Last week, the Shoptalk Europe event took place in Copenhagen for the first time. Retailers from all over the world gathered here from October 8 to 11 to discuss the latest trends and innovations in retail and e-commerce. The international participants ranged from start-ups to world-renowned companies such as Ikea, Google and ebay. I had high expectations for the event due to the number of participants, the quality of speakers and the reports about the Shoptalk event in the USA. And my expectations were fulfilled.
In various formats such as fireside chats or presentations, I was able to form a good understanding of the technologies and strategies that are currently advancing the retail world. In total, I attended 15 sessions and several fireside chats and presentations. I certainly gathered a wealth of information from numerous industry experts.
I can summarize my entire takeaways in the following points.
New technologies for faster delivery
In the first sessions, I decided to focus on “On-Demand, Delivery and Logistics” and “Last-Mile Delivery”. Here, I was able to learn more about the technologies and challenges that currently influence, or will significantly influence, the retail industry in the logistics sector.
New technologies are designed to make it easier for the end consumer to deliver and receive orders. For example, Allan Martinson, Chief Operating Officer of Starship Robots, introduced an autonomous transport robot designed to deliver goods to customers immediately.
Speakers from the groceries sector showed that the logistics of food, in particular, have to cope with special challenges, and that consumers are increasingly demanding online food orders. Parcel stations, robots or transport boxes by kolonoial.no can be used to simplify the ordering of goods in the future. The Dutch company Picnic has already achieved great success in the Netherlands with its “modern milkman” concept. But, especially in rural areas, there are still many problems that hinder a fast delivery due to the infrastructure. Companies such as JD, one of the two largest B2C online retailers in China, are tackling this problem, showing the people living there how e-commerce works and testing technologies such as drones to improve the last mile in logistics processes.
Closing the gap between online and offline
In the session about “Disrupting the Retail Chain”, companies, such as German eyewear retailer Mister Spex and the fashion online marketplace Lyst, demonstrated what opportunities new retail business models, and the combination of online and offline, offer companies to bring their products to customers. Dirk Graber, founder of Mister Spex, believes in multichannel retailing. The company is building up a partner network with opticians that conduct tests for prescription glasses. Then, the data can be entered into the online customer account so that customers can order their glasses online. He said: “We don´t care where the customer buys as long he buys us.”
What quickly became clear: Offline stores will not become extinct. On the contrary. Many of the pure online retailers are investing more and more in stationary trading and are seeing an opportunity to compensate for possible weaknesses in online trading, such as lack of touching or advice. The main focus is on the intelligent combination of the two retail forms.
In-Store technologies, which allow a connection with online data, made up a large part of the talks. For example, Hero would like to make live shopping possible by allowing customers to communicate online with employees in the shop via video or chat to get a better idea of the products.
To sum it up in the words of Natalie Berg, Planet Retail: “There will be a separation between fun and functional shopping.”
New technologies allowing better and personalized customer experience
To close this gap and provide a perfect omnichannel customer experience, you need to know what the customer wants. The basis for this is data. “Data is the increasing value system in an organization”, said Julian Burnett, Chief Information Officer at House of Fraser.
Gerben van der Lugt, Head of Indoor Locations Services at Philips Lightning and Doug Gardener, Chief Information Officer at Fashion Retailer River Island, demonstrated the new possibilities of data measurement. Philips Lightning, for example, already offers the possibility of capturing data via light installation. The indoor positioning can help guide shoppers in the store and collect data on how customers shop to optimize store layouts. According to Gardener, customer insights are the only way to link the physical and digital world and enhance shopping experience.
And the data can be used in an extremely targeted manner through the use of artificial intelligence – a subject that kept coming up again and again. The session “The Future of Artificial Intelligence in Retail” demonstrated how artificial intelligence plays an increasing role in retail. The technology allows personalized content to be played out automatically and truly personalized content to be created through data collection. According to Richard Hearn of IBM, the goal of Artificial Intelligence is “to drive true real-time decision-making and personalization”. After all, everyone agrees that personalization of the customer experience is the key to success in the future.
Augmented and Virtual Reality also create a new shopping experience and improve better transactions with products and the brand. Google also recognizes the potential of the technologies to connect the physical and digital world and as a result, precisely break off barriers between online and offline. For example, digital customer recommendations can simplify shopping for customers in the store.
The problem still to be solved: Collecting and evaluating the right data. Age, purchasing patterns and gender are no longer promising KPIs that can be used to classify the customer.
Old and new competitors
In Amazon Prime’s presentation, it became clear why the name Amazon appeared in almost all sessions. Mariangela Marseglia, Director of Amazon Prime Now, showed how Amazon Prime was launched in just 111 days and is now represented in more than 50 countries worldwide. It is a service that other companies are unlikely to implement in such a short time.
However, Seb James, Group CEO at Dixons Carphone, sees the big advantage over Amazon in the face-to-face conversations, which offers many up- and cross-selling possibilities for his company.
In addition, new competitors such as Netflix, Uber and Instagram are occupying the industry, as they change the way customers want to pay, interact and communicate with a brand. Through such services, customers are becoming increasingly accustomed to a certain speed of transaction and convenience, which is then also expected from other companies.
Through the event, I was able to gain new insights into the subject of retail and ecommerce. As an end consumer, it is rarely necessary to think about the logistical and technical processes behind one’s own purchasing actions and how hard retailers are trying to constantly improve the shopping experience. These efforts, in my view, are currently focused on closing the gap between online and offline trading to create an omnichannel experience for the customer. Despite the booming online trade, stationary retail is becoming increasingly important as a building block for the shopping experience. New technologies such as Artificial Intelligence are designed to help customers find the best possible personalized content and products. And the foundation for these applications is data that must be collected both offline and online. There is already an understanding of this data collection online, offline it is increasing.
I am looking forward to seeing how the e-commerce and retail industry will deal with these challenges and how they will be met. The event has definitely shown that there are enough applications and ideas on how to approach them.
What trends have you noticed in the retail and ecommerce space?