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Shoptalk 2024

By Chantal Joseph & Jonathan Wilner, TRANSACT
April 2024

Shoptalk was a whirlwind of ideas, but a few clear themes surfaced across the diverse range of presenters. Following Chantal and Jonathan from our attending team, share what stood out for them. How brands and retailers are creating experiences to meet consumers where they are and questions anticipating what the future of AI will look like.

We saw disruptor and challenger DTC brands share how they’ve utilized social commerce and leaned into video and partners to drive effective ROI.

We walked away with unraveling new concepts like “Composable Commerce” – a modular approach to building and managing between buyers and sellers for a more customer-focused experience.

And how brands are starting to establish the foundational aspects in their data strategy to enable better use of AI in product development, product recommendations, website experience and more. It’s no longer enough to be aware of Gen AI but need to begin thinking of ways to make better use of the existing applications in conjunction with your existing tech/tools.

Meet The Customer Where They Are

Almost every speaker said this either verbatim or in more general terms -the future of retail media isn’t about getting shoppers where you want them, it’s about placing shoppable media where they are in the moment.

Some insightful learnings around this came from PacSun, specifically around how they have leveraged their brand purpose to create a community with their Gen Z consumer.

  • Become part of a community that already exists. This is about adding value to your consumers by inviting them to co-create and help expand the existing community.
  • Create unique and exclusive loyalty programs for your customers, this may include things like custom products.
  • PacSun has been evolving with the use of the metaverse, playing into Roblox through the launch of digital only products and creating two immersive experiences (Forever 21 have also been tapping into Roblox, to meet consumers where they are to build their relevancy).

Brands like PacSun continue to leverage platforms to meet consumers where they are, while delivering personalization at scale with impactful moments. It’s not enough to tell a consumer to shop your product, you have to take on putting forth creative and innovative solutions to keep them coming back for more.

The Importance of Agility

Almost all the successful brand stories at Shoptalk have been focused on capitalizing on organic trends. Heidi Cooley (CMO of Crocs) shared the story of how Crocs were trending on National Crocodile Day and how Crocs was able to turn that into a brand holiday. Then they leaned in even further and created Croctober. This wasn’t a brainstormed media plan; this was simply riding the organic momentum.

Other speakers shared similar stories, and what made their campaigns successful is that because these trends originated organically, any paid media support that followed felt genuine to shoppers, and importantly, the brand owners had a pulse on culture and were empowered to act on IRL developments.

Gen Z Shopping Behavior

This demographic, the largest generation in history, behaves uniquely, and they are shaping the future of retail media engagements. Brands and platforms are adapting to Gen Z behaviors, which brings us back to the first theme -advertisers who are able to successfully meet Gen Z where they are will be the ones driving the industry over the next few years and setting themselves up for success in the next decade. Everyone else will be playing catch-up.

About 25% of Amazon shoppers are Gen Z, and this number is only going to grow. This is the second largest age-banded demographic after 25–34-year-olds, and the gap between them decreases each year. Within a few years, Gen Z will be the largest demographic of Amazon shoppers.

Gen Z are channel agnostic shoppers but also expect more streamlined purchase options from the multiple media sources. They don’t want to navigate away from what they are engaged with to complete a purchase, want a fast delivery and ease and transparency around return policies.

Incrementality isn’t driven by search and DSP optimization. It’s driven by brand media campaigns that meet the needs and interests of new shoppers. Crowdsourcing the state of the brand to make sure that it aligns with the current zeitgeist allows brands to hear their potential shoppers, and allows them to move at the speed of Gen Z’s interests.  Shoppers increasingly want to buy from brands that align with their values, so without losing sight of your brand’s identity, aligning brand values to shopper values is the most effective way to meet Gen Z where they are from a brand affinity perspective, help secure a foothold in a brand market’s future and shift brand traffic from media-driven to organic.

AI – The Hottest Topic at Shoptalk

AI was probably the hottest topic at Shoptalk, prompting interviewers to ask the question in almost every session.  Every third booth on the exhibit floor touted a new, specific AI tool that promised to turn the industry on its head, reduce the need for manpower, and streamline processes. The emphasis and constant was centered around how it will not replace what we do, but be integrated to simplify operational aspects, data/tech and marketing. Interestingly, spending in AI is expected to grow in the single digits over the next few years but will pick up to 12% by 2032.

All the chatter also led us to expect a lot of increased efficiencies over the next couple years, streamlined workflows, deeper analytical opportunities, as well as integrations that seem impossible today, but at its core, what brands need right now are extremely deliberate creative messaging that tells their brand story clearly and effectively.  Will we be using Sora-style gen AI to solve everyone’s creative needs at some point?  Maybe, but for the near future, we are likely to observe a relatively steady increase in automation processes.

Google SA360 Announcement

Conferences often come a raft of launches and developments, one being that Google announced their offsite retail media solution powered by SA360. Google will be partnering closely with Lowe’s to enable advertisers to use Lowe’s retailer audience data with Google’s AI powered solutions to drive traffic and sales to Lowe’ This will support only feed based campaigns, with goals to expand to all Google’s Search Ad types. This will run via managed service to start.

However, what’s unique about this announcement is Google’s plans to quickly expand this to self service, which comes at an opportune time as marketers are looking for ways to optimize offsite spend more effectively while driving their business goals forward. Also looking for ways to better manage their campaigns across the retailer ecosystem.

Special thanks to Ewan Fisher and team for allowing us to be a part of the Product roundtable to dive more into this developing solution. There are some exciting developments to come and we’re particularly excited about a future where brands can layer their first party data with retailer data to provide more connected commerce synergies.