4 Key Insights from RBTE 2018

RBTE is one of the most talked about events in the UK retail calendar. Held over two enthralling days from 1st-2nd May, RBTE 2018 offered up 50 expert speaker sessions, with over 400+ retailers and suppliers walking the floors of London’s Olympia. Let’s take a look at four of the standout insights discussed at the show.

  1. Start with the customer – and work backwards

This is the mantra of Amazon’s MD, Jeff Bezos. As current Chairman of ASOS, Brian McBride used to work under Jeff, and spoke at RBTE of his approach to customer centricity: “He would never dream of changing a pixel, a button, a place on the checkout or anything on that website unless you articulated to Jeff what it was going to do to the customer.”

Today’s consumers want everything now. We exist in the era of one-click purchases and super-quick delivery, meaning instant gratification has become the norm. As a result, taking a customer-centric approach has become an essential part of how retailers meet consumer demand. Receiving a personalised engagement experience is no longer a bonus, it is an expectation.

To help build trust, you must put yourself in your customers shoes, use the platforms they prefer, and speak to them in the relevant tone of voice. Echoing McBride’s key message, Natasha Toothill, Head of Enterprise Sales, Amazon Pay reiterates that retailers must start by focussing on theend problem a customer has, what we are trying to solve and then work backwards to create a solution that is customer-centric for that particular customer.”

  1. Embrace tech where it matters

With the explosion of Big Data, customer information means nothing to retailers without the use of intelligent technology to harness that data. Machine learning was a widely discussed topic at RBTE, in particular its ability to personalise promotion, its power to teach, and its capacity to improve.

Although Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics were two very prevalent solutions at RBTE, there was a big focus on technology designed to solve day-to-day operational challenges. Our partner InovRetail were one such vendor, using data science to bridge the gap between planning and execution.

The array of new technology being showcased was a real eye-opener. However, 22nd&5th consultancy founder Howard Saunders reminded retailers to ensure their tech investments did not distract from the human touch necessary for successful retailing; “The rise of AI and robotics will teach us what we want from humanity, which is proper hospitality. One of the trends we never talk about is the rise of proper hospitality – intense hospitality that genuinely feels real and generous, not polite and distant.”

  1. The era of the blue dot

Shopper and Consumer Behaviourist Ken Hughes spoke of this being the era of the “blue dot consumer”. His term defines the customer who wants everything on-demand, in one click, and everything to revolve around them. Hughes emphasises that actually, it is the consumers themselves who are the disrupting force of changing shopper habits. He comments: “Sometimes technology does not add value but undermines the sales process.”

One such example given was retailer Rebecca Minkoff, who implemented a digital screen in its stores for customers to browse products. By not placing itself in the shoes of its customers, the clothing and accessories brand missed the fact that customers could simply turn around to view the product on rails – diminishing any value-add from its new technology. From a strategical perspective, it is therefore essential for retailers to consider shopper behaviour, first and foremost, along with the four pillars of personalisation:

  • Customer experience
  • Communications in the right context
  • Authenticity
  • Experience
  1. The need for retailer agility

As shopper habits continue to evolve, retailers must be able to respond swiftly and adapt accordingly. Brian McBride entitled his presentation, ‘Evolve or Die’, highlighting how those businesses best able to move with the times will be the ones set up for future success. Keeping up with trends and keeping customers close are key to survival.

Camilla Tress, e-commerce strategist at Oliver Bonas described taking a “headless” approach in order to ensure variety across marketing material, as well as design flexibility for online content. By decoupling front and back-end e-commerce operations, the retailer can for example allow CMS content to be distributed on multiple platforms across media types.

Despite the eclectic myriad of new solutions being showcased, the underlying message remained synonymous; in order to harness the power of technology, retailers must have the strategy, operational structure, and skillset to use it in the appropriate manner.