Shoptalk 2019 Recap: Key Takeaways and Retailer Case Studies

Posted by Jocelyn Schoolsky on Mar 14, 2019 7:00:00 AM
Jocelyn Schoolsky

Shoptalk continues to get better and better, year after year. With its fourth year in the books, there’s no denying that Shoptalk has become the “it” retail conference. While I spent a majority of my time in sessions, I couldn’t help but take full advantage of the Zen Lounge and Caricature Station. Yes, I got a free massage at the convention. On top of these perks, Shoptalk provided attendees with complimentary Tarot Card Readings, Shoe Shining, a Barber & Blowout station (featuring Glamsquad) and even professional headshots. The conference also had this incredible energy – a comfortable and inviting environment for peers to converse and network.

After three full days of sessions, I need to give kudos to the Shoptalk team for creating such valuable content (with top-notch speakers too). Not only were the themes consistent but topics like the resurgence of physical stores, sustainability, the importance of content marketing and mobile were at the forefront of most presentations. Below are a handful of retailer insights and brand case studies that I found most noteworthy:

Innovations In-Store -- Greats’ Keys to Success

Greats Founder and CEO, Ryan Babenzien, spoke to physical retail as a must for the digitally-native consumer. With over 300K pairs of shoes sold and 155K unique customers, the Brooklyn based sneaker brand estimates that it’s SoHo flagship location generates $2000 per square foot. But this type of success doesn’t just happen, Babenzien explained the fundamentals behind Greats’ booming business:

  1. Their team mandate is “not to sell but to educate.” If there’s no high-pressure sales directive, store associates won’t come off as aggressive.
  2. Not only is hosting store events part of Greats’ DNA but it’s an excellent opportunity for the team to engage with local community.
  3. People that attend events will ALWAYS post on social media. This makes for great brand awareness!
  4. A store’s purpose is to be a cultural hub, not just a place to sell sneakers or things.
  5. Every store should have an Instagramable moment (I couldn’t agree more). Greats’ is a swing.
  6. The brand’s minimum wage has been $15/hour since 2016. Happier employees = much less attrition.

Technologies Enabling Physical Experiences


Macy's Sweet Shop

For most department stores, reinventing yourself is critical. According to Nata Dvir, EVP, General Business Manager – Beauty, Macy’s is heavily investing in store improvements and digital technology. In 2018, the retailer devoted its time to humanizing the customer journey. Innovations included:

  1. Investing in its 13,000+ beauty advisors by offering further education through a training program called “The Beauty Playground.”
  2. Installing advanced lighting and updating many sales floors.
  3. Refreshing the in-store experience of its Herald Square location every 3 months. The Sweet Shop includes three selfie stands, a claw machine full of beauty treats and a vanity stocked with makeup must-haves.
  4. Teaming up with Perch Interactive to launch new in-store displays, which are coming this Spring to select locations. The interactive displays will allow customers to shop by favorite notes of scent.
  5. Planning several updates to their mobile app, including a partnership with ModiFace. Incorporating ModiFace will allow shoppers to virtually trial 1,000+ make-up products.

Walmart China

Walmart China

Walmart’s Ben Hassing shared some impressive stats regarding the superstore’s partnership with Chinese tech giant Tencent, which allows users to Scan & Go using WeChat Pay. Within 8 months of launching the Scan & Go feature, the retailer acquired 24 million users and now accounts for over 30% of store transactions. In addition, Walmart China offers home delivery within one-hour, personalized digital vouchers and an in-store wayfinding tool.

How Revolve Clothing Successfully Utilizes Content Marketing Platforms

Revolve Festival

Listening to Revolve Clothing’s Raissa Gerona speak was definitely the highlight of the show (at least for me). Given Revolve’s massive success, I was intrigued to learn more about its content marketing strategy. Gerona’s advice was as follows:

  1. “Have the right people in the room with the right influencers and you’ll be successful.”
  2. Find what speaks to you customer. One of the brand’s largest campaigns is Revolve Festival. Gerona said, “Putting our stakes in the ground during festival season – that’s where our customer is at. They want to look cute, so the two to three weeks leading up to festival season are super busy.” As for content, the campaign’s roster of approximately 500 influencers contributed to an infinite amount of press, impressions and sales. Additionally, the retailer hosted a party for 1200 people, making its media value higher than its competitors.
  3. Continue to explore and expand your brand – especially beyond online retail. For example, Revolve recently partnered with the Palms Hotel and Casino to create two Revolve suites. The suites were designed to be Instagram-worthy and include lavish beauty stations with Dyson hairdryers, makeup kits and fully equipped bars. Revolve will also be opening a long-term pop-up store at the Palms later this year.
  4. VISION TAKES TIME. In 2013, Revolve’s influencer trip to Sedona consisted of just two influencers. Now in 2019, #revolvearoundtheworld trips have up to 150 influencers. In fact, the team just returned from Australia.

Reducing Carbon Impact Through Second Hand


TheRealReal Shoptalk 2019

Founded in 2011, TheRealReal extends the life cycle of luxury items and contributes to sustainability by providing a trusted platform for authenticated luxury consignment. Once a pure play, the retailer eventually experimented offline through pop-ups. Their goal was to redefine resale shopping while delivering a luxury experience. Given the positive reaction from their local market, the company has since opened two store locations – New York and Los Angeles. With over $230B in total luxury consigned today, TheRealReal promises to provide their customers with a seamless omnichannel experience. Mike Groffenberger, Managing Director of Retail, shared how:

  1. Everything for sale in-store is also available online. This includes all apparel, furniture and décor.
  2. When visiting a showroom, customers have access to expert staff (gemologists, authentication specialists, watchmakers, etc.), free valuations and product viewings, consignment drop-off, personal styling, luxury repair services and expert workshops.
  3. If a consigner has 10 or more qualifying items, they are eligible for the company’s White Glove service. Rather than shipping the items directly to TheRealReal, a Luxury Manager will come to your home to pick up the items and ship them to their warehouse, at no cost to you.
  4. The retailer’s Los Angeles location includes a café serving pressed juice, coffee, salads and pastries.


ThredUP’s Founder and CEO, James Reinhart, spoke about his founding moments in 2008 to present. After seeing a trend in shopper behavior, he knew retail was beginning to evolve. In fact, these stats might just blow your mind:

  1. People don’t wear 70% of things in their closet.
  2. The company sells 60 million pieces of unique clothing and carries 35,000 brands.
  3. More than 50 million women bought something secondhand last year.
  4. The resale industry is valued at $25 billion dollars.
  5. ThredUP’s average customer makes over $100,000 per year.
  6. Today’s Millennials are changing behavior in the marketplace, as most look for unique finds and are money-conscious.
  7. More than 85% of ThredUP’s revenue comes from repeat customers looking to make smart decisions for their wallet and the planet.

How Ulta Beauty is Winning Through Personal Interactions

Ulta Shoptalk 2019

With over 1,000 retail locations across the country, Ulta’s Dave Kimbell shared its approach to beauty and the future of retail (physical, digital and emotional). Given that each customer has a unique ability to express themselves, the beauty retailer launched a campaign last year: The Possibilities Are Beautiful. This particular campaign enabled the retailer to not only create an emotional connection with consumers but also continue to drive brand awareness. In addition to the campaign, Ulta also acquired two small companies, GlamST and QM Scientific. Both acquisitions were made in order to customize and personalize beauty solutions for Ulta’s customers. And on the back end, the data helps the team better understand its consumer. Below are some fun facts about Ulta and its customers.

  1. Ulta has more than 30 million loyalty members.
  2. Loyalty members make up 95% of total revenue.
  3. Digital is the fastest growing part of Ulta’s business, but very few customers shop online-only.
  4. Last year, the company opened over 100 stores and will be adding 80 more this year, creating more opportunities for their customers to physically touch, smell and feel products.

Chiquelle’s Next Gen Mobile Experience

Chiquelle AR App

Prior to Shoptalk, I was unfamiliar with Chiquelle. Established in 2012 by CEO Pouya Boland, the Swedish fast fashion brand has gone from zero to millions in sales. With nearly 500,000 followers and five million impressions per week on Instagram, the company is focused on engaging customers through next gen mobile experiences. Currently, a whopping 75% of sales are through mobile. But what’s most impressive is the brand’s mobile app, which includes an AR & Virtual Dressing Room (customers can create an AR avatar with body measurements and virtually try on clothes). The tool has significantly increased customer engagement and conversion rates while reducing returns. I look forward to watching how the brand continues to evolve, especially on mobile.

Words of Wisdom from Lowe’s

Lowe’s CMO Jocelyn Wong said it best: “There is absolutely a need for physical stores. Shopping, showrooming, touching and feeling products in real life. People are still striving for human connection. Brick and mortar can touch people’s lives where pure play can’t always do that.”

Other Top News from Shoptalk:

Topics: Retail Tech News, Retail Industry Research, Omnichannel Retail

About GPShopper

GPShopper is a mobile commerce platform and app developer for retailers, using technology to transform the total retail experience.  GPShopper is a Synchrony solution. 
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