Share this article

Shoptalk 2020: How to Get the Most Out of Your Conference Experience

Get The Print Version

Tired of scrolling? Download a PDF version for easier offline reading and sharing with coworkers.

Every year, 8,000+ retail thought leaders, educators, enthusiasts, and exhibitors descend upon the city of Las Vegas, NV.

They’re marked by their common uniform:

  • Comfortable shoes.

  • Tech-branded backpack.

  • Business cards burning a hole in their pocket.

And — most common of all — an unmistakable air of curiosity and anticipation as they enter three straight days of learning, networking, and pitching. And maybe some gambling on the side.

They’re here for Shoptalk, one of the world’s largest retail conferences. In 2020, the show’s sixth year of existence, attendees are expecting more content than ever — and there’s no doubt that the conference will deliver.

Shoptalk is most commonly attended by retailers of all sizes — from legacy brands through to direct-to-consumer startups, in addition to retail vendors, investors, analysts, and developers.

What Is Shoptalk?

Shoptalk is an annual retail industry conference where brands and consumers in the retail and ecommerce industry gather to network, collaborate, and learn.

With a world-class speaker lineup (and all women speakers for 2020), several diverse subject matter tracks, and engaging networking events, Shoptalk is a can’t-miss for any ecommerce executive who wants to stay up-to-date on the industry’s trends.

When Is Shoptalk 2020?

This year, Shoptalk takes place from March 22-25 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Known as a great city for large conferences and gatherings, Las Vegas is an easy flight away for many visitors from nearby large tech hubs. The temperate weather (aside from the summer) also makes it a good getaway for those escaping the colder springs on the East Coast.

Why Should I Attend Shoptalk?

As with any larger, technology-driven industry, a lot can happen within just a few days of networking.

Deals are signed. Connections are made. Hands are shaken.

There is limitless value associated with in-person connections, and conferences are no different. In exchange for the cost of a ticket, you’re gaining access to conversations that often would take many emails to initiate. Plus, if you’re a technology provider, conferences like Shoptalk offer unparalleled access to your consumers — where you can learn what they like and don’t like about your services.

If you or a representative don’t attend Shoptalk, you run the risk of missing out on new announcements, ideas, and partnership opportunities with others in attendance.

Shoptalk is continually adding and enhancing their conference programming. In 2020, expect formats like groundbreaking sessions, peer roundtables, curated dinners, and double opt-in one-to-one meetings — in addition to Shoptalk original content.

They’ve also added case studies, immersive visual experiences, interactive audience sessions, industry frameworks, and rapid-fire debates for this year.

Shoptalk 2020 Features All-Women Speaker Lineup

No seasoned retail or technology executive is blind to the fact that this industry is male-dominated. In a bold and original move, Shoptalk made headlines in November 2019 by announcing that Shoptalk 2020 will feature an all-women speaker lineup.

In the announcement, the Shoptalk team notes that from the beginning, they’ve been a huge advocate for women in the industry.

“As we enter our fifth year of Shoptalk, we’ve seen women founding companies, driving tech startups forward and rising through the ranks at brands, retailers and technology companies. Yet there are still far too few women at the most senior levels in our industry. This problem is by no means unique to retail–there are now more college-educated women than men in the workforce, yet the percentage of S&P 500 companies led by women still remains just 5%, a percentage that is simply unacceptable and untenable.” — the Shoptalk blog.

The announcement was well-received throughout the industry, with many leaders stepping up to support and admire Shoptalk’s decision.

Important Announcement from @shoptalk – proud to be joining this year.

— Daria Burke (@DariaBurke) January 13, 2020

Me: "Do I have a speaking slot at @shoptalk this year?"

Mktg team: "No, remember it's all women speakers this year."

Me: "That is awesome."

I'll be in the audience! It's an awesome event. More:

— Jeff Richards (@jrichlive) January 9, 2020

Went to finish my speaker bio and discovered @shoptalk is featuring all women speakers in 2020, with a commitment to a 50/50 gender split going forward. Thanks for what you are doing to advance women in retail, @shoptalk!

— Anna Palmer (@AnnaBPalmer) December 3, 2019

How to Get the Most Out of Shoptalk 2020

Conferences aren’t just an opportunity to drink cocktails and mingle — even when they’re hosted in Las Vegas.

In reality, they’re a lot of hard work, arduous hours, and sometimes result in a bit of jet lag.

So how do you get the most out of a conference without completely exhausting yourself?

Here’s a hot take: don’t drink. The no- or low-alcohol movement is transforming the tech industry for a reason: it can be draining, especially when your agenda has you out until 11:00 pm and getting to a keynote at 8:00 am.

Also make sure you plan your agenda in advance. Take a look at the layout of the conference. If you’re sprinting from one side of the hotel to the other to make it to different sessions, you may miss out on a spot to sit (or the session itself, if it fills up). Many seasoned conference-goers tend to stick to one area for the majority of the day.

If you’re going to Shoptalk on behalf of a brand, keep in mind what mix you want to have between hanging out on the showroom floor in your booth and attending sessions. You’ll also most likely have a lot of other attendees that you want to connect with in 1:1 meetings. Before committing to anything, make sure that it’s worth your time!

8 Must-Attend Shoptalk 2020 Sessions + Keynotes 

1. Innovations in marketing.

This track on Sunday, March 22, is jam-packed with cutting-edge topics from retail c-suite attendees and emcees. You’ll most likely walk away from these sessions with a newfound knowledge of what is coming in retail marketing in 2020.

Experiential Marketing

Featuring presentations from Mall of America, Signet Jewelers, and Niantic, this 40-minute session dives into the non-traditional forms of customer engagement — like popup shops, social contests, and more.

New Marketing Platforms and Partnerships

The first session of the day, this will be a conversation-style presentation between representatives from Twitch, Fandango, and Spotify. From the session description: “Brands are also experimenting with emerging platforms ranging from voice assistants to augmented reality to direct consumers’ attention to their products. This session will explore the latest in marketing tactics and highlight the platforms and partnerships that brands are employing to win over consumers.”

2. Diversity and Inclusion in Retail.

One of the Sunday keynotes, this topic is definitely a popular one for Shoptalk 2020. Three women c-level executives from Macy’s, Inc., Target, and The Network of Executive Women are sure to bring a crowd with their subject matter expertise around this important facet of our industry.

3. Brand-retailer relationships.

This conference track on Monday walks attendees through all of the nuances that face merchants in ecommerce today. Whether you’re an up-and-coming brand or a seasoned legacy retailer, chances are you’re reconsidering your channel, partner, and marketing strategies on a regular basis. This track is your opportunity to learn from the experts.

Innovations in Sourcing and Merchandising

Experts from Walgreens, GOOD AMERICAN, and Modsy will dive into new approaches to sourcing and merchandising. With more options for merchandising than ever before, it’ll help to hear from these three companies on what they’re doing to diversify their mix and make sure their options resonate with shoppers.

In this Monday keynote, Zia Daniell Wigder, the Global Chief Content Officer for Shoptalk, is sure to outline some of the more talked-about trends for 2020 retail. We wouldn’t be surprised if we heard about brick-and-mortar activations, SMS marketing, and sustainability.

5. Social Marketing and Commerce.

This track on Monday afternoon outlines a concept that is on every retailer’s mind: social media strategy. While every brand has their own mix of what works and doesn’t work, speakers from companies like LIVELY, Facebook, ipsy, and e.l.f. Beauty are sure to know a thing or two.

Using Influencers Effectively

Influencers: you either love them or hate them — but for some brands, they’re an extremely effective marketing strategy. This session will take a case-study approach with presentations from LIVELY, BWS, and Facebook.

The Future of Social Commerce

For the last session in the “Social Marketing and Commerce” track, we’ll hop overseas to explore markets like China, where platforms like WeChat and Pinduoduo are taking the industry by storm. From the session description: “While social commerce hasn’t yet gained the same level of traction in the US, recent offerings from Instagram, Pinterest and others promise to make it easier for shoppers to discover and purchase products on their platforms.”

6. Using Data Effectively.

In this track on Tuesday, March 24, attendees will dive into one of the most important parts of reporting: data. Whether it’s customer data, data privacy, or operations, this track is sure to leave you with takeaways that you can apply to your own practice.

Using Data to Optimize Operations

Leaders from fashion brands M.Gemi and Anomalie will outline the ways their organizations have leveraged data to improve their operations — from supply/demand matching, to sourcing and fulfilling orders from the optimal store or distribution center.

 7. Personalization.

This Tuesday track highlights a concept that is top-of-mind for many retailers. Growing customer expectations are causing brands to innovate to personalize products, website experiences, and fulfillment processes to match customer demand. These sessions feature speakers from companies at the forefront of the personalization movement — like JustFab and FabFitFun.

Delighting Customers through Personal Interactions

The jam-packed lineup of speakers from FabFitFun, Macy’s, Ulta Beauty, and Vogue Business (Hilary Milnes – a personal favorite) is sure to draw a crowd. The shopping experience at each of these retailers is increasingly tailored to the shopper, so these speakers will absolutely bring some powerful insight into the technology and methodologies powering their personalization tactics.

8. The Future of the Industry.

One of the tracks on Wednesday, March 25, features both a panel on sustainability and a presentation about private and exclusive brands. This track is a great way to wrap up the conference and leave with some great ideas for what you can bring to your brand in the future.

Private and Exclusive Brands

Once seen as a race-to-the-bottom for quality, private brands are now resurfacing as a price-conscious, high-quality alternative to some direct-to-consumer rivals. In this session featuring representatives from Daymon, Nielsen, Tuft & Needle, and The NPD Group, they will “examine the rising popularity of these brands and dive into the evolving relationship between retailers and traditional brands.”

Building a Sustainable Industry

Seen as one of the rising trends of 2020 ecommerce, sustainability is a concept that is at the forefront of conversations for both retailers and consumers. This session will feature both a presentation and an expert-led panel of brands who are pushing the eco-friendly envelope, making real changes, and embracing alternative business models.  

Executive Summary

Whether you’re a seasoned ecommerce professional or a newcomer to the space, you can find a lot of value by attending unique networking events and tradeshows. You’ll make new connections, discover new companies, further understand the changing future of retail, and forge new professional development skills.

As one of the largest annual retail conferences in the United States, Shoptalk is one of the events that is almost guaranteed to be on the calendars of ecommerce experts, retail changemakers, and educators.

Are you headed to Shoptalk this year? Come visit BigCommerce! We’ll be at Booth #3316. Meet our executive team and learn about the future of commerce by scheduling a meeting.

Corinne Watson avatar

Corinne is a writer and researcher at BigCommerce, where she works directly with agency and technology partners to bring their tools, services and ideas to the commerce industry at large. Before BigCommerce, she was an education specialist at Skills Fund, where she built resources and ran trainings to give students access to life-changing skills. Corinne holds degrees in graphic design and psychology. After college, she transitioned into the marketing and research space through a self-taught mindset – and works to bring the value of that skill and mindset to others. When she’s not writing, she’s volunteering with nonprofit organizations, traveling the world, or digging into a new book.