Commerce Trends

by Manhattan Associates

Highlights from Retail Week Live 2018

On the 7th and 8th March, retail leaders, business practitioners and industry experts descended on the Intercontinental Hotel at the O2 in London for two days packed full of insights into the world of retail. Once again, there were some high-profile speakers from the industry including Sky, Sainsbury’s Argos and Google.

In case you missed the event, here are some of the main highlights.

Is there still a place for the store?

John Rogers, CEO of Sainsbury’s Argos asked, “What lies ahead in store as retail moves online?” Argos has seen a 5% sales shift to the online channel compared with last year but his message was clear: the answer is not to shut all stores and move online. Bricks and mortar still play a fundamental role in the digital world, with 80% of Argos’s orders fulfilled by its store network.

When Argos acquired Sainsbury’s and set up collection points in store for its click-and-collect service, Sainsbury’s saw food sales go up 1.5% in some cases and also reported an increase in loyalty. So, the answer could be to attack with a combination approach.

An announcement from the Minister for Retail

The new government Minister for Retail announced a soon-to-be-formed Retail Council, which will be led by retail industry leaders. It came after a speech on how the digital marketplace is growing in importance and that it is time for retailers and the government to work together to navigate the challenging times ahead to make the retail sector a place for stability and growth.

What tech do your customers want?

Manhattan Associates’ UK Managing Director Craig Summers kicked off the morning session at the Pop-Up Stage alongside Steven King, Head of Technology at Kurt Geiger, looking at how retailers could ‘sell more, spend less’. Craig explained that a key consideration for deploying new technology is how suitable it will be for the business.  “There are lots of shiny new products in the industry, but it is important to deploy enterprise strength solutions to underpin growth, rather than buying the latest, greatest tactical thing.”

The conversation then turned to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Kurt Geiger naturally has AI on its radar, and although it’s evident this technology is set to make an impact, retailers shouldn’t look to automate too quickly. In order to make the most of AI, retailers should asses where it will actually be beneficial to their business. One of Kurt Geiger’s main priorities is deploying RFID in store so it can improve stock accuracy. Steven King noted that Kurt Geiger wants to understand these technologies and evolving trends early so it can take full advantage of those opportunities it believes can best support its ongoing development.

Jack Wills’ Digital Journey

Mark Wright, Managing Director Multichannel at Jack Wills hosted a session about how he has succeeded in his mission to ‘get digital’ for Jack Wills. The university-inspired clothing brand has a very rich, in-store environment and strives to deliver an engaging customer experience, so updating its processes to meet customer demand in the new digital age was a challenge.

In order to transform Jack Wills digitally, the company decided it would need to put data-driven decisions at the heart of everything it does. Along with the digital teams, Mark pulled data from various parts of the business to support decisions on how the business would evolve. This work led to a number of changes including the launch of a new webchat feature, having a greater focus on its interactive editorial pages to drive traffic to the main product pages of its website, offering more than two payment choices, and offering next-day delivery until 10pm. Mark explained that offering same day delivery was not a priority for him, because many of his customers said they were happy with receiving their items the next day. This is a key message for retailers looking to compete with Amazon!

AI isn’t hype, it’s happening

One of the final and most exciting parts of the day was a panel session that took delegates on a deeper dive into AI and how it will transform our lives. The overarching message was that it is a technology that is going to be almost impossible to avoid, so retailers should start looking at ways they can use it in their business now.

There is huge potential for AI to improve the customer experience in store. Automating or semi-automating tasks such as stock replenishment would allow store associates to spend more time face-to-face with their customers and maintain the personal interaction they want. Paul Clarke, CTO at Ocado commented that AI needs to take care of the background jobs to allow retailers to maintain a high degree of personal interaction on the front end.

The finishing comment from Paul Clark was, “Asking if we should adopt these new technologies is pointless – they are going to happen and retailers must move with the times.”

Did you make it to Retail Week Live? What were your stand out highlights?  Let us know at we would love to hear from you.