Three key takeaways from Retail Recharged 2018

Retail Recharged: unraveling the best of retail innovation

The annual event is hosted by Rich Insight, who provides a platform agnostic, fully managed service for online marketplaces.

Writing this blog post was a hard task for two reasons; the first, because there were way more than just three key takeaways from the experts that spoke at the event. The second, because I have never been a keen writer nor able to compete with the blog giants who so effortlessly articulate their wit (I am much funnier in person – I promise). Hopefully I’ve been able to provide three key factors surrounding the retail world, as well as valuable insights that were delivered by the expert speakers.

I want to start by thanking the whole team that contributed to Retail Recharged 2018. The event was full of great panels, innovative pitches and of course rich insight (no pun intended!). What a fantastic opportunity for brands, both starting out and already established, to gain expertise and share best practice.

I highly recommend attending if you haven’t before.

So here goes…

1. Leveraging AI in retail

The digital marketing world if full of buzzwords and they’re constantly changing year on year. AI is arguably one that has divided the opinions of marketeers more than any other. The term AI stands for Artificial Intelligence (sometimes called machine intelligence/learning) which is essentially intelligence demonstrated by machines. The English Oxford Living Dictionary defines AI as: “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making”, etc.

With the application of AI more prominent in digital marketing, and its ambiguity being lessened, it’s apparent that marketers are becoming more confident in utilizing the technology in their own marketing strategies today. A survey conducted by Salesforce indicated that 51% of marketers are actually already implementing AI in some way and a further 27% are planning to incorporate the tech in 2019.

The panel discussing leveraging AI in retail backed up the above stats: many marketers voted that if they weren’t already, they’d be implementing AI strategies in the coming months or years. AI is most definitely on the agenda.

The main message from the expert panel was clear: AI is a tool to enhance the data and processes you currently have available. But it’ll only be used to its fullest when you have the right tech stack. Understanding your data and the technological infrastructure within your organization is key if you’re truly going to leverage the power of AI in your marketing strategies.

One thing that also stood out was the worry that machines would make marketers redundant. This was something that the panel quashed, reiterating that AI empowers marketers to achieve their goals. Machine learning improves resource, efficiency and accuracy, allowing teams to better allocate their time and optimize their strategy.

To summarize, AI isn’t going to solve every business problem or deliver results automatically. Its effect will depend on what you put in. You need to know your tech, know your data, and know your goals.

AI, in whichever form, is the tool that will help bolster your results.

2. Evolving the physical experience

“Have you ever walked into a store and realized you’re the only person in there. You and the store assistant share awkward glances – will they or won’t they approach me? Oh god, the awkwardness. Only then do you promptly make an abrupt U-turn and leave the store immediately!” This was the question posed to the audience; almost everyone raised their hands and collectively let out a little chuckle.

So, how do we make our store experiences less intimidating, less awkward and more comfortable and personal – so that our customers don’t run in fear?

James Rutter from COOK talked a lot about creating a comfortable and friendly environment in store. The theme of community within their 90 store locations is something that, although a tough and somewhat daunting task, he believed to be one that kept the customers coming back and leaving happy. Training staff to be warm, welcoming and approachable was key in delivering the best in-store experience to customers.

Tom Broughton from Cubitts also talked about the importance of employees – specifically, when hiring, to refer to a list of values that candidates must possess in order to become part of the team.

Tom suggested “you can have all the experience in the world but if you don’t have our values you won’t be considered”. It was an interesting way of placing importance on the in-store experience. Beyond the fluffy aesthetics, it comes down to the staff who serve customers directly. That’s what matters.

The consensus of the panel was that opening stores can be a scary task. There’s so much more data readily available from ecommerce stores than physical ones, so consider this option very carefully.

However, if you do look to operate physical stores, investing in your employees can make all the difference.

3. Expanding cross-border

Can a business be global from day one? How hard is it to maintain this mentality? The answer…, as you can imagine, very difficult! Brexit? Culture? Customs? Returns? These are the issues retail marketers have to consider and ultimately overcome when tackling the prospect of globalization. A daunting task, right?!

But for those that get it right, the rewards can be impressive – extending the shelf-life of products and avoiding seasonal fluctuations being among them.

The obvious opportunities are in the US, Canadian, APAC and European markets. And let’s face it, these regions would keep you busy and your pockets full. But, since these are some of the most competitive markets in the world, it might prove more successful to cast your eyes on less competitive markets. Unearthing these opportunities does involve a lot more work, but could prove a quicker win.

How do we navigate this international minefield? How do we make our business a success in other markets? The answer was unanimous…planning and patience.

Plan your strategy to the nth degree. Plan for failure. Don’t scrimp on researching your markets thoroughly. You have interest from a few other countries: does this mean you need to expand right now? Patience is key.

 

In summary

The event put together by the Rich Insight team provided a fantastic mix of insight on retail trends and hot topics, along with some relevant innovative technology pitches to support these. A massive thank you again to all the team for a fantastic event!

 

Retail Recharged might be over for one year, but you can still get tons of marketing inspo at this year’s dotties! RSVP here.

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