Billed as “unmissable”, Retail Week Live certainly lived up to expectations.
As would be expected, there were many topics and trends emerging, but here are my top six which, I would suggest, every retailer should be paying very close attention to.
Data is the new oil, except that unlike oil it is growing at an almost unbelievable rate. Want to personalise? Tick. Want to create amazing customer experiences? Tick. Well, only when you’re able to tap into all that data will you truly be able to do so.
It was evident from listening to Shop Direct chief executive Alex Baldock that this retailer understands the importance of data in driving a great personalised experience for customers…
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
…Which is why artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning – lumped together for the purposes of this discussion – are at number two.
While some are still coming to terms with cloud and omnichannel (by the way, there’s no such thing), those in the know – yes, Shop Direct again – are investing heavily in this technology.
Yext chief executive Howard Lerman showed how AI and chatbots such as Alexa are driving much of the sector now.
This one might surprise, given the two points above.
In a great panel session discussing the future of the store, Alison Lancaster, House of Fraser’s interim marketing director, made an impassioned appeal on behalf of the consumer for more human engagement.
It is clear that a seamless combination of the right technology, deployed in the right way, working in harmony with people, is the key to unlocking retail success right now.
Whether you are a fan or not, Airbnb is clearly disrupting the market, and in a great session with James McClure, general manager for Northern Europe, what became abundantly clear is that more and more what matters is that special experience tailored to our needs and desires.
This has implications for all retail sectors. It’s about that bespoke experience, something different and particular to us which we can then share. It’s intimate, personal and represents the future.
Constant reinvention and reworking of the brand proposition was a recurring theme.
Stand still and you will not only be overtaken but you will more than likely never see your competition ever again. Because you won’t have a business. It’s that simple.
Consistent brand engagement at all levels through all possible means is not simply an option any more. It should be a given and is absolutely expected by customers.
A wake-up call to everyone came from Trevor Hardy of the Future Laboratory, who said: “Customers have grown and adapted far quicker than retailers have developed their service offerings.”
If real, intimate engagement doesn’t exist, the brand will be dropped in the blink of an eye.
Given all this change and disruption, the question heard on many people’s lips was, “Where do I begin?”.
I for one will be looking to the Retail Week Tech conference in September to help provide the answer to this and many more questions.
They say retail is not for the faint-hearted, and never more so than now is this statement true.