Composable commerce and incremental innovation create excitement at Shoptalk 2023

Embracing modern commerce and incremental innovation take starring roles at Shoptalk 2023

Anita Temple headshot
Anita Temple
Corporate Journalist, commercetools
Published 05 April 2023

The commercetools booth at Shoptalk 2023 boldly proclaimed our company, “The Global Leader in Commerce,” calling out the maximum agility, lower costs and limitless flexibility our solutions deliver to support the claim.

Composable commerce and incremental innovation create excitement at Shoptalk 2023

And, it’s true we have come a long way since the first time we attended the commerce industry’s largest, most important annual event. It was a three-day whirlwind filled with meetings, impromptu conversations, coffee talks, parties and unexpected contract discussions. Jeremy Laughlin, an enterprise sales account executive with commercetools since 2019, candidly shared, “I felt such deep pride knowing how far we’ve come through so much hard work, dedication, consistency, grit, late hours, complex deals and growth. Our brand presence, the energy at our booth — it’s like we’ve finally ‘made it.’”

To provide a bit more insight into how the Shoptalk 2023 experience played out for commercetools, here are a few insights from Kelly Goetsch, our Chief Strategy Officer, along with a recap of “Incremental Innovation,” a panel he moderated featuring customers Mars, NBCUniversal and Ulta Beauty along with partner Deloitte Digital.

commercetools booth at Shoptalk 2023

Q:  What stood out to you most about Shoptalk this year?

A:  “It was a very different vibe this year,” Kelly said, “It was gratifying seeing everyone come to our side. He explained that for a long time “We, as a company, were out there in the wilderness and nobody understood what we were doing. Now, the market has moved in our direction. Everyone is talking about composable commerce backed by MACH™ architecture.”

Dan Shim, commercetools Senior Director, Product Marketing, concurred with Kelly, commenting that Shoptalk clearly established that, “Composable is where commerce is going. It’s like the train has left the station and anybody not having a composable option is left in the dust.” 

Kelly pointed to multiple factors coming into play that have helped elevate industry perceptions of commercetools. First, the caliber of the brands embracing our technology, including Ulta Beauty, Mars and NBCUniversal, all of which were featured in our Shoptalk booth, followed by increased brand and analyst recognition.

This evolution changed the conversation at the booth. “In years past, the discussion was, ‘What is this? Where's your head? Where’s your OMS?’ This year, people showed up ready to go down the MACH path. They had already decided we were the top vendor to do it and wanted to talk about contract terms.”

Q: What was the main topic of conversation at Shoptalk?

A:  Generative AI, hands down, according to Kelly. “It’s not just another buzzword. Everyone knows it is something really big, but the big question people were discussing is, ‘How does it fit in our space, and what are the implications?'” 

While that’s a question that will be answered in the longer term, Kelly recommended checking out the most recent “The Watson Weekly” podcast for more insight. In his recap of Shoptalk, host Rick Watson commented, “The biggest question is not what impact generative AI will have on retail, that much is clear, it’s going to be profound. I’m most interested in seeing what impact it will have on organic sources of traffic like SEO, videos on social media and community building.”

Kelly stressed that the impact it will have within an organization is going to be largely dependent on the technology it has in place. “I would say you have to have a fairly modern system in place — at commercetools, AI is orthogonal to what we do. We’ve supported ChatGPT for a few weeks now, and it’s market-leading and it’s pretty cool.” 

Q:  What was your top takeaway from the “Incremental Innovation” panel you moderated for us?

A:  Kelly quickly responded that he was most impressed by the digital maturity of our customers. “Folks like Evan from NBCUniversal, Kyle from Mars and Omar from Ulta Beauty, they really own their commerce from top to bottom.” He said that while he often hears more about the difficulty and dysfunction in organizational change, the discussion made it clear that all three executives, “know what they're doing and why they're doing it and they have their entire organizations behind them. They’re all speaking the same language and that's really powerful.” 

Inspired innovation in action

On the last day of Shoptalk, Kelly sat down with the three commercetools customers to talk about how to keep up with the preferred CX of today while still innovating for tomorrow. After the three retailers shared how they’re removing friction and enhancing the personalization of the commerce experience, a principal partner from Deloitte Digital summed up the discussion from a technology standpoint. Below are some great takeaways from all four panelists. 

Incremental innovation panel with Kelly Goetsch, Kyle Barz, Evan Moore, Omar Koncobo, Apurva Pangam


“We like to quote that in any given four weeks, we reach 95% of U.S. homes through either content or advertising on multiple platforms — and every day for almost a hundred years now we've inspired consumers to shop from our content. In most cases, we’re removed from that process. If they're inspired to shop from a TV show or an article on one of our sites, it’s up to them to find the product and the brand. At the end of the day, we don't end up getting any of the value captured or any credit for what we've done on behalf of the brands.

So, together with commercetools, we've built a commerce platform that enables us to create a seamless shopping experience through our content and advertising on any digital surface that it appears, including websites, social platforms, and later this year, on our own television platforms like Peacock and Xfinity X1.

As we all know, friction is the enemy of commerce. If we're making the consumer jump from one device to another device, from an app to a website, or from a TV to physical retail, that's an incredible amount of friction and so much value is lost as a result.

Since we inspire people to know, want and desire new things in their lives, there’s a lot of value in the personalization angle — and we think it’s going to make things interesting. We have a product called the “In-Scene Ad” where we digitally insert ads into television programming. And one of the things we’ve started talking about is the combination of digital ad insertion with programmatic technologies. So, based on your preferences, if you're watching something at home, the shoe getting inserted into your show might be a Nike, but for a viewer elsewhere it might be Adidas. We think that's a really powerful way to personalize content. Through generative AI could be even a different model of New Balance for you versus somebody else.” — Evan Moore, Senior Vice President of Commerce Partnerships

Ulta Beauty

“We've invested a lot into making sure that we have the right content in place. We actually use the customer’s experience to guide us on what kind of content to present to them. It's no longer about just pushing anything out there, but basically driving content based on each customer's experience. So, basically, our direction is more around personalization and leveraging a lot of content that is focused on your needs rather than just peppering non-relevant content on the side. So that's basically how we drive.  

Ulta brings in over 10 billion USD in revenue and 20% of that comes from the eCommerce channel. So, even though the stores are still our bread and butter, digital channels are really growing and growing faster than ever and what we learned coming out of COVID-19 was that you can't separate digital from physical. So, we’re merging those two experiences and we see it's clicking for a lot of our customer base, leveraging our microservices and APIs from commercetools. We still have a lot in our pipeline that’s going to remove all the walls between digital and physical. That’s coming, we’re excited about it and it's going to be great.

We have an innovation department that really focuses on that [in-social shopping] and recently we have a pilot with one that is basically integrated, so we are learning. This is where commercetools comes in, helping us build that kind of platform. Now, it's fully headless, so fully microservices and API first. So, the possibilities are beautiful, as we like to say.”  — Omar Koncobo, IT Director, eCommerce/Digital Systems. 


“In the case of M&M's, we have a whole personalization journey where you can pick from a multitude of colors that you can't generally purchase in a store. You can upload a photo or provide us with text and we’ll print it on your M&M's — it's a more personalized experience that allows consumers to take our brand and use it in many different ways they couldn’t before. Of course, the other opportunity we've started to do is to take all the different flavors you can purchase in the store and make sure you can also purchase them online.

When we really started looking at the different use cases that we had internally focused around our consumer journeys, we really wanted to amplify that connection between the digital channel and the physical channel. 2e found that the kind of best way to do that was by scaling the headless route. Now, as we've built out this platform internally at Mars, not only are we able to launch on what is one use case, but we're also looking at how we can expand those use cases to other brands within Mars and accelerate time to value, even time to differentiation. We can really use the platform to give us the core commerce capabilities that we need and then allow the brands to focus on what they need in order to differentiate from a value standpoint.

The other amazing part, when we think about headless and its different use cases, is that not only are we serving it through our digital channels, but we're also exploring and actively developing ways to deliver similar functionality and capabilities into our own physical retail stores. Things like doing personalization in-store with M&M's or content personalization in-store through physical screens allows more interactive ways for consumers to interact with the brand." — Kyle Barz, Director of Global Retail and D2C Technology

Deloitte Digital

“I love that you’re talking about incremental innovation and accelerating innovation, whether it's product personalization or content. And, composable commerce is fundamentally the fastest way to get there. It’s the bits and the pieces that bring that incremental innovation together with your businesses and your tech teams to let them work in a much more rapid manner. But, composable is not just a state of technology. It’s also the state of your teams. Everyone has to get together to accelerate, versus just you providing the infrastructure.” — Apurva Pangam (AP), Principal Partner

Shoptalk wrap-up

The entire commercetools team returned from Shoptalk energized and inspired for Q2 and beyond. Michael Scholz, Vice President, Product and Customer Marketing at commercetools succinctly identified why, pointing out, “Last year, about 75% of our booth traffic was existing and prospective partners. This year that number completely flipped. Lots and lots of prospective retailers came by.”

To gain more insight into what’s happening in retail right now, read “The biggest tech trends, innovations and challenges in the retail industry for 2023.”

Anita Temple headshot
Anita Temple
Corporate Journalist, commercetools

Anita J. Temple is the Corporate Journalist at commercetools. She was a fashion editor at Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) and W Magazine before launching a career as a freelance writer and creative producer. She has written content and worked on a wide range of marketing projects for companies including Dreamworks, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Verizon, and Adidas.

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