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Vincent Yang, Co-Founder and CEO of Firework

Transformation was the resounding theme that underpinned programming and discussions at Shoptalk’s 2023 conference for retailers and the hundreds of companies that occupy their ecosystem. It captures the acceleration of change we’re seeing across nearly every aspect of retailers’ business, including the relationship they have with customers. As the Co-founder of Firework, a video commerce company whose mission is to bring human connection to digital commerce, these are the themes that stood out to me.

1. Shoppers expect more from in-store

Shoppers returning to physical locations want the inspiration that in-store browsing and discovery provides, paired with a healthy side of convenience they’ve become so accustomed to with digital commerce. What does that translate to? An experience that’s both continuous and frictionless. For example, if consumers have already shared information about their preferences with a retailer on their website, that counts as the beginning of their relationship. And it means when they visit the physical store, they want to continue right where they started.

2. Shoppers expect more from digital shopping too

That same inspirational experience, convenience and relationship they get from an in-store experience needs to translate into digital as well. When a consumer visits a retailer website, they’re often looking for a direct and meaningful conversation. But it’s why so many of them simply exit the page today – because there is nobody there to talk to them. How retailers create their experiences online is starting to morph more into a more traditional retail mindset. At Firework, our customers see amazing results when they bring short, shoppable video experiences to their digital storefront. Put simply, we connect to people first (products come in after) and video allows for that human connection online.

3. Sales associates’ roles are being redefined

Retailers are empowering associates with tech and tools that help them better engage with consumers and aid in the seamless shopping journey. This is unlocking new ways to offer personalized service through digital channels, for example one to one advice via text, chat or even video consultations. Retailers who are putting their sales associates at the front lines of digital transformation are able to evolve their skill sets and the trust they have in their associates. Just look at what Best Buy is doing for inspiration.

4. Authenticity becomes more important as shoppers continue to value trust

In a world filled with artificially created text, imagery and video, consumers still crave that deeper more meaningful connection with their favorite brands of choice. To stand out, brands are racing to find better ways to have that conversation with customers, beyond the highly curated, aspirational content. The expressions of this include brand leaders or founders telling relevant stories that speak directly to customers, employees and customers showing up as genuine brand advocates and a groundswell of community building that brings customers closer to brands.  The conversation is certainly evolving, but what became clear to me over the past week is that, despite the many trends that always pop up in retail, brands are doubling down on enhancing the lives of their customers, in the places where it matters most.

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