3 important takeaways from RetailEXPO 2019 that every retailer should know

Dylan Brown
by Dylan Brown

Qudini recently participated in the RetailEXPO 2019. As the first iteration of the combined Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE), Retail Design Expo (RDE) and Retail Digital Signage (RDS) shows, we felt it was one of their best yet and wanted to share some of our key takeaways.

Brick-and-mortar retail is strong, there is great opportunity on the high street but innovation and technology are required to keep it that way.

According to Simon Calver, head of venture investments at BGF, data and insight are critical – especially to compete with the likes of Amazon. His recommendations, as reported in Essential Retail,

Photo by Gerry Roarty

Similarly, Justin King, an M&S non-exec director, in an interview with Essential Retail rejects the notion of a ‘retailpocalypse’.

In a separate interview with Retail Systems, King argued that the rise of online shopping was only part of the picture, and that in fact sales at High Street retailers with successful omni-channel strategies were thriving. 

Lego’s vice president of global retail development, Simone Sweeney, said the company’s store estate is “surprisingly profitable”, noting that the investment is not coming at the cost of the commercial, but is actually fuelling it.

“That is one of the differences we are seeing now in this new world of bricks and mortar versus an e-commerce-based retail experience, it is almost counterintuitive to what we are hearing.”

Lego has invested in experience-led flagship stores to drive footfall, with initiatives including midnight openings for product launches and a ‘mosaic maker’, which takes a picture of a customer and then produces a box with 3,000 component parts, so they can make themselves out of Lego. As reported by Retail Systems.

In-store technology must reflect the retailer’s personality and have a purpose.

Photo by Jordan Pulmano

The following interesting insights come from the Retail Systems Event Roundup: Emma Jones, European retail operations manager at Mulberry, said that the opening of its flagship store in September gave her team essentially a blank slate to improve the customer and employee experience. 

“We wanted a seamless, subtle PoS install, so there’s no screens or traditional tills, but enough pay points so that staff can complete transactions when required,” she explained, noting that does mean training staff to be able to do everything on the shop floor with no handovers. 

Screens are still a big part of McDonald’s tech roll-out, both in-store and at the drive-in. The company’s global deployment director Mark Jessop said that buying Dynamic Yield earlier this year will drive a new personalisation strategy.

“Their AI technology gives us the ability to adapt in-store screen content as the weather changes, to reflect in-store trends, local events and customer personal information if it’s offered.

“We have 68 million people a day come through our restaurants globally, but we haven’t been doing enough to capture all that data – it’s a real lost opportunity,” he continued. “The new mobile app is an opportunity to engage with customers, we’re only getting started with that though, so as our marketing teams learn how to use it best I’m sure we’ll improve personalisation and the store experience.”

Duncan Clapman, retail technologist for Esprit Digital, agreed that utilising AI to make screen content more relevant – reflecting the time, day, mood, etc – is one of the best uses of data, along with the “undervalued tools” of voice and location search by stores. 

He added that tech solutions really have to solve an actual issue for retailers. “Far too many in-store digital transformations are just big screens playing content on a loop.”

Customer experience must be authentic.

Photo by Charles Etoroma

How new customer experience strategies are executed will vary by retailer and their customers needs and expectations. Any strategy must be authentic and on brand to resonate.

Again, from Retail Systems, Emma Jones, European retail operations manager at Mulberry says, “Screens aren’t for us, or our customers – they can easily buy handbags online, so if they’re coming in store, then it’s for the experience.”

Quotes from Essential Retail’s breakfast briefing are very enlightening:

Dave Abbott, head of IT service delivery at Dune said enabling the customer experience “depends on what sort of retailer you are and what sort of shopper you have”, while Jim Buckle, COO of Feelunique explained that there is a difference from what is easy and convenient now in comparison to five or ten years ago – when a delivery would be expected in a week as opposed to on the same day. Customer expectation is rising and retailers need to keep pace with that.

Moving the discussion on to loyalty, Buckle said loyalty is the next stage in the customer relationship as they want to know what else the retailer can do for them. “If they shop with you five times a year they want to know what you are giving them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Abbott said loyalty programmes really depend on what the retailer does, as “loyalty points has never really worked for us” as people don’t buy that many pairs of shoes. Instead they looked to improve the in-store customer experience, by offering free bottled water as an example.

John Shaw, head of consumer sales at Vodafone, described how a rewards scheme is a way to “demonstrate that you’re listening” to the customer.

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In this retail revolution, we work closely with retailers to transform their in-store experiences to boost sales, streamline operations and create lasting, valuable customer relationships. To learn more get in touch.



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