Shoptalk 2018: The highlight reel

by Infor Retail March 29, 2018 Converged Commerce

Our top four takeaways from the third annual Shoptalk Vegas

ICYMI: Shoptalk 2018 was even bigger and better than years past, with innovations in retail tech at the center of every conversation, paring down the list of learnings and takeaways was no easy task. These are some of our favorite highlights from Las Vegas:

Invest to innovate

We heard Ulta CEO Mary Dillon loud and clear in Las Vegas. If retailers want to thrive (instead of just survive), they must invest in innovations that help them stand out from the crowd and deliver the most cohesive, personalized, and exciting customer experiences possible. And they can fund those investments with efficiencies from next-gen tech. In fact, according to Fast Company, Ulta’s innovation around in-store experiences contributed to a 20% revenue increase in 2016. And, the beauty retailer’s stock has jumped an astonishing 150% since Dillon took over: continued evidence that stores are not dead, and investments in people and store experiences are paying off. Yes, investments in innovation will present some upfront costs—but ultimately, it’s the price retailers must pay if they hope to stick around and compete with the likes of Mary Dillon and Ulta.

It takes a village

Leaders in retail innovation like Ulta, Nike, and Walmart already understand the value of retail and tech partnerships. But for those retailers who are still looking to leap to true digital transformation, the thought of building an entire tech stack in-house, investing in innovative technologies like AI and machine learning, and developing a globally connected supply chain in the cloud is more than overwhelming. These days, it takes more than just thinking like a technology company … it takes partnering with them to jump start innovation, speed up time to market, and invest in new business models that are pre-built to usher them into the Golden Age of Retail.

Supply chain as a differentiator

Retailers increasingly see the supply chain as the single biggest differentiator among brands. The ability to plan, source, make, and fulfill orders quickly, inexpensively, and from any point in the supply chain will not only help these businesses reduce cost and inventory, but also lead to greater customer satisfaction along the way. Because of its direct impact to consumers, and the challenge in getting it right, last-mile fulfillment was the biggest supply chain talking point at Shoptalk 2018. However, challenges further upstream, such as traceability, sustainability, product freshness, and logistics optimization did make appearances throughout the show. In fact, Walmart showed off a blockchain pilot that enabled the tracing of packaged mangoes from store to source in about 2.2 seconds—a process that formerly took more than one week. Of course, for these kinds of results with blockchain technology and traceability, it’s imperative that all parties in the supply chain participate. No matter what, retailers are still only as good as the network they’re on.

The (real) year of AI

AI generated plenty of buzz at Shoptalk Europe last fall; this year, artificial intelligence took center stage. And it’s not just chatbots. The exhibit hall was filled with smaller vendors and startups built with AI at their core. Google, Amazon, Facebook, and eBay all presented a vision for messaging and AI, while everyone from grocers and consumer products companies to retail, fashion, and apparel brands discussed how they’re applying some flavor of artificial intelligence to customer service, assortment planning, logistics, and supply chain optimization. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have clearly arrived, and retailers have moved beyond simply being excited about their potential, to investing in these technologies as a strategic driver for success.

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Ulta CEO Mary Dillon

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