This week our team attended the annual ShopTalk conference in Las Vegas. Now in its fourth year, ShopTalk brings together over 8,000 retailers, brands, investors, service providers, and technology companies to discuss the future of retail and how companies can thrive with new solutions, tools, and experiences.

Here are three takeaways that we had from the show.

1. The Evolving Role of Stores

Every week there are articles about retail stores closing around the country. Just last week alone, Dollar Tree, JCPenney, GAP, Victoria’s Secret, and Foot Locker all announced that they would be closing stores. Despite this constant doom and gloom, there were a number of panels and conversations at ShopTalk on the importance of stores for improving customer loyalty, creating innovative experiences, and driving conversions. Brett Alexander, VP Omnichannel Sales at Soma Intimates (Chico’s FAS), says that while we all believe digital will put traditional retail out of business, the exact opposite is happening. Digital is enabling customers to view stores in a different light and make more deliberate choices while shopping in person. One interesting trend is the creation of new pop up stores to showcase up-and-coming brands. Right outside of DC there is a new concept called BrandBox that enables digitally native brands to have a retail footprint for 6-12 months.

In our space, the physical store carries a ton of value and importance. Helena Foulkes, the CEO of Hudson’s Bay Group, the parent company of Saks and Off Fifth, said that over 97% of their returns are done in stores. It’s critical that retailers use their store footprints to make the customer returns experience as frictionless as possible in order to drive loyalty and engagement. Expanding on the idea of experience, many retailers have gone to great lengths to use the physical presence of their stores to create spaces that customers want to spend time in. Retailers like ULTA are expanding their offering of experiences such as nail bars and salons, which have increased average time a customer spends in the store by 28%.

2. Customers are Still King

Almost every panel at ShopTalk had some discussion on customer expectations and demands, whether that’s same day shipping, immersive in-store experiences, or personalized content. In a session on optimized logistics, Wayfair’s head of supply chain, Chris Bell, noted that 70% of consumers will choose the first delivery day available, even if it’s for a large item, like a couch or a bathtub. As a result, Wayfair is constantly looking at how to optimize their logistics network to ensure that products are delivered ASAP.

One thing that ShopTalk always does well is view the attendees as their own customers. The conference upped their game this year by delivering a number of immersive experiences for attendees, from GlamSquad makeovers, to hot shaves, to on-demand headshots and caricature drawings.

3. Retail Partnerships are Essential for Survival

At most retail conferences there’s always one major retailer missing from the stage and the expo hall— Amazon. And yet despite a public presence, many sessions touch on how retailers and brands can compete with the behemoth.

Nordstrom has been one of the leaders in partnerships and is frequently bringing in smaller brands to their physical stores, from Bonobos, to Everlane, to Allbirds. These brands, many of which only have a handful of their own physical stores, now make up 40% of overall revenue from Nordstrom’s full price stores. Crate and Barrel’s CEO Neela Montgomery talked about innovation and diversity at the company and their most successful partnership to date with goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand.

We had a great time at the show and are excited by all of the conversations that we had on customer loyalty, new store experiences, and the importance of innovative partnerships. To hear more about our time at ShopTalk, you can check out our podcast with OmniTalk.