When Everyone Goes Right, Go Left – ShopTalk 2017 Recap

by Ovative Group
March 29, 2017

With over 5,000 attendees and 2,000 companies, ShopTalk 2017 in Las Vegas was a playing ground not only for high-rollers but all things ecomm, data, and technology. As a senior analyst with Ovative/group, I enjoyed attending a variety of presentations, networking, and walking the expo with a few themes rising to the top from the conference:

Give me the data! Smart Homes

The continued explosion and adoption of smart home technology and devices will capture more data across all areas of consumer’s lives than ever before! From smart lights, security systems, sensors, personal assistants and more, the US smart home market has entered ‘early majority’ adoption. By 2019, the US is expected to have over 10 million households with smart home devices.

What’s changing?

Smart device manufacturers first released their own mobile apps, each branded by device, creating silos to controlling devices within a household. However, as new “Smart Hubs” like that from Samsung gain popularity and centralize control of devices across the home all in one interface, reducing friction in use of the devices, it is likely that the adoption of smart home technology will increase.

Why I care?

Having control of smart devices all in one place is powerful for consumers as they look for simplicity and ease. By removing barriers to smart device use and establishing a hub of activity, more data than ever before can be collected about a household. These devices can acquire vast amounts of data about nearly everything in a home: daily habits, interests, shopping lists and food consumption, sleeping habits, favorite music, family members, visitors, the list goes on and on. These devices can work together to provide a seamless Smart Home experience for consumers.

While companies use information gleaned from smart home devices to improve their products and help improve a consumer’s daily life, it also opens the door for advanced data mining on consumer trends and habits… marketing and advertising opportunities galore! Companies will need to have a plan to 1) handle and manage the volume of data unlocked across connected hubs of devices and 2) determine how to use this data to improve consumer’s lives without sounding the “big brother” alarm. Not to mention, balancing the usage of this data and how accessible is it for marketers and brands to get their hands on.


When everyone goes right, go left

Companies cannot continue to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. It’s a quote said at conference after conference and read in marketing textbook after textbook. But, as marketers, we all to easily fall into the lull of what’s comfortable and familiar and stop thinking about what will disrupt.

PepperWhat’s happening?

While many have called for the death of brick and mortar stores, the truth is they continue to be a growth opportunity. Even with many large retail chains closing some of their doors, those wishing to succeed with a physical presence will need to do more than just remaining open. Those wishing to succeed in the brick and mortar or multi-channel space will need to undergo a significant transformation as the store channel is ripe for disruption.

Transformation opportunities include frictionless shopping experiences in store fulfillment capabilities, inclusion of in-store technologies, and a redesign of store layouts, marketing efforts, and displays. Beyond experience offering matters, Deloitte Consulting shared a study which indicated that store-based retailers who offer highly differentiated products and performance recorded a five-year compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.1% in annual revenue over 2010–2015. However, those retailers that sell commodity-like products reported an average decline of 0.2% over the same period.

Shoptalk EscalatorWhy I care?

After all of the transformation opportunities mentioned above, I came to ask myself are they really, truly disruptors? I’ll leave this up for you to decide, however, my guess is that we are still leaving the door wide-open for a more radical change in the brick and mortar channel. A radical change I expect if you do well, engaging consumers and creating a unique experience, will change the way we shop forever.

Ask yourself how you can disrupt. How can you go left when everyone goes right? This could be the difference between taking advantage of a growth opportunity or signing your own death certificate.


The elephant in the room… failure

One of my favorite things about ShopTalk 2017 was the variety of keynote speakers and presentations across the 3-day conference. I had the opportunity to attend a number of presentations, sit back, take notes, and take in everything around me. It was quickly apparent to me a differentiator in the presentations was how companies, and leaders, handled the elephant in the room… challenges and failure.

Why I care?

I was most impressed with leaders that named the challenges they had faced, acknowledged where they thought things went wrong in 2016, and had already committed to a kick-ass plan for the rest of 2017.  In those presentations, you could literally feel energy in the room build and see people lean forward and grab their pens. The companies that impressed me also took a strong customer-first approach, acknowledging where they changed their products and approach following consumer concerns and reviews. In the fast-paced space we live and market in, there is no time to stay stagnant. Companies and leaders at every level must recognize challenges, but never let those challenges be a reason to stop moving forward.

So where did companies and leaders fall short?  Over-rehearsed responses to the tough questions that skipped the meat, lack of acknowledgement that challenges existed (and continue to exist), and ignorance around the need for a new plan moving forward. From the startup world to well-developed brands, the biggest miss in my book was a lack of passion and connection with customers. In a world where experience drives purchase, the companies who fail to uniquely connect will get left behind.


Companies to keep your eye on… if you weren’t already!


AlibabaBecause Alibaba is still mainly a Chinese company operating mostly in the Chinese market, it can be easy to forget the scale of operations. In comparing Alibaba to Amazon, who most think of as an internationally operating marketplace, you may think the two are rather apples to apples when it comes to size. Think again! While Amazon ships 3 million packages a day, the Alibaba group shipts 12 million a day. On Single’s Day (November 11th) Alibaba generated over $17.8 billion in revenue with 82% of orders coming from mobile. Don’t underestimate the size of this ecommerce giant, and don’t forget the Chinese market that it sells to. If your selling online to the US, you should be thinking bigger!

wish 2Wish

You haven’t heard of it? You might not be part of the target market. Wish is a mobile first shopping app focused on ridiculously large discounts with the intent to drive shoppers to purchase before clicking off to another shopping app or website. The company connects Chinese manufacturers direct to customers, cutting the middleman and associated markups. With colorful eye-catching images and deep discounts, the app provides a unique browsing experience – you never quite know what you will find. Wish continues to top the app download list for shopping sites, alongside the likes of Facebook and Uber. Keep your eye on Wish as it competes against Walmart for the young, price sensitive audience, but only time will tell if the app has real sticking power or if it’s just the flavor of the week.

I personally tried out the app and felt the allure of “these deals are almost too good to be true” at 50-90% off, and I eventually caved with the additional discounts offered to me when I tried to leave the app with a full cart. The experience reminded me somewhat of my best days hunting garage sales and thrift stores for a great deal. While the shipping time for my Wish items was over 4 weeks, the products arrived and I was impressed with the quality.


A more visual shopping experience featuring mobile first application provides a marketplace alternative to Craigslist. Connecting local buyers and sellers wishing to pass on their old stuff, OfferUp is available in all major US cities. Built in chat capabilities, user profiles, and buyer/seller reviews make striking a deal a breeze. A Seattle based startup, OfferUp is one to watch!

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