

Chat with us today to see how we can help your brand or see how our Pre-Composed Solutions™ can kick-start your Composable Commerce journey.

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