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Apr 20 2017

WRS keynote at Shoptalk 2017


Westfield Retail Solutions (WRS) recently attended Shoptalk, the “next-generation commerce” conference where over 5,000 retailers, brands, tech companies and other key players in commerce come together for a few days in Las Vegas. WRS was featured in a keynote speaking session with Chief Technology Officer, Michael Blandina and hosted a booth. 

Across three days of over 300 keynote presentations, panel discussions, and meetings with conference attendees, the team at WRS identified five key themes emerging this year.

1. “Traditional” retail is going through a revolution

We’ve all read about the challenges ahead for traditional retail. Bricks-and-mortar retailers who still rely on the traditional store formats are going through a significant transformation. Major retailers are adopting new store formats that not only display and sell products, but that rethink the role of their stores in supporting shoppers various journeys. Retailers are also rethinking their approach to evaluating their business – and implementing new performance metrics – to reflect the channel-agnostic mindset that consumers have when it comes to shopping.

2. Retailers need help, and many are increasingly turning to start-ups

Technology is not a core competency for most retailers, so many are turning to retail tech start-ups. Retailers are doing one of two things: partnering directly with start-ups to solve specific pain points (like Rebecca Minkoff partnering with QueueHop) or establishing in-house incubators / investment arms to fast track their digital capabilities (like Walmart’s new incubator, Store No. 8.)

3. Pure play e-commerce brands are opening physical stores, demonstrating the continued convergence of physical and digital shopping

The industry is finally over the debate about whether physical stores are relevant in this new retail paradigm – physical stores are not dead. In fact, the future of shopping is an increasing blend of physical and digital. Digitally native companies like Bonobos, Birchbox, and Away are shifting from a pure play e-commerce approach to embracing physical stores / pop-ups focused on branding and experience.

4. Consumers want frictionless – not fragmented – retail

Fragmentation in the retail industry has driven consumers to increasingly engage with an “everything” store/ecosystem that provides integrated services for both consumers and retailers. Consumers can search for products, transact across retailers, and receive deliveries via a consistent and “frictionless” customer experience. On the flip side, small e-commerce retailers do not have to set up their own websites, logistics network, and customer service functions. Due to the wide selection of products and integrated offerings, marketplaces are growing as a global sales channel. In 2007, only 20% of retail sales came from marketplace websites; in 2017, 30% of all retail sales come through marketplace websites.[i]

5. Omni channel is dead, the consumer is the channel

This message was communicated amongst many presentations at Shoptalk, including the session led by WRS’ Chief Technology Officer, Michael Blandina. Consumers are, and will continue to control their shopper journey by interacting with retailers and brands the way they want to. Therefore, retailers need to engage consumers where they are already engaged both physically and digitally. Artificial intelligence (AI), bots, voice assistants, mobile contactless payments, and virtual and augmented reality are some of the emerging technologies that enable consumer-centric commerce. Additionally, consumers are increasingly interacting with products through trusted recommendations from influencers or peers rather than the retailer themselves, providing an opportunity for retailers and brands to partner with influencers who are both consumers and a channel.

[i] Shoptalk 2017 Track Session, “Research that Highlights Marketplaces as a Growing Global Sales Channel”