Believing technology alone will transform the retail landscape into a sleek, slick, multi-platform, frictionless world is a dangerous conviction.

At a show like NRF, you expect to hear – and indeed do hear, over and over – that one particular ground-breaking technology, or a certain emerging trend, is going to irreversibly change the way the 21st-century consumer shops. 

And while there’s a certain amount of value from hearing what that one thing is, this year I’ve been struck with the amount of retailers, exhibitors, analysts and keynote speakers who have said the exact reverse. For them, if you simply believe that technology is going to have the biggest impact on every aspect of retailing, you’re going to fail. It’s the consumer and what they want that is having the biggest impact.

But the question for retailers is, are you listening? And I mean really listening?


Future Laboratory’s co-founder and chief creative officer, Chris Sanderson, got it bang on in his presentation on the final day of the show: “You’ve got to future-proof your brands. It’s about connecting this new consumer to you, your brand and then to each other. Be part of a community – a retailer’s job is to be the broker. Broker engagement, experience and learning.”

Act and think with the mind of a consumer and bring the retail world they seek to them. But do it in a way that’s seamless. You don’t even need to slap an ‘omnichannel’ or ‘multichannel’ tag on it. Just make sure you give them a frictionless and full retail experience – one that they’re telling you they want.

Let those connected, vocal and downright demanding customers transform your business, not the latest tech trend. Instead, use all the incredibly exciting and pioneering technology available to enable you to do just that. As John Lewis’ Sir Charlie Mayfield summed up perfectly in his keynote speech: “The era of ‘multichannel’ is over. The question is: Do you speak channel or customer?”