Shoptalk 2024   //   March 15, 2024

What to expect at Shoptalk 2024

About 10,000 retail and digital commerce professionals will descend into Las Vegas this weekend for Shoptalk, bringing together the likes of Macy’s and Mattel with software vendors and startups to chat through the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry.

The annual four-day event has grown five times over since its inception in 2016 — alongside an additional European event, a grocery-focused event and the inaugural Shoptalk Fall in Chicago this October. It’s become part of the trade show circuit of the e-commerce industry, with a programming slate that leans heavy on technology trends and the potential for mic-drop moments from C-level executives on stage. And in keeping with its trend of celebrating with early aughts hip-hop stars, Ludacris will be heading the annual party held at Mandalay Bay.

“We’re very editorially driven, and we don’t do any pay-to-play,” said Krystina Gustafson, svp of content at Shoptalk. “We come up with the tracks, we come up with the sessions and then we take the onus on ourselves to go out and recruit the best in the industry to address those various topics.”

This year, artificial intelligence is likely to be the buzzword on everyone’s lips, and the tagline on hundreds of vendor banners in the Exhibition Hall. Case studies expected to be presented will hit on increasingly common uses like product descriptions and chat bats that use generative AI, as well as demand forecasts and inventory planning. Beyond that, there’s also significant programming around perennial topics like building brand trust, navigating B-to-B relationships and unifying experiences between physical and digital retail. 

One of the key differentiators between Shoptalk and other retail conferences is the high-level executives brought to the stage. This year, more than 220 speakers will take the stage at the event. 

“People do come for the content,” Gustafson said. “All of our speakers start at the VP level, so these are the kind of folks setting the trajectory for where the industry is headed.”

Highlights include Macy’s CEO Tony Spring, where he’s expected to give an update on the company’s continued transformation following the recent announcement of 150 store closures and the potential consideration of a buyout offer. Gustafson will be moderating a panel with Mattel on how it harnessed the power of the franchise during the “Barbie” movie craze – with other keynotes scheduled from executives from the likes of Kohl’s, P&G, Taco Bell and Bath & Body Works. 

On the tech side, Amazon’s Colleen Aubrey, svp of ad products and technology will participate in a mainstage keynote, while Google’s global head of commerce Maria Renz will be talking about AI-powered commerce. 

“Our goal is to come to the event with our perspective on the latest trends and technologies the industry should be hearing about,” Gustafson said. 

Beyond the speaker lineup, though, every year offers something a bit different. The theme this year is “Retail Odyssey,” with conference scenes designed to emulate global destinations. Also new this year is the Emporium, a complimentary product booth in the exhibit hall with goods from more than 50 attending brands. 

But like any trade event, it’s the unofficial programming that sometimes draws the biggest crowds. This year’s Whiteout Beach Party will be headlined by Ludacris, who succeeds other early aughts-rap stars like Nelly and Flo Rida as Shoptalk entertainment. 

There are also a number of vendors and brands that host their own parties and invite-only occasions. Juan Olea, vp of live shopping for the influencer network Influential, said this year will be the first time the agency is hosting invite-only events. Last year, the company served as attendees only, which helped present Olea with some ideas on how to go big this year. 

“One of the things I saw working last year was companies that do a complimentary event for their clients and prospects,” he said. “Everyone’s busy, but to take the time and take a couple of your clients and prospects and put them in a room and share with them about your company… it’s just a such great networking environment.”

Meeting industry insiders is a main draw for Kylee Guenther, co-founder of plastic alternative housewares brand Loopy Products. She went to Groceryshop in October, one of the parallel events last year, and hopes to reconnect with some vendors in the social media and logistics space during her first time at Shoptalk. As a nearly two-year-old company, she’s hoping to make connections with vendors and agencies that can help her brand improve its social presence and expand its wholesale reach. 

“Before Loopy, I worked in engineering and material sciences, so I don’t know a lot about retail,” she said. “I’m not just there to find the next best software to help my brand grow, but I’m there to learn everything I can from the best people in the industry.” 

But like many attendees, she’s also looking forward to traveling to the desert for sunshine and entertainment, like the Ludacris concert and a rumored pickleball court on the trade show floor.

“We’re going to get out of our cabin fever, so I’m excited about that,” she said.