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Didn’t get a change to make it to Retail Week Tech in London last week (12-13 September)?

You missed out on some interesting talks, great networking, and ground-breaking start-up pitches.

But don’t worry!

We’re recapping all the greatest moments at Tech to keep you up to date.

Check out some of the interesting lectures and topics that pervaded the conference below.

Conferences are a great place to network, learn about new trends and hot topics, and to get inspired.
This year’s Tech conference focused heavily on the future of retail from discussions about AI, robots, Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and self-driving cars.
Getting behind on (some of) these trends could really make you fall behind your competition especially when it comes to easy payment structures and seamless deliveries.
While the conference focused on including ground-breaking tech in your store’s roadmap, there was an even more important message:
Assess whether or not “futuristic” technology will actually improve your business.
Is it really necessary for your store?
If not, skip it.
Just because you aren’t using all the latest trends doesn’t mean your store isn’t with the times.
Okay, let’s dive into some of the most interesting topics.

Contents

Chapter 01

Chapter 01

ROBOTS IN RETAIL

Chapter 02

Chapter 02

BLOCKCHAIN

Chapter 03

Chapter 03

CRYPTOCURRENCY

Chapter 04

Chapter 04

Autonomous stores

Chapter 05

Chapter 05

CREATIVE WORKFORCE

Chapter 06

Chapter 06

GENERATION Z

The Future of Retail: robots will guide us

On the morning of the first day, Martin Wild (the Chief Innovation Officer) showed the world how MediaMarkt is introducing robots into the shopping experience and their brick and mortar stores.
Way back in 2011, MediaMarkt (one of Europe’s largest electric retailers) had no notable internet presence to speak of, but now they’re ahead of the curve.
When brick and mortar shops started moving online, MediaMarkt didn’t put much focus on this and when they ended up behind their competition, they started innovating ways to get ahead.
In some ways, this setback opened the doors for them to innovate more.
They developed a web shop and started embracing technology. So much so that they’re one of the first retailers to introduce so much robotics into their stores.
If you find yourself lost in a MediaMarkt store, you can download their map app, which will guide you.
If you’re in a few select stores, you can forego the app and just have a robot direct you to the product you’re looking for.
Not sure what product fits your needs best? No problem, they’re launching a robot that can discuss your needs, recommend the perfect product, then guide you to it in the store.
They’re also using robots to roam the store and archive where products are stored, so employees can quickly access this database and show customers what they’re looking for.
MediaMarkt is also introducing a VR shopping experience where you can place products in a home, see how they look, interact with them, and if you decide you don’t like it, no problem, toss it out in space.
Yes, space.
Because this VR home is set on planet Saturn.
This is Tom the robot who greets customers, helps in simple ways, but mostly spends his time dancing to entertain customers.

Blockchain, is it taking over? 

Do you think it will revolutionize the retail sector as we know it? Well Antony Welfare, the Innovation Stratefy Director at Oracle thinks so. 
As a blockchain advisor to the UK government, Welfare believes in blockchain’s many use cases.
Retail is complicated.
Online store, offline stores, multiple suppliers, buyers around the world. There’s a ton of information to keep track of, often secure, and often in multiple databses.
But what if all of a retailer’s information could be stored in one place? 
Welfare believes that place is in a blockchain database. 
While large corporations are having a backlash against blockchain and distrust it, he believes this will change in the future because that’s just what blockchain databases are about: trust, transparency, security, and reduced costs – who doesn’t like that. 
So what exactly is a blockchain database? Simply put, it’s a peer-to-peer network that’s unalterable. 
When enterprise corporations use it, it would be a private database instead of the usual publicly shared version.
Of course, this isn’t a solution to all your retail programs, but it can accelerate transaction times, reduce risk of fraud, and improve data quality. 
It also gives omni-channel retailers a way to compete with giants like Amazon since it can give a clear view into the supply chain, stock, and transactions.

How cryptocurrencies will change retail

Peter McCormack, a crypto trader, miner, blogger, and advisor gave an insightful talk about the future of crypto in retail.
Some people argue it’s just a fad and is too far-fetched to be present in our daily lives, but he believes otherwise. 
He stated that the advantage of cryptocurrencies lies in their fast transaction times (not yet, but these will get faster) and the extremely low usage cost. 
He also mentioned that the only cryptocurrencies you should look at accepting are Bitcoin and Manero since these are the most sound and secure.
Let’s also keep in mind that cryptocurrencies (like these 2) aren’t subject to inflation.
Cryptocurrencies aren’t for us just yet. They’re most useful in countries where inflation is running rampant, like in Venezuela. 
Some people there, when they get paid, convert their salary to Bitcoin immediately and then change it back when they need cash. This helps them protect their money against inflation.
He exphasized that cryptocurrency is a trend – not something every store should implement.  
Pro Tip:  Assess your business and be honest with yourself – if it doesn’t make sense for your store, don’t do it!
Self-driving, staffless, autonomous store are already here

Sounds like stuff of the future, but these stores are already being deployed in China.

The Moby Store is open 24/7, has no checkout, no staff and can drive itself around.

The idea is that the Moby Store will bring convenience stores back to neighborhoods and serve as the main grocery store and meeting place for more remote communities.

This shop is unlocked by an app on your phone (after you’ve created an account and added your credit card info). When you’re inside shopping, you scan your items (there are also cameras monitoring what you pick up), and are automatically charged when you leave the store.

There are absolutely no staff members at this shop.

These staffless stores are becoming more popular among consumers due to their cheaper costs, since salaries are eliminated.

A store with no staff isn’t unheard of yet, but how about a strore that senses when it’s stock is low, drives itself to the warehouse, re-stocks, and then drives itself back to it’s location.

Well, that’s the Moby Store.

Hannah and Tomas Mazetti were inspired to create this store due to Hannah’s experience in a town in rural Sweden. Growing up, if her family wanted to get groceries they had to drive an hour to reach a grocery store.

If they got home and realized they forgot an ingredient, though luck, there was nowhere to quickly pick it up.

This inconvenience inspired them to create the MobyStore, which is currently being tested in China and some local universities. 

Once testing is finished, these mobile stores will be available for purchase, so they can be placed anywhere. From rural towns to city corners.

Building a workforce of creative thinkers

Creative is a buzzword these days. Everyone wants to be, or hire, a creative thinker. 

But how do you build a workforce that encourages this behaviour, or attracts these thinkers? And does having a workforce of creative thinkers actually improve company productivity?

Well, it can since according to a McKinsey Global Institute Study, people spend 61% of their time managing work and only 39% of the time actually working…

Having a team of creative thinkers can help your workforce spend more time actually working and less time preparing to work, which boosts overall output.

Adrienne Gromey, VP of Global Customer Experience, at DropBox let us in on how they’re doing just that. 

Instead of wasting months figuring out how to best communicate with your teammates, most teams implement a document called “Work with Me”, a list of a person’s priorities, best ways to get in contact with them, pet peeves, and personality types.

They’re also changing their physical workspace, which is becoming quite common at tech companies.

Some DropBox offices have music rooms, where people can go on their break time to practice, let loose, or get creative.

They’re also working on introducing macro-management, which is where team leaders set targets and let the team figure out the best way to achieve them. This is a much more hands-off management style. 

People are encouraged to take some time out of the day to pause and think. This space lets the creative juices flow and is a great way to open the pathway to creative thinking. 

Pro Tip: Create an atmosphere where ideas can be thrown around and debated openly without people being embarrassed or at risk of looking stupid for putting out an outlandish idea.

This will encourage your team to be open with ideas and will put more creative solutions on the table.

The future shopper: Gen Z

In addition to robotics, the conference focused a lot about the future of shopping; what the younger generation expects in a store and how online shops have to adapt to this.

With the rise in influencer marketing and social media, every brand has to be present on multiple different social platforms in order to reach and interact with their customers.

While Generation Z seems young now, they will soon comprise the majority of your customers.

For this generation, the intersection of the physical and digital world will be all they know.

This forces brands to innovate and find out how to bring their offline presence online. 

According to a Pew research study, 45% of this generation are online constantly and 60% want to make a positive impact on the world.

In the future, we will see a rise of social-conscious marketing and companies.

When targeting this generation, remember they:

  • value individualism
  • delay adulthood
  • have a backlash toward connectivity

Conclusion

The retail sector is at a defining moment in history with many new trends coming to the forefront.

Retailers will have to jump on the tech bandwagon and update their marketing to appeal to the younger generation.

But as we learned at RetailWeek Tech, blindly adopting tech is a waste of time and money.

Be sure to thuroughly assess whether it’s useful for your business.

See you next year!