So I’m a little late to the recap party, but better late than never…
I’ll be honest, as a Canadian based out of Toronto, Canada, I was both a first-timer to Las Vegas and to Shoptalk. Granted, Covid’s 2-year rule over international travel didn’t help much, but in context of this review it’s probably a benefit having a fresh opinion and zero expectations going into the event.
At the end of March, I attended Shoptalk with 3 of my co-workers. We were a fairly diverse combination of Operations, Marketing, Sales Ops, and our CEO. For any conference we attend, our main focus is to always find the ROI that justifies going on these trips together. In the past, this has come in many forms like:
- GO2 – Who has helped equip us with some really talented remote teammates
- A new Customer Service Helpdesk
- Social media strategy change-up where we leaned harder into content creation and TikTok (now our largest source of organic traffic)
- A Shipping Consultant – Held our hand through the RFP process with the carriers which ended up saving us around $400,000 annually.
- And many more…
But enough of what we get out of these types of events and more about Shoptalk. For anyone who wasn’t able to attend this year or didn’t even know it existed, I’ve put together my personal takeaways–the good and the bad–from the point of view of a complete Shoptalk newbie.
5 Key Takeaways:
Do the Hosted Retailers & Brands Program
Sign up for the Hosted Buyer’s Program. If you qualify, you receive a complimentary Shoptalk ticket and up to $750 in hotel/travel reimbursement. At the conference itself, it’s a great form of speed-dating with a vendor where you’ll literally know within 15 minutes if it’s worth pursuing further. If not, politely tell them ‘no, it’s not a fit for us” and move onto your next speed round–no strings attached. If it’s a win, then it’s a win!
The only draw-back for the Hosted Retailers & Brands Program for everyone on our team (myself included) is that the matching system wasn’t fantastic and the selection process felt rushed. We each got matched up with maybe a quarter of the vendors we intentionally tried to meet with. This isn’t to say that we had a bunch of random meetings with zero compatibility–these vendors were definitely in line with our business, but they weren’t always a match for our individual roles within our companies. I’d love to see a more sophisticated matching system developed for the future.
There are literally 100’s of exhibitors at Shoptalk and it’s a lot to sort through if you do it on the fly when you get there. The expo hall isn’t perfectly organized alphabetically or by category and there wasn’t an expo map (at least one that I could easily locate). So do your own research ahead of time and plan out who you want to find and speak with.
Internally, your team should also have a game plan for what types of solutions, connections, or partnerships you’re searching for and plan follow up meetings post-Shoptalk to recap and ensure everyone is accountable for their ROI.
Work Hard, Play Hard
Like most conferences, the other real benefit to them are the connections and relationships you make. And this very rarely happens while wearing your “Hi, My Name Is ___” badge while meandering around the expo floor. It’s the nightlife activities–the dinners, cocktail events, parties, and concerts (yes, a surprisingly banger Flo Rida concert). And what better place for nightlife than Las Vegas!
This is also a super important opportunity to put in facetime and genuinely hang out with your business’ true partners. Most of us, especially in ecommerce, operate remotely and are geographically displaced. With that in mind, you get very few opportunities to see some of your teammates and partners–so use this time wisely.
Mixed Reviews On The Presentations
Full disclosure – I didn’t attend any of the breakaway presentations and stand by this for 3 reasons:
- I’ve done this at past conferences and for the most part it’s never a situation where you walk away with your “10 Steps to Success” playbook or even have that ever-sought-after “aha” moment that everyone is looking for.
- It’s all high-level discussions, which is great to listen to other retailers and entrepreneurs tell their stories, but there are no real bones or content to the presentations because they don’t have enough time to dig into the details.
- Most importantly, I felt my time was better spent exploring the expo floor and having direct conversations with vendors.
Everyone I spoke to who attended the presentations had this exact same feeling (e.g. it was cool to hear the CEO of Uber speak, but they didn’t walk away with anything tangible).
The one caveat in terms of presentations though (and maybe I’m completely biased on this one since subscriptions are the lifeblood of BattlBox and Carnivore Club), is that in contrast to Shoptalk, I actually spend 80% of my time at SubSummit attending the presentations and sincerely walk away with clear ideas to build off of. Maybe not the “aha” moment or exact playbook, but at least most of the presentations are directly relevant to our brands–regardless of our business verticals.
Shoptalk Has The Juice
Although I haven’t attended a crazy number of conferences compared to others, Shoptalk was honestly one of my favorites. Compared to most events, it had the largest number and variety of vendors to explore and meet. It was located in Las Vegas, which is pretty ideal in terms of giant exposition halls, amenities, and activities at your disposal. And the Hosted Retailers & Brands Program, coupled with the probably 100 other vendors I spoke with, resulted in over a dozen follow up calls that I actually wanted to have (a rare occurrence)!
So for those of you who were on the fence attending Shoptalk this past year or were simply indifferent, I’d 100% say do it in 2023. Have a game plan in mind ahead of time, a clear ROI goal for your team, and apply to the Hosted Retailers & Brands Program.