Shoptalk came on in a big way, drawing more than 3,000 retail and technology executives and investors to its debut conference last spring, and organizers expect more than 5,000 to attend in 2017. That fast traction helped convince Sucharita Mulpuru, a leading voice in the e-commerce and retail industry, to sign on with the company as its chief retail strategist.
“The show has tremendous momentum now, and has built an amazing brand in a short period of time,” Mulpuru says. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Mulpuru joins Shoptalk, which bills itself as the “nextgen commerce event,” from Forrester Research Inc., where she was a vice president and principal analyst and tracked retail and e-commerce’s development in depth for more than a decade. She spoke frequently at industry conferences and has consulted with major retailers.
Her high profile, insider knowledge and substantial Rolodex of contacts will help Mulpuru broker introductions at Shoptalk. As chief retail strategist, her new role is to organize and lead a networking program to take place at the 2017 conference.
During the 2016 conference, Shoptalk arranged more than 500 on-site meetings between venture capitalists and startups, says Shoptalk founder and chairman Anil D. Aggarwal. With the program Mulpuru is charged with developing, “We expect this series of meeting and interactions to be in the thousands,” he says.
Conference organizers expect the Shoptalk networking program to include more than a dozen ways for attendees to interact with each another, including one-to-one meetings and group dinners.
“We think the entire retail and e-commerce ecosystem needs to engage in a whole new dialog, and that’s what we’ve initiated,” Aggarwal says. “The point of this is really how do we get an entire industry talking to each other?” The networking activities Mulpuru will develop will take place during Shoptalk. “We don’t want to do this year round. We want it to contribute to the four-day event and make it an incredible four days,” he says.
Mulpuru says she sees her responsibility as making sure that everyone, especially retailers and brands, are able “to make the kinds of connections that they envision when they come to an event.”
Aggarwal approached Mulpuru about joining the Shoptalk organization more than a year ago. Mulpuru says that after seeing the reception the debut event received, she felt the time was right and that she could play a role in developing future events.
In joining Shoptalk, Mulpuru will rejoin former Forrester colleague Zia Daniell Wigder, who is Shoptalk’s chief content officer and leads the Shoptalk agenda development team. Wigder joined Shoptalk in August 2015 after covering global e-commerce at Forrester for about seven years. Asked if he’s made Forrester a go-to candidate hunting ground for Shoptalk, Aggarwal said: “These are the two we wanted. We have no plans to take anybody else.” Shoptalk has 15 employees.
Forrester did not immediately respond to an inquiry about Mulpuru’s departure or who might take on her role at the research company.
Internet Retailer technology editor Katie Evans spoke at Shoptalk last spring. Read her take on the conference here.