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What Industry Leaders Said at Shoptalk 2023

The Path to Purchase Institute rounded up insights about e-commerce, retail media and personalization from leaders across the industry, including Walgreens, Casey’s and Petco.
shoptalk 2023

Shoptalk 2023, held in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay, concluded on March 29. This year, thousands of attendees – from retailers, brands, agencies and solution providers — came together to discuss the latest trends in commerce and the future of retail. 

While last year’s show largely centered around advancements in e-commerce seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s show celebrated shoppers’ return to brick-and-mortar stores and grappled with how retailers and brands can best meet consumers wherever they shop. 

The Path to Purchase Institute was at the show, listened in on panel discussions with retailers and brands, and talked with industry thought leaders and experts one-on-one about this year’s biggest trends, from personalization to advancements in retail media networks and building loyalty with CPG brands. Here’s what they had to say. 

Stefanie Kruse Curley, group vice president of digital commerce at Walgreens, on brick-and-mortar’s role in e-commerce fulfillment: 

“I would say it’s not weaved into the digital strategy — it is the digital strategy,” she said during a panel about meeting consumer expectations around convenience. “We have nearly 9,000 locations — we have to view them as our most attractive asset. They’re mini-distribution centers we have on nearly every corner. There’s no way we could meet our one-hour same-day promise time without that collection of assets. It really is the center of our digital strategy. 

“We’re using that to look at how we lean into that space and really take out friction by allowing customers to get it the same day — curbside, drive-thru — meeting them where they are at that moment.” 

Art Sebastian, vice president of omnichannel marketing at Casey’s General Stores, on working with CPG brands to build loyalty:

"CPG brands are not known for their own loyalty programs," he said during a Shoptalk panel on loyalty programs. "The balance is, how do we not become frenemies? I do think that, as a retailer working with CPG companies, there are opportunities to find unique points of synergy where you can maximize the investment, maximize the value proposition and create a win-win scenario — the consumer wins."

Jenny Wolski, senior vice president of omnichannel experience at Petco, on incorporating personalization in its loyalty program: 

We are lucky to have over 25 million active customers in our database, and a majority of those active customers are in our membership program,” Wolski told the Path to Purchase Institute’s Jessie Dowd. “What that allows us to do is gather a ton of data about what they feed their pet, their pet's health, and what they're doing with their pet overall. So we leverage that data to personalize the experience for them. 

“What that actually means as a pet parent is you receive health and wellness reports that tell you if you're low on food or if you need to buy dental chews… or if you're low on litter, or when it's time to book your grooming appointment or your vet appointment. And so we personalize that experience, not just for the human, but actually for their pets.” 

Bill Ready, Pinterest CEO, on the next frontier in e-commerce: 

“I’ve engaged across sort of every stage of the shopping journey throughout my career,” Ready said during a keynote discussion on returning joy to shopping. “Interestingly, one of the things that stands out to me is, I think the first 20-plus years of e-commerce was really about solving for seamless buying. But when I think about the next 20 years of e-commerce, it’s much more about solving for the joyful part of shopping — the inspiration, the discovery. What’s the digital bazaar?”

Sam Knights, CEO of SMG (which owns Threefold, Capture and Lobster), on the biggest opportunity in retail media in 2023:

“There are so many opportunities out there,” Knights told Retail Leader’s Connor Perrett. “I think the thing that we've been talking about the most in the last couple of days is the presence of the store. So we've seen this huge expansion of online digital space, the opportunity to target people with first-party data. 

“But I think the next step is then linking that into the store, because that still represents 80%-85% of your sales. And so if you can influence that on top of the digital targeting, then you start opening up a really interesting world of incrementality.”

Elizabeth Lafontaine, chief retail analyst for Retail Leader Pro, on the top takeaways for retailers and brands at Shoptalk 2023:

“Despite the fact that we've seen exponential (e-commerce) growth over the past few years — stores are not dead. We've seen so much on the show floor about innovation in-store,” she said. “A lot of solution providers are coming to create great in-store experiences for retailers. And retailers are investing heavily in their stores to make them more agile, to make the path to purchase for consumers better and to really embrace consumers and the fact that they want to come back into stores.

“I think the other thing that we've seen is that brands are really focusing on building the brands themselves. They want to be authentic for consumers. They want to make sure that they are building communities with their consumers. And I think that we're seeing retail and entertainment, and content and community, all kind of centered within the retail ecosystem themselves. Retailers can't just buy and sell goods to people anymore. They need to embrace the 360-degree view of the consumer.” 

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