5 things we learned from RetailTechX

Michael StoneInnovation

Claire Mula, Sprooki’s Executive Director, recently attended RetailTech X in Melbourne, Australia.

The event brings leading technology innovators from around the world with retail leaders to explore changes in the retail industry.

Here are 5 things we learned from this event:

1. Brands with soul outlive products

Many of the keynote speakers touched on building brands and brand relevancy through communicating and living the brand story.

Bob Schwartz founder of Nordstrom.com and Chief Marketeer of Magento, the worlds largest Ecommerce software platform led the way. His theory is products are either bought or sold. Bought being commodity based. Whereas products that stir your emotions, that have a story behind them give life and love forever. He gave a good example from Joe Boxer founder Nick Graham who said “the brand is the amusement park and the product is the souvenir.” Col Hywood, Head of Digital for The CottonOn Group touched on the same theme. He quoted the now infamous TED Talk from Simon Sinek, founder of the Holden Circle concept. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

2. Online is becoming more touchy feely

There were many examples of how online brands were endeavouring to overcome some of their “personality” weaknesses by becoming more physical or “tactile”.

Doug Stephens, retail futurist and author of the “Retail Revival” highlighted that while Amazon is processing 36 billion transactions per day, they are still opening stores. As to are Google.

The move to the physical is also to help consumers in making and completing purchase decisions online which still accounts for around 8.7% of total retail sales in a developed online market such as the US.W

Virtual Reality is being seen as the next big wave to bring real world experience and personality to online brands, including Facebook who purchased VR Technology company Oculus. 3D printers are being seen as another example of disruptive technology that will shape how people buy and receive goods. Lego, the world’s leading toy company, took out a patent on 3D printable Lego block this month. And we are not far off creating tablets which simulate the tactile sensation of fabric such as denim or leather.
3. How big brands are using data to solve everyday problems.

There was a lot of talk from major brands about the use of data to solve problems. None more so than the grocery chains. Sir Ted Lealy, former CEO of Tesco talked about the Tesco Club card, which was launched in 1995 as retails first big data play. Tesco Club Card as a brand was in many ways bigger than Tesco itself.

He gave the example of indoor analytics companies such as Purple wifi. Nowadays with indoor wifi and links to social sign on, with your permission, stores can know a lot about you as a shopper which go well beyond what you’ve purchased and when.

Jess Gill, Director of Customer Experience at Woolworths raised the question that in a world with so much data available to brands, how do you prioritize it? Woolwoths are in the enviable position to have access to a data set that is almost one third of the population of Australia through their loyalty program Everyday Rewards. And EDR data is not viewed in isolation but rather is linked to other data such as credit card data to understand basket buying behaviour and buyer profile behaviour. Actionable insights and projects are focussed on key problems and opportunities first identified by the business.

Kevin McAuley, Chief Marketing Officer of the Super Retail group spoke of the challenges in the company maintaining a single view of the customer across multiple retail businesses, brands and customer segments alluding to the same conclusion that data should be focussed around the problems the business is trying to solve and those things that will most add value.

4. There is no Ecommerce or omnichannel- there is just commerce

The notion of omnichannel or multi-channel was dismissed by many speakers as being transcended or outdated. That consumers care about which channel they buy through is a misnomer. What matters is not “e-commerce” or “m-commerce” or even “store commerce” but rather ensuring that the “commerce” continues to taken place whenever and wherever shoppers choose to shop. And that consumers will use multiple sources to research and influence their purchase wherever it ends up occurring.

This in itself is not a new notion. But it is interesting when you see statistics from Google which claims that physical Store visits declined from 38 Billion in 2010 to 17.6 Billion in 2014. And that while there are fewer store visits, those visits are more purposeful where more consumers are well informed and prepared to buy. So in theory the result of deploying “omnichannel” strategies should be that in-store conversion rates improve even if store traffic is declining.

5. Driving In store conversion higher than ever before

The notion of the store as a place to “showcase” products, not necessarily receive products, was raised. Much discussion has been had in the past around “showrooming” and retail brands staying relevant both inside and outside of the four walls of the stores.

Many speakers revisited the theme of the store as the best place to convert customers. Doug Stephens highlighted the strength of the store tapping into the “impulse” buy – a concept often difficult to translate online according to Tesco former CEO Sir Ted Lealy, without a significant amount of discounting. Is this the one chasm that online has yet to cross?

As a showroom only, what would the abandon cart rate of a physical store be if we couldn’t take home the products inside the store? Do we have any understanding of this in today’s world?

There was much discussion around technology, such as beacons and mobile applications, as an enabler of higher instore conversion. Woolworths’ Jess Gill announced Woolworths latest mobile app “Woolies Shop”. The app is an instore companion to help customers plan their trip with products laid out like a real store, ability to create shopping lists, view specials and BLE Beacons integration. Jess mentioned the use of beacons had been effective at driving product information and recommendations such as which wines went with cheeses in some of their stores in more upmarket districts of Sydney.

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