A brand-new retail event is always a source of excitement. And ‘Retail Innovation Now’ was no exception. Playing host to world-leading brands, the UK event showcased an elite line-up of retail technology providers.
The retail industry is in the throes of a new shift – a shift toward the customer. In the current retail climate, where margins are tight and profits are small, any opportunity to improve customer satisfaction and drive bottom-line is well-worth the investment. And retail technology delivers this advantage. Retail Innovation Now was the platform that served to unite retailers and technology providers under one roof – providing ample opportunity for networking and one-to-one sessions.
One of the things I took from the event was the genuine hunger that European retailers in general, and UK retailers in particular, have for innovation that makes a real, practical difference to present day issues whether these be in marketing, sales, operations, supply chain or payments.
The consultants and commentators who addressed the assembled (including Kate Ancketill of GDR Creative Intelligence and Ariel Coen, retail and eCommerce specialist at Deloitte) were in agreement: success in retail today means being collaborative rather than self-contained, and customer-centric rather than product-oriented.
In short, the customer is in the driving seat. And retailer strategy is now very much influenced by consumer preferences and behaviors. This is particularly prevalent when regarding considerations around sustainability and environmental and societal responsibility – as consumers become increasingly conscious about these issues, retailers are having to step up their game.
There was a lot of visionary thinking in the room at the Retail Innovation Now event, not least from the guest speakers. But one of the things that stayed with me was from a short talk by Helen Dickinson the CEO of the British Retail Consortium, which is in her own words “the voice of the industry” in the UK and works to support and influence UK retailers.
The picture Helen painted of the UK retail industry at the moment was a realistic one, with the good and the bad, the challenges and opportunities more or less in balance. She did agree that the future will see fewer stores, and will see fewer people in average per store. The good news is the jobs that remain will be more interesting and rewarding, more focused on real customer needs and with more chance to use insight and analytics.
Enabling this realignment is of course the fact that an increasing volume of retail tasks will be automated. This is exactly where companies like Trax come in, with solutions that take the repetitive and human-error-prone tasks out of the staff hands and into the more reliable realm of technology. Our Retail Watch solution is a store monitoring and intelligence platform that helps retailers discover what’s happening in the aisles, quickly mobilize store staff for immediate in-store action, and elevate shopping experience. For the retailers we spoke to at the event, whose bottom line is increasingly squeezed, it’s exactly what they want to hear.
It’s fascinating that such momentum has been generated in such a relatively little time in Israel. It is inevitably the case that any tech hub becomes, after a certain ‘tipping point’ of success, self-sustaining. It’s worth reflecting that there are around 500 active ReTech startups in Israel, that 10% of global retail tech innovation originates there, and the last three years alone have seen no less than $1 billion invested in Israeli retail startups.
Our thanks to event organizers and hosts McDonald Butler Associates and Israel’s very own Retail Innovation Club for organizing a great event and marshaling some top names from UK retail.
Interested to meet us at an event? Check out what we have lined up.