Still feeling energized and inspired from our visit to NRF, we were excited about Shoptalk opening in Las Vegas this week.
A quick glance at this year’s Shoptalk speaker lineup strongly suggests that running a retail company is increasingly becoming more like running a technology company. Whether you’re reaching your customers online or in person, it’s clear that satisfying their ever-rising expectations will only be achieved through a growing reliance on a wide variety of tech innovations.
Here are just seven of the tech topics we’re most eager to explore this week at Shoptalk. All of them rank among technologies now having the greatest impact on marketers and HR leaders within retail organizations.
- The expanding use of AI to help predict consumer demand and boost supply-chain efficiency.
- The developing role of AI in enhancing customer experience by providing guidance for store associates.
- The experimental use of in-store robots to handle basic tasks, freeing up store associates to take better care of customers.
- The latest in intelligent carts, digital shelves, and endless aisles.
- The ongoing advancements in convenient cashierless checkout.
- Innovative use-cases for voice recognition and facial recognition, as well as experiential AR and VR applications.
- Projections for how and when driverless vehicles and drones will become viable modes for fast and efficient home delivery.
All these developments embody immense opportunities, and a certain degree of risk, as well. For instance, digital devices and in-store technologies promise a revolution in personalization, helping marketers boost sales by targeting customers with more precise offers. On the other hand, marketers remain under mounting pressure to strike the right balance between the constructive use of customer data and the protection of consumer privacy.
Retailers are finding that customer personalization must be integrated across many functions of the retail organization, touching a variety of departments. That, in turn, requires identifying employees with the skills and abilities to move among the various departments, so they can gain a broad understanding of all the synergies essential to delivering exceptional customer experiences.
For HR leaders in the retail industry, these developments point to an urgent need to stay on top of the technology employment market. Retail is adding new functions, new titles, and new candidate profiles at a rapid pace, with an increased emphasis on data scientists and AI experts. Senior roles in these areas are now being taken up by Millennials, who will need to lead teams populated mainly by a rising generation of so-called “digital natives” — Gen Z.
So much change is taking place so fast that a certain degree of cultural adjustment and adaptation will also be necessary, for both marketers and HR leaders in retail. Successful HR leaders will be those who can continue to hire for diversity and inclusion, while seeking to attract top talent from the world of digital start-ups.
None of these changes are arriving easily and comfortably. However, it seems inevitable that the retailers destined to survive and thrive will be those who embrace these emerging trends. The coming years will see winners among retailers willing to make smart investments in impactful technologies that meet evolving consumer demands. The dinosaurs of the retail industry, meanwhile, risk extinction much sooner than they may have thought.
Shoptalk, meanwhile, has grown in a relatively short period of time to become the world’s largest retail and ecommerceconference. Shoptalk founder Anil Aggarwal has said that he wants “to lead a new conversation and community with a mission to be a catalyst for the evolution of the new retail and e-commerce system.” Shoptalk’s reputation as an unbiased forum is buoyed by its rejection of the practice of pay-to-play speaker engagements. That decision lends credibility to Shoptalk’s claim of having “the world’s best speaker lineup.
There has never been a more exciting time to be a part of the retail industry. Shoptalk has attracted some of the retail world’s best minds and most original thinkers to Las Vegas this week. We’re looking forward to learning from them, as well as sharing our own insights about talent acquisition, development, and analytics.