Shoptalk is primarily a B2C retail conference, held once a year in the US (Las Vegas) and Europe (London). This year’s 2022 edition was one of the first full-scale conferences since the pandemic.
The general vibe of the conference was the further maturity and innovation in the digital commerce space, and the fragmentation of Digital Commerce into different categories within which there are lots of competing firms of various sizes. It’s obvious that investment in space has ramped up.
HCL Commerce has a distinct advantage in this realm as we are not VC financed, but largely self-funded by HCL Technologies and our own subscription revenue stream. While results are important, we have a runway longer than these firms who will have to show rocket ship growth or lose funding and die. I see that as a strategic advantage for us.
As I walked around the show floor, it also struck me that SIMPLICITY will be a big key in the future. In a market where there are lots of solutions basically doing the same thing, the ease with which these can be integrated into a complex enterprise will be a major selling differentiator.
One major theme expressed by presenters was that “people and processes” are now harder to tackle than technology. The ability to find and hire the right people, and then the ability to train them in the technology and help them become proficient in it is a key to success. We should focus on our ability to surround our products with enablement that is easy to consume, and help customers solve the people and process problems as much as we solve their technology problems. The HCL Commerce team does this particularly effectively with our CX Studio and Advisory Services practices, but we could do more to scale these efforts digitally so that customers have a playbook for our tech that they may not have for the competition.
So, to sum it up, Simplicity, Composability, People centric, forward-looking innovations, Modularity and Modernization are all keywords we should put into our mission statements and actions.
Major Innovation Themes
The major themes I got from sessions and walking the floor:
- Retailers are hungry for ‘what’s next?’. Sessions talking about futures were packed. They aren’t necessarily investing in these futurist ideas yet, but they are hungry to know what they might be. They are seeking companies that are innovators to gain a jump on their competition within their category.
- Marketplaces continue to grow in importance to retailers – both selling on the large public ones and running their own marketplace (our in-flight project) to expand their assortment.
- User interfaces are fragmenting in that just having one site is moving towards having a variety of commerce experiences in the places where consumers are. The term “Omnichannel Impulse Occasions” was used to describe how digital advertising is causing people to make unplanned purchases – TikTok, Instagram, Amazon, Metaverse all being examples.
- Supply chain and sustainability were important topics. Being able to see where your order is, where your inventory is in a time of scarcity. Sustainability as prices increase, and the ability to use sustainability as a selling point/attribute is of interest to consumers and therefore retailers.
- Stores retain their pivotal role as a consumer destination, but stores can take a variety of forms now – physical, pop up, digital, metaverse based. The store really needs to be connected to the digital experience, and also reflect the nature of the brand. A place to experience the brand, not just a place to buy. One presenter talked about stores being designed in blockchain in the metaverse so they could be erected and then torn down and moved to other “worlds” as needed.
- Metaverse is any virtual representation of our physical (or fantasy) world. There is only one metaverse, but there are lots of different “worlds” such as VR, Games, Workout mediums like Peleton or Apple Fitness, simulators like Zwift (cycling) or E6 (golf). Opinion is still divided on the future of these, but the real dollars being spend in them can’t be ignored, nor can Facebooks investment in the space.
Until then, a big thank you from our HCL Commerce team if you visited our booth. Hope to see you at Shoptalk 2023!