Key themes from Shoptalk 2024

Didn’t make it to Shoptalk this year? No worries. As the week comes to a close, the Flywheel team has compiled their key takeaways, session highlights, and overall themes in one place for your ease. Read on for our summary of the event.

Written by
Emma Irwin
March 22, 2024
Key themes from Shoptalk 2024

Table of contents

The event & its future

Shoptalk brings together the world’s leading retailers, brands, service providers, agencies, & tech partners, and this year the emphasis on the power of digital commerce and retail media was clear. 

Shoptalk announced a new program to take place during next year’s event - The New Market - aimed at “providing a forum for retailers and other stakeholders from across the media landscape to share strategies and solutions for creating memorable, timely and engaging customer journeys that deliver maximum ROI for brands, marketers and advertisers, but also experiences that last for their viewers.” This new track shows the realization across the retail industry of the power of the connection between retail and media and the entire digital commerce ecosystem.

In addition to the connection between retail and media, generative AI and creating/measuring seamless omnichannel journeys were also at the forefront of Shoptalk’s content and exhibit hall. Read on for more details on key themes from the event and our take on what these themes mean for your business.

Key themes and takeaways

Generative AI

Unsurprisingly, Generative AI drove many of the session topics this year at Shoptalk. While there was a significant emphasis on AI for store/retailer operational efficiency, mitigating the risk of AI and scaling personalization via AI was also at the forefront. Clearly, AI provides the industry with ample opportunity to streamline efficiencies, but it requires brands and retailers to think strategically about implementation and the impact of moving too big and too fast.

Our takeaway: With how quickly this industry moves it can be difficult to determine where and how much to invest, especially when it comes to AI. We believe that brands should be testing AI to streamline efficiencies while we continue to research the impact of AI in retailer search and digital content creation, which is where we predict significant impact as the metrics that matter continue to shift when it comes to media performance and retail capabilities. We didn’t hear a ton about the specifics of brand protection while mitigating risks of AI but this is a key area that digital commerce brands must be tracking to make sure they’re content online is not diminished by external factors utilizing AI-created content that’s outside of brand standards.

Seamlessly omnichannel & measuring the journey

Omnichannel retail is not a new concept, but this year Shoptalk pushed retail leaders to think beyond just being available across channels and focus on every touchpoint with a consumer being a seamless journey with the retailer or brand. Leaders from prominent CPG brands focused on how to set up cross-functional teams within their organizations that can help achieve a seamless customer journey by eliminating internal barriers to these solutions.

Randy Spaeth, VP & Managing Director of Ecommerce at Nestle Purina mentioned that his team is looking at how to seamlessly integrate across retailers, media, and social to bring pet parents the products they need or don’t know they need, but this is only possible because of the “General Manager” mindset and culture of learning that the company upholds and upholds across their partners as well.

It has taken many years but large brands are looking at their structures through the modern lens of eliminating challenges due to misaligned OKRs across the various teams - all of which contribute to consumers experiencing seamless interactions with the brand across every touchpoint.

Our takeaway: We’re no stranger to silos and inefficiencies caused by internal blockers within traditional brand organizational structures, but we dedicate ourselves to being partners in ecommerce education and acceleration. Senior leadership within brands needs to be educated on how physical and digital work together in an omnichannel world to maximize and capture all of the opportunity that awaits.

RMN’s & agencies as retail change drivers

This is the first year that we truly feel the retail industry embracing the opportunity of partnering with agencies and tech providers and investing in retail media networks - bridging the execution and measurement gap between the physical and digital worlds. We saw more representation from the various RMNs on the exhibit floor which is exciting for us because our work is being recognized as driving performance for retailers and advertisers, and the industry is again acknowledging the need to eliminate silos between ecommerce, marketing, sales, and beyond.

Our takeaway: We’re continuing to innovate across our technology and build robust partnerships with our tech and retailer partners to accelerate the quest of solving every digital commerce challenge a brand could have, and the work never stops. For brands and retailers, strong agency and tech partnerships are invaluable in connecting the dots across the retail ecosystem and the shopper's path to purchase.

Flywheel session highlights

Coffee & Commerce with Walmart Connect

Flywheel hosted an exclusive Coffee & Commerce event in partnership with Walmart Connect featuring Ryan Monigan, VP of Walmart Client Services at Flywheel and Bhanu Bhardwaj, Group Director, Product Management at Walmart Connect. 

Ryan and Bhanu covered the uniqueness of Walmart’s first-party data, how Walmart is preparing for a cookieless future, and how an agency like Flywheel looks at Walmart Connect’s innovations and products and ties together in-store activity with media activations.

The Criteo Commerce Stage

Toby Willse, Senior Director of Omnichannel Media at Flywheel participated in a panel with Criteo & Albertson’s Media Collective to discuss the connections between a retailer like Albertson’s and Flywheel as an agency, as well as tips for advertisers looking to scale in the current retail media landscape.

Toby hit on the need for advertisers to look at ROAS as a guardrail rather than a KPI, striving for not just topline revenue growth but overall advertising profitability.

The Commerce Collective Podcast

The Commerce Collective Podcast returned to Shoptalk this year for three live recordings all available for your listening. Host Emma Irwin sat down with:

  • Bhanu Bhardwaj, Group Director, Product Management at Walmart Connect to discuss all things measurement & path to purchase in Walmart’s omnichannel world - LISTEN HERE

  • Erin Lastra, VP Retail Partnerships at Criteo to discuss the fragmented retail media landscape’s impact and the opportunities of unification - LISTEN HERE

  • Alice Luong, Director of Market Strategy & Planning at Instacart to cover how Instacart’s tech is empowering retailers to embrace the opportunity of retail media and provide grocery advertisers endless room for growth - LISTEN HERE

Wrapping it up

Shoptalk 2024 was a success for Flywheel across our teams and it’s exciting to see the theme of the event shift to recognizing the importance of how retail and media work together.

Emma Irwin
Emma Irwin
Senior Brand Marketing Specialist, Flywheel
Emma Irwin
Senior Brand Marketing Specialist, Flywheel
Emma Irwin is a Senior Brand Marketing Specialist and host of the Commerce Collective Podcast. She began her Flywheel career on the client services team and has since transitioned into a marketing role responsible for producing informative resources for Flywheel's ecosystem.

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