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Shoptalk Europe 2023 Wrap-Up: Exploring the Role of Key Technologies and Channels in the Future of Retail—Autonomous Stores, Generative AI, Retail Media and More

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Coresight Research is a research partner of Shoptalk Europe, an annual retail conference focusing on retail innovation. We present our concluding insights from this year’s event, which took place during May 9–11 in Barcelona, Spain. Shoptalk Europe 2023 saw presentations and content focus around five major themes, as identified by Shoptalk: technology, store experience, shopper engagement, organizational changes, and emerging channels and business models.

Shoptalk Europe 2023 Wrap-Up: Coresight Research Insights

1. Technology

Unrelenting supply chain woes have furthered the need for digitization in retail operations and through the supply chain, with many brands and retailers prioritizing technology investments as part of their short- and long-term business strategies. Leveraging technology to create more transparent, flexible, resilient and sustainable supply chains was a popular topic at Shoptalk Europe this year, as was the application of technologies in the fashion and grocery sectors.

Krystina Gustafson, SVP of Content at Shoptalk, and Ben Miller, Director of Original Content at Shoptalk, discussed four technologies that brands and retailers can use to better engage with shoppers: social media, video, the metaverse and generative AI. We cover these technologies through this report.

Tech-Powered Growth in Fashion

Lyst, an online fashion marketplace and search engine, is propelling its next growth phase by putting AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning and advanced algorithms at the heart of its business, driving stronger brand partnerships and deeper customer relationships, according to the company’s CEO, Emma McFerran. Data has always been the backbone of Lyst, and today, the company collects 15 million data points daily, McFerran said.

Lyst “sits between inspiration and fulfillment and aspires to be the most intelligent platform in fashion to meet increasingly greater consumer expectations,” she explained. To achieve this, the company has moved beyond customer data-driven personalization and is using segmentation recommendation algorithms. McFerran said that Lyst provides data to help customers make purchase decisions while providing partners with granular and actionable insights regarding challenges and opportunities; by reviewing algorithms and tweaking, Lyst is able to help customers have more joy when shopping fashion and make better choices. McFerran said that clustering data has allowed Lyst to get meaningful taste profiles and price preferences for a range of shoppers, which is an important differentiator for consumers seeking the ease of personalized curation.

Web3 and the Retail Landscape

Deborah Weinswig, CEO and Founder of Coresight Research, took to the stage for the “Web3 and the Supply Chain: Blockchain, Digital Twins and More” session to present on how Web3 (sometimes styled Web 3 or Web 3.0) can help brands address several challenges and limitations in managing their supply chains. Web3 technology can help boost supply chain traceability, transparency, intelligence and automation, helping to mitigate those challenges. As Weinswig explained, there are many benefits to using intelligent, connected supply chains, including:

  • Better demand forecasting
  • Faster product design and on-demand manufacturing, as well as consumer-to-manufacturer abilities
  • Greater traceability, compliance and circularity
  • Enhanced labor efficiencies and cost savings
  • Increased last mile speed

During the presentation, Weinswig introduced a framework for adding Web3 to supply chains, allowing companies to add end-to-end visibility, automation and cost savings. With this framework, and through smart contracts and decentralized ledgers, brands and retailers can enjoy a host of benefits, as shown in the image below.

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Source: Coresight Research



Unilever, a CPG company, is currently present in the metaverse to learn and connect with a subset of consumers, rather than for commerce, according to Ozenc Okyay, Digital Commerce Director at Unilever—the commerce stage will likely come later. On the other hand, Oli Baggaley, Program Director, Group Mechanization, at Ahold Delhaize, argued that there are currently no clear use cases for the metaverse in grocery. Instead, Ahold is more focused on augmenting stores with technologies such as augmented reality (AR), which could, for example, offer a personalized route through a store based on a digital shopping list.

Although it is no longer the topic de jour, the metaverse remains part of the conversation for many retailers as they strategize for long-term gains. Coresight Research sees the metaverse playing a key role in the beauty, fashion and luxury sectors in particular as brands and retailers seek new ways to engage with the next generation of shoppers.

2. Store Experience

In the post-pandemic world, in-store experiences are more important than ever as consumers place a greater emphasis on in-store shopping, and technology has a supporting role. The Coresight Research BEST framework with a model through which they can achieve retail excellence by taking a consumer-centric approach to online and in-store retail, including by offering unique and engaging experiences.

“Wow” Moments

Consumers and retailers alike are placing greater emphasis on the in-store shopping experience in a post-pandemic environment. Michael Gabay, Co-Founder and CEO of Israeli technology startup Trigo, pointed to the need for “wow” moments in stores, which he believes will be one of the biggest changes to the retail experience within the next couple of years. Such moments can be created through personalization, experiential retail or services, and are likely to be increasingly powered by technology, with the physical store becoming more reliant on customer data.

Anastasia Georgievskaya, Founder of CEO of Haut.AI, a SaaS (software-as-a-service) platform serving the skincare category, emphasized that “wow” moments are created when retailers think about how to make each shopper’s next purchase experience better than before, rather than focusing now on transactional relationships. She also highlighted generative AI, such as ChatGPT, as a future enabler of “wow” experiences in physical retail. We saw generative AI feature prominently during Shoptalk Europe, as discussed later in this report.

Enhancing the store experience through technologies such as AI has seen many retailers experiment with autonomous store concepts, which Gabay expects to extend beyond the grocery sector (much like the potential expansion of quick commerce). For example, Trigo is opening stores for telecoms, he said.

The Future of the Store

Department stores, which were heavily impacted by the widespread pandemic-led shift to e-commerce, are emerging as a complementary channel and perhaps requisite to the future of e-commerce. French department store Printemps took action across all consumer touchpoints, “from shopping bags to dotcom,” according to Jean-Marc Bellaiche, CEO of Printemps Group. To create a fear of missing out among consumers, the company hosted weekly events in every store, which drove traffic, created buzz and deepened shopper engagement. Bellaiche also highlighted other key differentiators for Printemps that it continues to strategize around to ensure its status as a department store for the 21st century:

  • Dedication to circularity
  • Adding dotcom to the store
  • Moving the company to Web3
  • Launching product exclusives with desirable brands
  • Hosting weekly livestreaming events

Bellaiche discusses the department store for the 21st century
Source: Coresight Research


In-Store Shopping—Easy, Entertaining and Inspirational

During the “Providing Inspiration and Ease with Innovative Store Designs and Technologies” session, panel members from a variety of companies—COS (H&M Group), Frasers Group and Rituals Cosmetics—discussed how new store formats, experiences and services can make in-store shopping easy, entertaining and even inspirational.

Rituals Cosmetics is a “continually evolving” company, according to Richard Lems, Director of Format and Design at Rituals. It does so by using laboratory stores to test new ideas, such as its Mind Oasis concept, which rather than selling products, is created as a sanctuary to relieve stress, using a combination of modern science and meditation techniques.

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The Mind Oasis at Rituals
Source: Rituals Cosmetics


COS, a fashion brand owned by H&M, is utilizing smart stores, which include digital overhead RFID (radio frequency identification) readers in all rooms, giving employees instant access to information on item availability in order to better serve customers.

Flannels, a luxury retailer owned by Frasers Group, has reimagined its flagship to attract young luxury shoppers, according to Lauren Barrie, Group Head of Luxury Retail at Frasers Group, by amplifying in-store events to create a more immersive Flannel experience. FlannelsX is a “cultural playground” at the Oxford Street London (UK) flagship which hosts pop-ups, gigs, exhibitions and exclusive brand experiences; it features the work of various artists, designers, musicians and tastemakers, according to the company.

Unified Retail Experience—The Next Wave of Omnichannel

Gustafson stated that we are entering a “renaissance in physical retail” and reiterated that companies are looking to provide shopping experiences that are both convenient and entertaining. Gustafson also remarked on how consumers expect seamless shopping experiences, meaning they are “underpinned by technology.” When creating a seamless in-store experience, she advised that companies try and make “continuous” journeys where customers can easily switch from channel to channel without interruption or losing their place. For example, stores can have dedicated spaces where customers can pick up online orders. Gustafson also recommended that all shopping journeys be frictionless, meaning customer pain points are eliminated wherever possible.

While delivering continuous, frictionless journeys—while remaining engaging and convenient—will be challenging for most companies, the effort promises great rewards. According to Gustafson, “this type of unified retail experience represents the next wave of omnichannel, as consumers will not only expect to be able to shop where they want when they want, but demand that their experience move flawlessly between channels.”

3. Shopper Engagement

With increased competition for shoppers’ attention and spending, brands and retailers need to focus on engaging consumers both online and offline, and consumer data is a key component to this—whether it is used to personalize the shopper journey or create a seamless omnichannel path to purchase. Furthermore, with digitally native younger consumers demanding sustainability and authenticity, retail companies must look to meet these values to gain market share.


While e-commerce has undoubtedly improved the buying experience, many brands and retailers are still looking for ways to make their online shopping journeys fun and engaging. Video is a meaningful way to engage with consumers as live shopping can help drive awareness, discovery and supports seamless consumer engagement. Efficiency and engagement can be achieved by investing in video technologies, which, in turn, will support growth and position retailers to win. Coresight Research has written extensively on livestreaming as a strategy for superior engagement, conversion and customer lifetime value (CLV).

Gustafson warned that social media and video growth could slow in Europe and the US if “government scrutiny” of TikTok becomes legislation. However, such legislation could lead to an increase in traffic for other social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram.

In a keynote fireside chat, Stephanie Phair, Group President at luxury online marketplace Farfetch, spoke about the technologies that the company uses to connect with its shoppers. She explained that luxury starts with a consumer-centric focus, and there is no one “silver bullet.” Farfetch is testing livestreaming as one part of its high-touch retail strategy, enabling luxury brands tell their story and connect and engage with Farfetch’s 3+ million active users.

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Stephanie Phair, Farfetch and Krystina Gustafson, Shoptalk
Source: Coresight Research


Targeting the Next Generation of Shoppers

As the world’s largest generation, Gen Zers will power retail for decades, but as digital natives, they are always on, hyper-informed and demanding, especially regarding values and authenticity. As Jason Crawford, VP of Digital Growth for Hype, Adidas, said, “Gen Z will sniff out opportunistic insincerity.” Collaborations can drive brand heat, attract new customers and enhance brand relevance, but brands must understand the cycle of influence and synergy and to be clear on the values and direction of the brand when considering collaborations.

4. Organizational Changes

Retail’s rapid tech-driven evolution of the past 20 years went into overdrive during the recent pandemic. Retailers are adapting to the new landscape with organizational changes that address new consumer expectations and business models.

Seeing the Retail Landscape with New Eyes and Breaking Down Silos

Retail companies recognize the need to adapt their organizational structures and practices to adapt to today’s consumer and macroeconomic environment. Tracey Clements, SVP and CEO of Europe, Mobility & Convenience at BP, said that traditional organizational structures in retail/consumer goods that are sometimes reflected in stores are “not going to work.” Consumers’ lives are “totally different” now to before the pandemic, she emphasized, and there is more change happening at a more rapid rate in today’s retail landscape. This drives the importance of customer foresight and insight for retailers. Clements suggests the companies consider new practices such as reverse mentoring; they “cannot assume they know the answer.”

Reiterating that breaking down silos within companies is necessary, Neil Reynolds, VP Global Digital Commerce at Mars Wrigley, added that it presents a huge challenge—across marketing, sales and supply. Recognizing this, Mars no longer has a CMO (chief marketing officer) and has a newly created position, a chief growth officer.

New Roles and Capabilities Transforming the Store Workforce

Retail continues to be impacted by labor shortages, resulting in brands investing in technologies and capabilities that empower and increase the productivity of their store associates, as well as adapting their management styles. Many companies are also redesigning teams to create new roles that are more fulfilling—for example, store associates now also support digital sales via social media content generation, broadening opportunities, streamlining workflows, driving customer engagement and increasing employee retention.

Isabelle Aberman, Global Retail Director at shoe brand Camper, and Jasmin Mathäss, VP of Tech Efficiency & HR at Hornbach Baumarkt AG (a German home-improvement retailer), agreed that training and career opportunities are important to retain talented store associates. At Camper, hiring associates that connect with both the brand and customers is paramount as the stores are “core to everything” the company does, according to Aberman. She also stated that store teams need to feel engaged and part of something “bigger.” At the same time, Camper adjusted its commission practice to account for in-store “brand ambassadors” needing to spend time fulfilling online orders rather than selling.

Hornbach Baumarkt AG now uses associates to offer video consulting on bathroom remodeling services, with Mathäss noting that associates use an online platform to support in-store selling. DIY home-improvement shoppers expect knowledgeable sales staff that can help them across multiple categories, services and subjects. Arming sales staff with the same tools as consumer-facing applications supports improved in-store success, according to Mathäss.

Mathäss explains the importance of equipping sales staff with the right tools
Source: Shoptalk Europe


As Miller stated, “frontline workers power the industry.” Currently, many companies are realizing the challenges of maintaining a high-quality frontline workforce. While unemployment rates in the European Union are at a decade low, the job vacancy rate is near a decade high. To address this labor gap, some companies are automating manual tasks with technologies such as RFID and robotics, which potentially creates tension between “attracting and retaining the frontline workforce [a business needs] while also transforming their roles to deliver the future needs of [the] business.” To lessen this tension, Miller recommended three solutions: create more flexible hiring and development processes; adopt better information sources; and create new roles and opportunities for frontline workers.

5. Emerging Channels and Business Models

Physical Store Expansion at Amazon and JD.com

In a revealing discussion, Giorgio Busnelli, Director of Consumer Goods Europe at Amazon, discussed the company’s ambitions and approach in grocery. Amazon is building its physical store networks in food retail due to a “fundamental belief” that there is no purely digital or physical customer—that shoppers bounce between channels. Amazon wants to serve those cross-channel shoppers “in the best possible way at any point in time.”

Coresight Research has long argued that a cross-channel proposition will be essential to win meaningful share in grocery, but Amazon’s statements sounded somewhat contrary to the company’s otherwise purely online proposition. We were left wondering: If Amazon truly recognizes the extent of cross-channel shopping and wants to serve those consumers, why is grocery the only space in which it has physical stores?

Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com is opening physical stores in Europe. Ling Lei, Founder & Head of Innovation at Ochama ( a division of JD.com), discussed his company’s approach to expansion in the general merchandise space. Lei said that JD.com identified the following trends for Western markets for the next decade:

  • Downgrading of the middle class
  • Automation amid high labor costs
  • Industry chain traceability
  • Retail leap to multiformat, cross-regional retail
  • Omnichannel digital technology—in the supply chain, and opening up online and offline

Ochama stores deploy automation for greater productivity and to keep prices low: Ochama can be 10%–20% cheaper than other players, according to Lei. Ochama shops combine retail and logistics (using robotics) and deploy a click-and-collect focus: the majority of purchases are for collection and pickup is automated. To date, Ochama has opened 300 stores across Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

China-based rival Alibaba Group has also made ventures into European physical retail, operating physical stores in Spain since 2019. Away from Shoptalk Europe, Coresight Research team members saw two local AliExpress Plaza stores in Barcelona shopping centers. These variety stores feature smaller general merchandise items.

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AliExpress Plaza store, Barcelona
Source: Coresight Research


Electric Vehicles and the Future of Convenience Retail

The adoption of EVs (electronic vehicles) will likely usher in a new customer segment with new needs. Tracey Clements, SVP CEO Europe – Mobility & Convenience at BP, told Shoptalk Europe that BP believes that forecourts of the future will be dominated by EVs. According to Clements, today, the average visit to a forecourt/gas station is three to four minutes; in future, it could be 20 minutes due to EV charging time, driving a need for cool retail offerings to attract these consumers.

EV charging stations present an opportunity for forecourt retailers to differentiate on experience. Convenience is a huge factor in enhancing any shopping experience, but to provide convenience on the forecourt, digital services are likely to come into play—for example, a consumer could select a charging bay and order coffee to have while they wait, both from the same in-car app. Retailers need to create a journey that is seamless and personalized, with relevant promotions and recommendations, Clements said. BP has already launched in-car payment in Germany.

6. Tying Up Loose Ends: What Remains Unanswered?

Shoptalk Europe 2023 attendees did not have all the answers, especially to questions surrounding emerging technologies or newer channels.

Autonomous Stores

The future of autonomous stores was undecided at Shoptalk Europe—even among the format’s proponent, Amazon. Busnelli stated that Amazon does not know whether “just walk out” stores (like Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh) will be the grocery format of the future. It needs an equation of economic value, he explained. Nevertheless, Amazon plans to keep developing its store footprint.

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Just Walk Out technology
Source: Amazon


Elsewhere, we heard about autonomous stores from Baggaley, Gabay and Bruno Mourão, Head of IT Transformation and IT Strategy & Experimentation at Sonae MC. Sonae MC deployed its first autonomous store two years ago—and has had only one store since then, which “speaks for itself” according to Mourão. He noted that “frictionless stores” have moved the friction from checkout to check-in, where it is more difficult to enter the store. Baggaley pointed to the binary nature of fully autonomous stores—no app, no entry—and that is likely to be a problem for a grocery retailer seeking to cater to all shoppers. Sonae’s autonomous store has added self-checkout to help resolve this challenge. However, Gabay was more bullish on the autonomous store format, predicting that such stores will increasingly spread beyond grocery—Trigo, for example, is working with telecoms retailers to open autonomous stores.

We expect that there will continue to be a niche for autonomous stores in high-traffic areas with demand for high-speed transactions (e.g., lunchtime trade in business districts), but that the “no app, no entry” barrier will remain substantial for sectors and retailers where retailer usage is not regular and widespread enough for most shoppers to already have the respective app.

Generative AI

No one knows what the impact of generative AI will be in retail, something acknowledged by Elodie Perthuisot, Chief E-Commerce, Data & Digital Transformation Officer at Carrefour. However, retailers should test it the same way they test algorithms and retail media, she explained, also stating that one clear application is retail websites’ search features.

That use case echoed what we heard from Sociate.ai in the Startup Pitch. Sociate.ai is a creator of chat applications with built-in generative AI. According to Yasmin Topia, CEO, Sociate.ai’s MAIA product enables shoppers to search for products by specific search terms, without the retailer needing to tag items for them to be shortlisted in the search results. Topia gave the example of searching a fashion retail website for a “Great Gatsby-style dress,” with MAIA surfacing relevant products, regardless of a retailer’s tagging or taxonomy.

Reflecting the absence of a clear pathway for generative AI away from search, commentators tended to agree the technology would improve experiences, although sometimes in unspecified ways. Busnelli noted that Amazon has been investing in machine learning for some time, including to propose recommendation to customers. Amazon is now using large language models—the basis of generative AI—to provide a customer experience that is much better than before.

Retail Media

As retailers race to launch and evolve their retail media offerings, fragmentation and clarity of objectives in the channel became a point of discussion at the event. Simon Miles, VP of Global OmniChannel Commercial Strategy at The Coca-Cola Company, said that various parties (brands and retailers) are “trying to figure it out” and that clarity on objectives is not evident yet. More consistency is needed in the retail media space, he argued, a point that Tom Langley, Head of Personalization & Retail Media at John Lewis Partnership, echoed: with around 600 retail media networks in the US, will brands want to purchase across networks or select key retailers? Companies in the space will need to make it easier to purchase across a landscape where there is currently little standardization.

Kina Demirel, Managing Director at Mimeda (established by Turkey’s Migros Group) noted that, because of the impact of Amazon, many people assume that retail media means only online advertising. However, Migros started with in-store advertising many years ago—via screens, print ads and shopping trolleys—and can tell brands which stores to advertise in to reach a different consumer segment. Langley noted that in-store advertising can create tension with that space that brands expect for promotions and said that there is a gray area between “negotiated space” as part of placing a product in-store and marketing messages—for example, whether a branded promotional space in a grocery store is part of a trade agreement or media agreement.

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Demirel discusses how retail media spans in-store and online advertising
Source: Shoptalk


From Ahold Delhaize, Wouter Kolk, CEO, Europe & Indonesia, and Selma Postma, Chief Digital Officer, Europe & Indonesia, announced that their company’s retail media program in Europe, AD Retail Media, will focus on the Netherlands and Belgium with a focus on non-endemic advertisers (i.e., products and brands not sold in Ahold’s stores). Kolk was among several presenters to note that industry collaboration was needed to address fragmentation in retail media.

Langley argued that companies should stop talking about the profit retail media can make and focus on the brilliant campaigns it can create—echoing thoughts we heard on day one of Shoptalk Europe. Ayla Ziz, SVP of Global Sales & Chief Customer Officer at Danone, emphasized that brands and retailers must not lose focus on creating profitable growth. Rather than talking about “monetizing” data, companies should focus more on how they put that data at the service of growth, Ziz recommended.

Ziz explains that companies need to focus on how they put data at the service of growth
Source: Shoptalk


Retail media was further discussed in the “The Retail Zeitgeist: Four Trends Transforming Retail’s Playground” session, which featured Shoptalk’s Krystina Gustafson, SVP of Content, and Ben Miller, Director of Original Content. There, Miller discussed seeing traditional retail relationships change due to the evolving retail media landscape. Now, the retailers have an advertisement-related product as well: their audience. According to Miller, there are three main criteria brands should use to assess if a retail media partnership is successful:

  • The size, characteristics and uniqueness of the intended audience
  • The availability, timeliness, accuracy and source of the data obtained
  • The ability to deliver great content through the formats available

“Retailers must be prepared to demonstrate the value of their networks to prospective advertisers to avoid this just becoming a new cost of doing business,” he explained.

Coresight Research believes that retail media is a key advertising channel, providing retailers with a new revenue stream and marketers with a valuable opportunity to reach consumers.

7. Shoptalk’s Thematic Wrap-Up

In a concluding recap session, the Shoptalk team discussed their takeaways from the conference:

  • The return of RFID—this time, to enable smart stores, versus the previous focus on supply chain
  • A potential pullback on costly frictionless stores (see discussion above)
  • Generative AI as potentially the “third world-changing” tech, after the Internet and smartphones.
  • Purpose in business is going from doing because something is good to doing it because it is what your brand embodies and customer expects—purpose-driven brands can more easily attract talent and shoppers willing to spend more
  • Greenhushing—retailers and brands doing the “right thing” or taking a stance, but not shouting about it to avoid controversy or confrontation
  • Two key conversations around retail media: (1) the need for standardisation; (2) make it genuinely value-add for customers
  • How to apply the principles of retail media, such as attribution and offline, and how retail media differs from traditional trade marketing
  • While the hype around Web3 has died down, brands are still experimenting in the metaverse and Web3 components still show application potential
The Shoptalk team (Gustafson, Miller and Joe Laszlo, VP Content at Shoptalk) discusses the key takeaways from the event
Source: Shoptalk Europe