Shoptalk is only in its third year and there were over 8,500+ attendees at the conference. And, spoiler alert, it is expensive. So, how is a conference, in its infancy by industry standards, able to draw such a crowd? What knocked it out of the park for me was the content.

Having been involved with digital marketing and retail for the past 20 years and attending the major conferences (the NRF Big Show, Etail East/West, Shop.org, Internet Retailer), Shoptalk is, hands down, the Absolute Best! Hats off to Zia Daniell Wigder, Chief Goal Content Officer of Shoptalk.

Here’s why Shoptalk’s content crushed the other conferences. The topics included innovative technologies, the store of the future, changing consumer expectations, keynotes from retailers who are winning, and major start-ups and Venture Capitalist perspective on investing in the changing retail landscape.

The outlook, after years of store closings and bankruptcies, has turned hopeful.

“Most successful organizations fail to look for new things their customers want because they’re afraid to hurt their core businesses. Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly.”Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix

That statement rings true for retailers and manufactured brands as the shopping journey has been disrupted. However, the best of the best are navigating these choppy waters of changing consumer expectations and behaviors, shifting to the experience economy, and truly understanding the impact of Amazon.

My favorite session was the analyst session “Retail Insights from Consulting Firms and Industry Analysts,” from Christina Bieniek, Retail Consulting Lead from Deloitte debunking everything we’ve been hearing about the “Retail Apocalypse.” We are not in a “Retail Apocalypse,” we are in a “Retail Renaissance.”

Despite store closings and bankruptcies, retail has grown 2.5% annually, outpacing GDP growth. And both eCommerce and stores are growing – just not for every retailer.

Deloitte looked at consumer behavior for low-income, middle-income, and high-income consumer segments. Income brackets had the highest correlation to consumer shopping behavior. While I find it incredible that a high-income millennial spending behavior is similar to a Gen X’er or Baby Boomer, Deloitte’s data shows a stronger relationship between income bracket and consumer behavior than between generation and consumer behavior. That’s good news!

Every retailer and consumer brand needs to add income data overlays to their CRM file and test. More good news, income data overlays are easy to get and relatively inexpensive. Test sending sales promotion and mark-down emails to your lower income segment and test sending new arrivals, must-haves, featured collections, and editor’s picks to your higher-income segments.

It is no secret that the income disparity across the US population continues to increase. This is also reflected when Deloitte plotted retailers on a spectrum – those that compete on price, those that compete on premier product offerings, and those retailers in the middle that play on both sides.

The retailers in the middle, that play both sides, are not growing, they are declining. The retailers/brands on the opposite ends of the spectrum (discounters and premium offering brands) are realizing substantial growth.

What worked in the past is not what is going to work in the future. Retailers that are investing in technology, data, experiences and consumer insights will be the winners. And really, there’s room for plenty of winners as the shoppers are still out there shopping.

We are in a “Retail Renaissance!” Embrace the change, because it will never be the way it was. After all, that’s what a renaissance is.