Shoptalk 2020 aims to help retail executives keep up with the swift pace of change.

NOTE: Shoptalk 2020 has been rescheduled to Sept. 14-17 in Las Vegas.

As ecommerce evolves far beyond the basic sites and apps on display a decade ago, Shoptalk aims to help retail executives keep up with the swift pace of change in the industry. The show has a variety of new programs on the docket this year to educate attendees.

To uncover how Shoptalk is transforming to meet the growing needs of retail executives across the globe, Digital Commerce 360 recently spoke with Zia Daniell Wigder, the show’s chief global content officer. She discussed new programs that will be unveiled this year, including a spotlight on emerging technologies in retail and Shoptalk Original Content—research developed in-house by the Shoptalk team to provide attendees with industry data and insights—which aims to help merchants better understand the latest developments within the industry.

DC360: What new programs or initiatives being introduced for this year’s show?

ZDW: We’re introducing four exciting new initiatives this year.

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To start, we’re launching Shoptalk Original Content, which is research developed in-house by the Shoptalk team to provide attendees with far-reaching industry data, detailed information and tangible insights that enable them to drive change in their organizations. The Shoptalk team will deliver this content during track sessions and main stage keynotes to supplement Shoptalk’s speakers. Three members from the Shoptalk content team will deliver presentations with data and insights on stage. Shoptalk Original Content aims to include both strategic and tactical insights, and will cover an extensive lineup of topics, including strategic partnerships, investments and acquisitions and deconstructing experiential retail.

We are also adding a new track called Tactics & Takeaways: Classroom Sessions that’s focused on practical, tactical learnings that attendees can take back to their companies and put to use. Divided into 20-minute individual sessions, the track will provide detailed case studies, insights and advice on a range of topics delivered by experts in their fields.

Another new agenda track that we’re rolling out is called Emerging Technology Spotlight. This track will feature a curated group of 100 early-stage technology companies with innovative technologies that are transforming retail. Ranging from robotics to AI and the in-store experience, the track aims to highlight some of the most exciting and revolutionary technology innovators in the industry.

Finally, we’re introducing our own original video content at Shoptalk this year. We spent the past six months documenting global retail innovation. We traveled to Israel to look at the latest AI technologies and then to China to join Alibaba on Nov. 11 which is Singles Day. We’re creating two 10-minute immersive video experiences that attendees will be able to view in VR lounges in the exhibit hall. We’ve also filmed different experiential retail stores in the U.S. to show how they’re creating new experiences for shoppers. These short videos will be played in a movie theatre-style area in the exhibit hall.

DC360: You recently announced a shift to an all-female speaker lineup at Shoptalk 2020. Why did you take this step and what has the reception been like?

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ZDW: Despite the wide variety of efforts to support and promote women across industries, the number of top female business leaders remains incredibly small. Just 7% of Fortune 500 companies are run by women, and while retail fares better than most industries with 12% female CEOs, that number is still staggeringly low given that there are more college-educated women than men in the workforce today. Even at Shoptalk, where we’ve always prioritized featuring female leaders, we’ve still had far more male speakers on stage than women over the past five years. Throughout Shoptalk’s six years, about 60% have been men and 40% have been women, including this year’s all-female lineup.

Given the ongoing gender imbalance, we felt the need to take a strong stand to help drive the industry forward. We believe we can make a difference with our approach in several ways. To start, we’re shining a spotlight on speakers because we believe that it’s critical that women at all levels of retail organizations see female leadership to be able to envision themselves in these roles.

We want to raise the profile of the women transforming retail so that they are increasingly tapped for speaking roles, media profiles, promotions and other opportunities. And we also want to remove the excuse conference organizers often make that there just aren’t enough qualified female speakers to put on stage to reach gender parity. Our goal is to make it very clear that’s not the case.

As for the reception to the initiative, we’ve been blown away by the positive response from the industry and the agreement that it’s critical for the industry to change.

DC360: Finally, what are some of the themes you expect to emerge at the upcoming show?

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ZDW: As retail undergoes monumental change, the transformation of the physical store will continue to be a big area of focus at Shoptalk 2020. Store layouts and footprints are changing while retailers experiment with new store experiences that range from the functional to the entertaining. Technologies such as automated store checkout remain nascent but poised to grow quickly as the technology matures and costs drop. Microfulfillment centers [editor: these are facilities that are smaller than traditional sprawling fulfillment centers and are often located in urban areas and sometimes are incorporated into retail stores] promise to transform more stores into mini-warehouses capable of fulfilling online orders quickly and efficiently. Of course, digital retail will also continue to be a key area of focus at Shoptalk, as ecommerce continues to evolve. We’ll cover these topics and more across the agenda.

In addition to those fundamental topics, Shoptalk 2020 will also dive into issues such as sustainability, which has gone from a niche topic to one that every brand and retailer is now contending with. Sustainability goes beyond the supply chain all the way to consumer-facing business models like recommendations as well as to areas like returns. Retailers are rethinking their entire value chain and preparing for a future of both government- and consumer-mandated change.

We’ll also look at the increasing role businesses are playing when it comes to leading on social causes. With consumers in all corners of the globe concerned that political leaders aren’t tackling issues that are important to them, businesses are stepping up to fill a void.

At Shoptalk, attendees learn tactics that help them succeed in their daily jobs, gain strategic insights that help them plan for the future, and get inspired to lead their businesses in the upcoming decade and beyond.

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