The theme for Shoptalk 2022 was “Retail is Back” and the conference attendance, energy and incredible content proved that true.

There were over 10,000 attendees, 275 speakers, and 1,000 exhibitors in Las Vegas for the event. It’s been 3 years since we last gathered live and sitting in the main assembly hall was riveting and a testament that business is getting back to normal.

Retail has changed, shopping and buying behavior has changed—and brands that aren’t embracing these changes will be left behind.

The biggest news was the blurring of the offline and online world, and this blending goes beyond just the Metaverse.

With QR codes enabling connected products, shoppers can be in store, scan the code on a product to learn its authenticity and discover when and where it was made, what it is made of, how to care for it, what goes with it and when it’ll expire if it is a perishable item.

The real world enables our touch and feel, while the online world enables more information and more inspiration. It is happening simultaneously—every physical product has its own digital twin.

Just as it was at SXSW, the Metaverse and NFTs took center stage at Shoptalk. Yes, we are in the early test and learn days of the Metaverse, but the Metaverse, 3D and VR are here and disruptive. It’s best to learn while others are learning. Failures are more common and more acceptable in the early stages.

Gaming has been the Metaverse’s path to mass adoption and it brings a unique sense of presence with the ability for an immersive engagement at scale. For example, Niketowns are incredible shopping store experiences but only available in major cities. Niketown in the Metaverse is accessible to everyone, anywhere and at any time.

I’ve hoped for the day that the eCommerce site could be more like a real store. Instead of flat pages where you must click through to get to the next screen, you could see the full store layout and be inspired to explore. The Metaverse makes this online 3D store possible.

With all the talk of the next and the new, Shoptalk centered and grounded us back to consumers’ demand for authenticity, diversity, inclusion and sustainability. Retailers, manufactured brands and CPG companies will need to walk their talk, prove that they have a moral compass, and share a greater purpose. Already authenticity is proving that it is the path to loyalty.

And lastly, the push to be data-driven is here. With data costs at all-time lows to collect, store, organiz and visualize, the technologies enable employees to become their own self-serving analyst. Businesses can become more agile, efficient and when staff has access to data, they can quickly gather insights to enable better decisions and actions.

Shoptalk 2022 was a remarkable success. At MERGE, we are excited to take the learnings and partner with our clients to make 2022 a transformational year. Let’s chat if you’re interested in hearing more about how we can empower your buiness.