The Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE) held at Kensington Olympia is the largest retail solutions event dedicated to helping retailers map out their future strategies.
Retail Business Technology Expo Highlights
In this rapidly changing world of retail, and with the increasing use of technology, there is a mounting pressure for retailers to understand what they can do to bring themselves to the front of the pack.
There were many industry experts present who shared their thoughts, with some fascinating panel discussions. Key highlights included:
1. “In-store shopping is never going away.” Alison Wiltshire, Global Practice Lead, Retail and Consumer Goods, BT
Despite recent reports of store closure dominating the press, the importance of bricks and mortar retail is one shared by many. Bruno Pavlovsky, Fashion President, Chanel recently told Drapers, “We strongly believe that digital will never replace the feeling of being in a fitting room and trying on a Chanel piece.”
Customers still like shopping in-store - “81% [of UK consumers] see the physical store as vital to the shopping experience” (Retail Systems) therefore retailers need to start thinking about how to pull more customers in. Rachel Humphrey, Director of PR & Partnerships, Birchbox explained, “stores are a huge opportunity to connect with our customer.” Physical stores are needed, retailers just need to figure out how to get the most out of them.
Retailers have to make their stores a destination. “There has to be a reason for going there and it has to be an experience,” highlighted Daniel Bobroff, Founder and Former Investment Director, ASOS Ventures. Many brands are doing this well, such as Topshop’s flagship store at Oxford Circus which over the years has created a number of unique experiences including turning part of the ground floor into the set of ‘Stranger Things’.
There has been a lot of investment in in-store technology, as customers want a similarly convenient experience to what they get shopping online - “The successful retailers are those that are truly omnichannel” stated Ken Daly, CEO, JML. Furthermore, retailers want to know as much as possible about their customers when they walk through that door, such as whether they have recently bought something or whether they are considering purchasing something online.
2. “It is fast becoming all about the smartphone.” Louisa Nicholls, Senior Online Trading Manager, John Lewis
Not only do our smartphones hold an increasing amount of data, they also make sure we are always connected and can have whatever we want whenever we want it. “We used to go out to the high street to get stuff and now stuff comes to us” stated Howard Saunders, Retail Futurist, 22nd&5th.
As more and more millennials are getting to an age where they want to spend money, the rise of using mobiles in-store is rapidly increasing. Customers can look up product information, compare prices and check if a product is in stock, all on their smartphone. A study done by OuterBox discovered that, “80% of shoppers used a mobile phone inside of a physical store.”
Retailers are increasingly using smartphones to make this information available and enhance the customer experience, including Zara, who recently launched their AR app for customers to see models in-store through their smartphone camera (you can read about this in more detail in our March Monthly Round Up).
3. “Customers are the centre of the universe.” Howard Saunders, Retail Futurist, 22nd&5th
Customer experience is the most important thing in retail. It is something that will never change and is an ethos that still sits at the heart of most retailers’ strategies. “Our customers at John Lewis are the most important thing to us” stated Louisa Nicholls.
In today’s world, this expectation of customer experience has evolved, with customers demanding a personalized and seamless experience across all channels.
Kash Ghedia, Head of Technology, Dixons Carphone highlighted, “It is not about making the technology disappear, it is how to make it seamless from online to in-store,” whilst making “an incremental benefit for the customer.”
James Lipscombe, Managing Director and Owner, The Chesterford Group gave us his top pointers to offer great customer experience:
- Making sure your shops/website/app look fantastic
- Everything has got to be fast, easy and accurate, online and in-store
- Being able to offer a personalized shopping experience
As highlighted by Dr. Tim Denison, Director of Retail Intelligence, Ipsos, “Technology and retailing are increasingly interlinked.” There are an overwhelming number of technologies available to retailers - from ways to track footfall to multiple self-service checkout options, no wonder they struggle deciding which ones to pick.
Ultimately retailers need to take a step back and think about the experience the customer wants when they walk into a store, and if the technology chosen achieves this whilst providing value to the business.
Technology shouldn’t be ‘tech for tech’s sake’. Retailers need to know their own business, what they want to achieve and implement the technology that will enable them to reach their goals.