Shoptalk Re-Imagines the Future of Retail Events, Again

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Shoptalk Re-Imagines the Future of Retail Events, Again

By Mike Troy - 06/22/2020
Shoptalk founder and chairman Anil Aggarwal
Shoptalk founder and chairman Anil Aggarwal.

The Shoptalk retail event may have been canceled, but the spirit of innovation that led to its creation five years ago now promises to come to life in a new digitally native way.

The show’s organizers, for the second time this year, were forced to cancel the event that was scheduled for March and then rescheduled for September. In its place, a new virtual event called Shoptalk’s Retail Meetup has been created and founder and chairman Anil Aggarwal vows that it will be ten times better than other virtual event offerings.

Shoptalk's Retail Meetup will take place online on Tuesday-Thursday, Oct. 20-22 from 12:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m EST. The event will involve more than 2,500 individuals from more than 1,000 companies participating in 20,000 meeting, according to Aggarwal.

“We have not tried to take our offline show and put it online,” Aggarwal said. “I sat down with a blank sheet of paper 60 days ago and said, ‘here’s what we want to do.’”

What Shoptalk has done is create a new type of event that blends elements of the live event, such as the Hosted Retailers & Brands Program, with other components of a live event that are better suited for digital execution.

"Shoptalk's Retail Meetup is completely different from the other virtual retail events we or anyone else has produced," Aggarwal said. "Rather than focus on interviews and speakers, (it) is a productive way to connect with the people you know and meet the people you don't, in a friendly and open digital environment. Our objective is to empower the retail industry with three months worth of meetings in just three half-days."

To do so, Shoptalk turned loose the engineering team that built the company’s hosted meetings program to develop the Retail Meetup platform.

“It was a multi-million investment to build this,” Aggarwal said of the platform. “We had already digitized Shoptalk so this is an extension of our approach to leverage technology to change the experience. It is a natural evolution for us.”

COVID-19 served as the catalyst to re-imagine what an entirely digital Shoptalk could look like. The fifth iteration of the live event was scheduled to take place in March and had made headlines by committing to all female roster of speakers. The outbreak of COVID-19 forced organizers to shift the event back to dates in September and replace an event called GroceryShop that had been spun out of Shoptalk.

Aggarwal believes live events will continue to be relevant, but the future of the event's world will be much like the rest of retail and more omnichannel.

“The event industry is 10 years behind the retail industry in terms of digitization,” he said. “The future for events will be omnichannel as the retail industry knows well,”

And if recent history is any indication, Shoptalk’s efforts will play a key role in shaping what the future of virtual events looks like. Its live shows, with content heavy programming, entertainment and quality production set a new standard that was widely emulated by organizers of other retail events.

“We don’t want to be in the business of doing what everyone else is doing. If we can’t do something 10X better than what’s available it’s not worth doing,” Aggarwal said of Shoptalk’s Retail Meetup.

Shoptalk is scheduled to return in-person to Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on March 21-24, 2021.