Visions of Retail’s Future from Shoptalk Europe
I’ve just returned from the inaugural Shoptalk Europe conference in Copenhagen, where retailers, brand representatives, and vendors rubbed shoulders and compared notes on what they believe the future holds for the retail and e-tail industries.
Over the course of the event, seminars covered such topics as consumer behaviour, analytics, and ecommerce trends. In addition to gaining insights from the show’s featured experts, we also heard from those who visited the ModSquad booth. Even with a myriad of differing opinions and predictions, one theme recurred: The biggest challenge facing retailers and brand owners is the evolution of cutting-edge strategies to help them to serve the ever-increasing sophistication of their customers.
Technology vendors at the show presented solutions for augmented reality, big data customer analytics, near-field communication proximity beacons, intelligent ad servers, artificial intelligence, bots, frictionless payments… the list goes on and on. It could be argued that these toys will give us the answers, but only if they’re in service of the right question: What is it customers want? Smarter people than me posed the interesting viewpoint that the selling of the future to retail customers needs to focus on the experience and not the product. This approach is around us today. Think of the ads from a certain “fruit” company that show how you can snap awesome photographs which just happen to have been taken using a smartphone. There needs to be a move away from the product as the end goal and toward the experience that the product supports.
Once the strategy for the experience has been developed, you can weave together the product, the team, and the whizz-bang technology to create that end goal. As an extreme example, Harrods CEO Michael Ward stated in an interview that zero technology was used in the famed department store’s buying process. He relies on the best and brightest buyers to make the right decisions. Of course, they use technology to track the success of their buying decisions, but they do not use any analysis of what sold well last year to drive that decision-making. So for the foreseeable future, humans continue to play a major role in making sure that the customer experience is the best available. That’s been our viewpoint for the past decade as well, with our Mods providing clients with top-notch customer support, moderation, social media, and community management.
Many thanks to Anil and the gang for putting on the show. We look forward to our next Shoptalk exhibit in Las Vegas, March 2018.