From March 26-29, Megan Conahan (EVP, Direct Agents) had the opportunity to attend Shoptalk in Las Vegas, NV. As one of the largest and most influential retail summits in the world, Conahan learned first-hand insights from leaders in the space, including Maureen Kelly (Founder & CEO, Tarte Cosmetics), Ethelbert Williams (Head of eCommerce, US Customer Development, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health), and more. Here are her top 4 takeaways:

Generative AI

Generative AI was THE hot topic at Shoptalk, of course. The implications for creativity, customer service, personalization, and overall efficiency are exciting. Marketers are currently testing how AI can help them think at a warped speed, according to Morgan Flatley (Global Chief Marketing Officer & New Business Ventures, McDonald’s Corporation). She’s betting that AI will help marketers deliver more personalized experiences and creative to the world. Outside of creativity, brands hope that AI can help with data analysis to help them get closer to the holy grail of 1-to-1 marketing.


This has been a hot topic for the last few years, but is more top of mind than ever with the resurgence of physical retail. It’s not just about how we interact with customers, but how we ask customers to buy with us. Marketers are no longer talking about driving customers to you as a brand;  instead, its about being where your customers are and enabling commerce every step of the way. According to Joanne Crevoiserat (CEO, Tapestry) customers do not differentiate whether they buy in-store or online. With 60% of consumers wanting to buy where they discover brands, marketers seek unique experiences to enable commerce and connection at every touchpoint. DTC is still preferred because of first-party data, but brands now think that DTC can be about something other than transacting — i.e. building a relationship with the consumer. I keep comparing this to the in-office/remote work debate. Your owned and operated site is similar to being in an office, and enabled commerce is remote work. Yes, remote can be easier and has better dollar and cents return, but you need a sense of community and connectivity. Hybrid is the key. Live shopping was less talked about this year than last year, but Maureen Kelly (Founder & CEO of Tarte Cosmetics), discussed how they had pivoted live stream shopping to focus not just on sales generation but engagement using the questions people ask to create their PDPs. It’s a great reminder that not everything needs to be a sales tool because people don’t always want to be sold to.

Consumer Experience 

Part of the big focus on omnichannel is that marketers want to support a best-in-class consumer experience. Jeffrey Katzenberg (Co-Founder & Former CEO, DreamWorks Animation & Managing Partner, WndrCo) talked about exceeding expectations. He said he lives by a simple rule that you try to do a little better than what is expected, and if you continue to exceed expectations, your consumers will grow.  Even Mary Dillon (President & CEO, of Foot Locker) said they need to move from being product-led to consumer-led. That’s not to say that it means throwing money at consumers — everyone is keenly aware of profitability and pivots they need to make to reduce costs. However, certain things like free returns may soon be a thing of the past and brands are making up the difference in unique experiences and easy buying.

Macroeconomic Climate & Efficiency

What was noticeably absent at Shoptalk was any talk of macroeconomic recession or pullbacks. Instead of pullbacks, brands cite innovation in digital and commerce channels which has kept their spending consistent (without turning a blind eye to the macroeconomic climate). Joanne Crevoiserat (CEO, Tapestry) talked about how important it is to act on things with speed and agility. Another session centered around testing and failing, but failing “cheaply.” Even though it seems like most of us are relying more heavily on promos, there was talk about ensuring we aren’t held hostage to a promo calendar but instead focus on our brand narratives all year. Promos often cause undue stress on the system when you should be focusing on the consumer experience. We focus too much on price when we need to focus on value to the consumer.

For additional information or to get in touch with the Direct Agents team, please contact [email protected].

Megan Conahan, EVP, Direct Agents