Shoptalk. Uber. How did these brands transform each of their industries? The answer, according to Shoptalk’s founder, Anil D. Aggarwal, is technology that facilitates the right connections at the right time and place. Aggarwal is also the founder and CEO of Personatech, the company behind the event tech platform used by Shoptalk for over five years to power its Hosted Retailers & Brands Program.
Technology is the fundamental game changer for the entire events industry going forward, but you already know that if you’ve participated in the Hosted Retailers & Brands Program, which was introduced in 2018 to connect top retail execs with the best technology businesses in the industry.
What’s new for Shoptalk 2023 is that the same tech platform which has powered tens of thousands of meetings as part of that program since it launched is now being opened up to every single Shoptalk attendee, free of charge. Shoptalk is launching the largest ever in-person retail Meetup, which ensures that everyone attending this year’s March event gets to meet everyone else of their choice for any reason with a simple and easy to use platform. (Deadline to register for Meetup is March 3.)
The parallel to the modernization of the taxi industry seems very appropriate. Remember the days when you used to have to stand in the freezing rain, late at night or during rush hour hoping against hope to find an empty cab? Uber allows you to sit in your warm home, watching the movement of your Uber on your phone’s map as it approaches, complete with the time of arrival and a seamless way to pay.
The typical event model is much like the analog taxi model–lots of “showing up” and hoping for the best. Shoptalk, however, has an Uber-like approach that provides every attendee with all other attendee profiles as well as workflows that allow everyone to send meeting requests, opt-in to meeting requests they receive and accept meetings. It sounds simple enough, but it’s like anything that’s simple…lots of hard work and a tremendous amount of thought and experience went into making it work so seamlessly.
A Tech Solution that Solves a Real Problem
Shoptalk has always been the maverick of retail events–known for its high energy, exciting content, and the breathtaking spectacle of its tech-enabled networking.
The first Shoptalk meetings program was the Hosted Retailers & Brands Program, which was introduced in 2018 and has arranged tens of thousands of meetings for one use case–buyers and sellers of retail technology and solutions. This year, Shoptalk will add a broader meetings program called Meetup, taking the meetings model to a whole new level, facilitated, and powered by Personatech. The key to the onsite meetup is that it goes beyond one use case, to include every single use case. That’s a giant leap forward.
How many times have we heard about tech innovations that are solutions looking for a problem? That is defiantly not what Personatech is. Sophie Wawro, Global President of Shoptalk and Groceryshop (now under ownership of Hyve Group) adds “The meetings program at Shoptalk 2023 will be the largest and most advanced meetings program to ever exist in retail.” Think: meaningful, personal connections tucked within Shoptalk’s attendee community of 10,000+. She continues, “Our Meetup is open to all Shoptalk attendees (at no additional cost) and will facilitate more than 50,000 double opt-in 15-minute on-site meetings. It is the best way to meet everyone you want to meet at Shoptalk 2023.”
A Bigger Footprint
Agarrwal explains the motivation behind expanding beyond the Hosted Retailers & Brands Program as follows: “With Meetup, we’re facilitating meetings so that every Shoptalk attendee can meet new people, discover new organizations, and create incredible new opportunities.”
We all know how important making connections is. But typical conferences demand that we do all the work ourselves and leave our success largely up to chance, spending endless hours identifying who’ll be there, getting their contact information, sending cold reach-out messages to try to schedule meetings, and then hoping for the best. As Aggarwal says, “Traditional events depend on serendipity. But serendipity alone is not a strategy. Our approach is to engineer serendipity.”
Aggarwal adds, ”Meetup takes the guesswork out of networking, removes the risk of wasted time and puts each attendee 100% in control. Meetup democratizes the struggle to meet the right people and companies. With double opt-ins required before any meeting is scheduled, we ensure the person sitting across from you is someone you actually want to meet, and someone who wants to meet you.”
If this sounds like a game-changer, it is.
So, how does it work? Say the founder of a new jeans brand wants to meet with the DMM of a specific major retail chain. Could Shoptalk’s new meetings program make that happen? And can that jeans startup also meet an investor they wanted to meet? And what about meeting with journalists and the media? In all cases, Aggarwal’s answer is yes.
Wawro adds, “Meetups will take place onsite in a dedicated area (the size of more than eight football fields!) located in the Exhibit Hall. All meetings will be scheduled based on everyone’s individual availability on March 27 and 28.” And more good news, “Shoptalk does all the work ensuring that the process is frictionless. Our concierge team is on-hand to help all participants through the process every step of the way. And think big! The meetings can be arranged to connect with investors, new hires, exciting new startups, potential partners, or whoever it is you’re trying to meet in the retail ecosystem… the sky is the limit,” adds Wawro. If you’re still not so sure about this, she says that to ensure successful meetings, over 100 data points are collected to power the most informed and data-driven level of networking. Hey, it’s at no extra charge and open to everyone. But act fast, the deadline to register for Meetup is March 3.
Community, Connection and Content
Shoptalk is more than meetings; it attracts the industry changemakers that are working to reimagine retail. The agenda covers the latest technologies, trends, and business models, as well as the rapid transformation of what consumers discover, shop for, and how they buy everything from apparel and electronics to beauty and grocery. And it’s fun. Shoptalk has a vibrancy and sense of the moment to make community, content, and connection a meaningful experience.
The Past as Prelude
Let me end with a brief historical perspective. In January 2016, I met Aggarwal for the first time over coffee at the NRF Big Show where he introduced his vision for Shoptalk. He explained how the timing was right at the crossroads of the technology revolution; how ecommerce and changing consumer behavior were major paradigm shifts; and how the entrepreneurial explosion of tech-driven startups was going to forever change the retail landscape. He envisioned Shoptalk as the first authentic retail communication and education platform, attracting thousands of professionals to connect, exchange ideas, create synergies and learn. And he said he would invest millions to make it happen. “The industry needs this,” he said six years ago.
I wrote at the time that I was skeptical, even though I was intrigued by the way he framed his vision. I said, “Anil, the industry doesn’t need another conference.” Furthermore, I thought that his experience in retail was peripheral at best, even though he had successfully launched large scale financial services events before and sold his last tech company to Google. It turned out that his background in tech and financial services was the catalyst needed to help transform how we think about and experience the business of retail.
I now admit that my comment “the industry doesn’t need another conference” has been my “eat crow” moment each and every time Shoptalk raised its own bar for each successive event, compelling thousands and thousands more industry executives to attend.
So, let’s hear it just one more time! Join me at Shoptalk in March and take advantage of the opportunity to be part of Meetup. Register by March 3rd and Shoptalk’s concierge team will be in touch to guide you through the process. For the skeptics out there, you have nothing to lose.
Note: Shoptalk is a Robin Report Collaborative Partner