The 90-degree trajectory of ShopTalk, a retail industry event kicking off its second annual gathering March 19 in Las Vegas, is something to behold.

In an industry already crowded with events large and small, ShopTalk, in its first year in 2016, managed to snag not only major buzz, but also some of the biggest brands, executives, technology providers and disrupters in the retail sector. This year’s event will draw 5,000 attendees, up from about 3,100 last year.

So we knew we had to be there in an official capacity.

Rob Garf, Salesforce Commerce Cloud VP for Industry Strategy and Insights, will participate in a panel called “Preserving Culture Through Growth and Acquisition,” which addresses how different leaders at successful retailers and brands do just that. The session, which also features Emile Arel Scott, CEO of Quidsi (an Amazon company) and Andrea Weiss, founder of the O Alliance,┬áincludes Q&A with leaders of companies that have gone through major changes as they grew. They will discuss how they’ve created and adapted their cultures to ensure they can attract and retain the right talent.

The session takes place Sunday, March 19 at 3:40 in the Track 3 Room. Don’t miss it!

At last year’s inaugural ShopTalk, our head of Consumer Insights Rick Kenney noted two trends:

  • The demise of the pure play retail. Many of the brands and retailers formerly known as pure plays have shed that title, and business model, as they realize that online and offline channels are really artificial distinctions standing between shoppers and their desired shopping experience. Two examples: Mattress company Casper and beauty company Birchbox cited their pop up shops as a part of a new commerce mix that yields significant insight into what drives shopper behavior.
  • Artificial intelligence is the new big data. The agenda also shone the light on the role of artificial intelligence in retail. The premise has graduated, though. Alongside predictive modeling and machine learning, retailers can capitalize on a deeper view of shopper context. This context is both implied through location and identity, but also explicit via shopper-supplied natural language querying that can be more clearly processed to deliver a deeper and smarter result.

This year’s event features intriguing tracks on physical stores going digital, entrepreneurship and investment, AI in retail, the new smart home shopper, next-generation personalization, and much more. We are looking forward to learning what’s on the minds of retailer leaders, and sharing our vision of Unified Commerce and helping retailers and brands leverage Commerce Cloud Einstein to connect to their customers in a whole new way.