What We Learned at Shoptalk Europe 2023

The True Innovation team have been busy immersing itself in the world of retail technology surrounded by some of the most exciting brands and vendors in the industry; this time, it was Shoptalk Europe. Mike Tattersall and Jamie Campbell flew to Barcelona talk all things digital innovation in the retail and consumer industry at Europe’s biggest retail conference.

What We Learned at Shoptalk Europe 2023

Jamie Campbell / Events / 2 Jul 2023

The True Innovation team have been busy immersing itself in the world of retail technology surrounded by some of the most exciting brands and vendors in the industry; this time, it was Shoptalk Europe. Mike Tattersall and Jamie Campbell flew to Barcelona talk all things digital innovation in the retail and consumer industry at Europe’s biggest retail conference.

On the final day of the conference, Mike took to the stage (pictured) to host a conversation on ‘New Grocery Technologies Worth the Hype’ and was joined by Bruno Mourão from Sonae MC, Oli Baggaley from Ahold Delhaize and Ozenc Okyay from Unilever. Leveraging our position as investors and operators, True fuelled the conversation and provided unique insights across technology trends.

After three days of Meetups, Shoptalk Sessions, Keynotes and events, here are the trends and opportunities that are keeping European retailers awake at night:

  1.      Seamless Stores & Unified Commerce

Shoptalk Europe and its US counterpart, which True recently attended in Las Vegas, highlighted a prevailing theme: the shift from Omnichannel to seamless stores and unified commerce. This evolution encompasses the intersection of ‘Shopper Engagement’ – another key theme of the event - and the strategic focus of brands and retailers to establish seamless customer interactions across channels, anytime and anywhere.

Within physical stores, the emphasis has rebalanced back from experiential to convenience-driven environments, with Zara's London flagship store called out as a prime example of successful frictionless and continuous commerce implementation.

Sathya Nandakumar, CTO of Holland & Barrett, spoke of the challenges and opportunities of unifying the online and in-store experience using advance CRM and clientelling tools that have received large amounts of funding from the investment community. There is a fundamental challenge in providing a unique and genuine experience to every consumer at a cost that makes sense.

With the ability to engage with consumers anywhere, we heard how many retailers are taking an analytical approach to understanding the role of good friction in the customer journey. In our upcoming Insight Report on Preventing Abandonment in the Online Customer Journey, True Innovation Analyst Molly Walsh will advocate for the removal of ‘bad’ friction through best-in-class technologies, and the need for ‘good’ friction as a tool for safeguarding customer loyalty and trust. Stay tuned!

2.     Enabling Workers

We are operating in a world with low unemployment rates, high vacancies and high wage inflation. In this new normal, brands and retailers are exploring solutions that enable greater agility within the workforce. In our latest Insight Report on Employee Engagement, True Innovation Analyst Robyn Wilson spent the last three months diving into the world of employee engagement and has identified four key workplace areas that can be enhanced through innovation to improve retention, engagement and output.

Flexibility has a major role to play here, with hiring, training and scheduling seen as levers to be adjusted to accommodate a workforce with new expectations. Gamification of these employee engagements is a popular route that produces results, with workers onboarding through a gamified experience have a more immediate impact on operations.

Providing access to the wide-range of customer-level data to store associates and thereby empowering them to provide better customer service, will continue to be a central focus of physical retail in the coming years. A level of trust in employees is required to deliver that service in a way that is natural and unobtrusive. Again, training and gamification could have significant impact on the success of these efforts.

3.      Shopper Engagement

The way in which brands interact with consumers is constantly shifting, with hype cycles of new technologies growing shorter and more pronounced. It felt as though Generative AI was mentioned in almost every session, but it was within the realms of Shopper Engagement where it found its most welcoming home.

Unlike Web3 & Metaverse, which have been variously hyped in the last couple of years, there was an underlying feeling of a quantum shift attributed to the advent of accessible Generative AI tools. Fundamentally, the difference is that consumers are also at the front of the pack alongside corporates, leading the charge in utilising the technology. In the context of Shopper Engagement, the technology will unlock radical personalisation and further amplify the consumers-as-creators trend.

4.      Changing Relationships

Revenue opportunities for retailers are disrupting key relationships with shoppers, brands and other retailers. Marketplaces, retail media networks and collaborative commerce solutions are altering the way that retailers engage with their ecosystems.

Marketplaces account for over half of ecommerce transactions globally as consumers vie for greater choice and better information. Retailers want to provide more choice to consumers, but in doing so, take on the responsibility for conveying reliable information around product, reviews and beyond.

The retail media space is creating opportunity for retailers and brands to collaborate in securing eyeballs for marketing. When executed well, proprietary retail media networks will become a source of significant revenue. There are three essential ingredients to a successful retail media network play:

  • Data (quality and attribution)

  • Audience (reach and differentiation)

  • Creative (medium, flexibility)

Retailers increasingly embrace collaboration to achieve shared objectives, particularly when it comes to technology in fulfilment and circularity. Notably, ThredUp and Otrium respective founders, James Reinhart and Milan Daniels, highlighted how brands have enthusiastically embraced their solutions to address challenges related to second-hand clothing and excess inventory.

Interested in learning more? We’re always asking if there’s a better way — for businesses to grow, create change through technology, and achieve more meaningful success. Drop me a note to see how we can help!

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