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Snacks Retail Expertise

Zia Daniell Wigder Discusses What’s Ahead in Retail

Kate Silver
  • A key focus at this year's Shoptalk conference was retail digital transformation, which is critical for traditional retailers and brands.
  • Generational shifts started by Millennials and Gen Z will grow stronger, and companies that have been responding to those retail trends will be well positioned in the future.
  • Moving forward, the retail store will continue to become more intelligent.

In March, more than 8,000 people traveled to Las Vegas to attend Shoptalk, the world’s largest retail and e-commerce conference. At the four-day conference, leaders of companies of all sizes talked about pain points and victories in the changing retail landscape. We sat down with Shoptalk’s chief global content officer, Zia Daniell Wigder, who developed the conference agenda, and asked her about current industry challenges and trends she expects to see tomorrow. Here’s what she said about digital transformation, the grocery store of the future and whether or not a retail apocalypse still looms.  

Why do you think the digital transformation for traditional retailers and brands is such a critical issue?

Zia Daniell Wigder: I think it’s both an issue that’s critical and one that I’ve always been incredibly interested in. I was an analyst prior to joining Shoptalk, so still wearing that hat, I find it fascinating to see how traditional businesses are integrating digital technology to both impact their internal operation as well as the customer experience.

What are some short-term trends in retail you foresee?

Zia Daniell Wigder: From a technology perspective, clearly robotics and automation are top of mind for a lot of people right now. We had a very strong focus on artificial intelligence a couple of years ago [at Shoptalk] and really called it out because, at that point, it was nascent. At this point, I won’t say it’s hitting mainstream, but everyone feels it’s going to impact them in some way. And I think robotics and automation are kind of reaching that stage now. It’s nascent, people are experimenting with it.

What about long-term trends in retail?

Zia Daniell Wigder: There are the generational shifts. As you start to see the Millennials moving into positions of power in organizations, as Gen Z starts to graduate from college and enter the workforce, I think you’re going to see a lot of things that have started to change accelerate in those changes. We’ve already seen some of the consumer packaged goods companies effected by consumers’ greater interest in transparency and knowing where products are made and what goes into them. I think those sorts of trends are only going to continue, and the companies that have been thinking about these things and preparing for them are going to be in much better positions than the ones thinking the traditional approach is going to work.

Do you have a vision of what the grocery store of the future looks like?

Zia Daniell Wigder: I think the whole store is going to become more intelligent.  Right now, there are pockets of intelligence. Digital shelf labels are an area where we’re seeing a lot of excitement by retailers. Everybody likes to talk about how you have to avoid the shiny objects, but in fact, that’s a shiny object that actually is pretty transformational. You are also starting to see the overall shelves being digitized. [One drug store] is experimenting with digitized coolers now. You have shelf-scanning robots in there. You have the areas of stores that are being sectioned off and used for fulfillment and click-and-collect or online orders. I think you’re going to see all of these parts of the store become much smarter than they are right now.

For years we’ve been told the sky is falling on retail. Is that doom-and-gloom relevant anymore?

Zia Daniell Wigder: Retail is going through huge changes right now. The demise of some of these very well-known retailers is one result of that, but also seeing the shift to new companies, like Dollar Shave Club. They were able to grab massive market share, because you had companies that sort of rested on their laurels that charged exorbitant prices for products that didn’t really have the marketing that was in touch with younger generations. So I think for people to say there’s no apocalypse is not necessarily true, but it’s not an apocalypse as though everybody is going to go out of business and fail.

When you think of the future of retail, are you excited for what’s ahead?

Zia Daniell Wigder: Yeah, I think it’s a super exciting time to be in retail. There’s so much going on that is going to change everything. It’s fun to see it starting to happen.  

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