This Article was originally written by Andrew Busby for Forbes.
"If you can't have faith in your store colleagues, why have them working in your stores?" so said Fran Bishop, ex-Apprentice star and Founder of children's wear retailer Pud Store.
And that was one of the less challenging of her remarks! Yes, it is clear that the new young breed of retail entrepreneur has a completely different mindset to the, let's say, more established retail businesses. Dinosaurs would be another way to describe them.
And this was all at the new British Retail Consortium (BRC) conference "Reinvention Retail". Billed to provide practical advice, tools and solutions that can help retailers successfully navigate their way through the rapidly shifting sands of the constantly changing retail landscape.
For this was a conference designed to demonstrate that those who survive and prosper will be those who understand that their customer has changed, is changing and is continually evolving. The secret is to know how to not only respond to that but to stay ahead of the game.
And don't turn first to technology to solve all those problems. Alastair Stirling, Industry Head, Retail at Google had this to say; "Think about customers’ problems first and technology second".
And in the same panel session with Mike Broughton, Digital Innovation and IT Director at Furniture Village and Sezin Tumer, Global Retail Innovation Manager at Vodafone, Mike added; "Retailers can no longer rely on the tech guys to do it all".
Hype Or Reality?
Much is discussed in retail circles these days about the impact that technology continues to have on the retail sector. But beyond the hysterical headlines, the reality is somewhat more down to earth. Drones buzzing around our skies? Autonomous vehicles clogging up our roads?
Both seem rather fanciful. But what is true is that technology continues to pervade almost every aspect of retail from the back office supply chain to call centers to stores. But it's the human touch that now many are realizing matters most. Sezin Tumer:
"We can use automation for some simple interactions but not everything. We try and blend technology with the human touch".
Knowing Your Customer
These days, there's really no excuse for not knowing your customer. Retailers are literally swimming in data, it's just that they are not turning this 'big data' into 'useful data' to gain invaluable insights into their customers. They say content is king but it has to be relevant.
Katy Clark, Client Partner at Facebook discussed the sheer volume of content that we consume. Each week we scroll through more content on our Facebook feeds than the height of Big Ben. Or to put it another way, 96 meters of the stuff. makes one wonder how much of it is actually relevant to us?
And not only that, we're producing content ourselves at an unprecedented rate. The secret for brands and retailers is to become involved in the conversation without alienating the audience. Not an easy task.
The Impact Of Technology
The BRC has been running a series of podcasts asking industry experts to speak from the perspective of being in the year 2030. Martin Newman, Founder of The Customer First Group gave us some fascinating insights from the future.
“We always overestimate the impact of technology in the short term, and underestimate its impact in the long term".
"We need to turn big data into big insights"
And my personal favourite:
"Return to shareholder was always at odds with medium to long-term sustainability".
We're seeing this last point being played out on the high street right now and it will be interesting to see how that develops in an environment where the very life is being squeezed out of so many businesses.
And that reference to selling sandals in the snow? Perhaps the last word should be with Fran Bishop: "Weather? We sold out of sandals when it was snowing".
Perhaps there's something in knowing your customer after all.
You can find the original article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewbusby/2019/05/24/selling-sandals-in-the-snow-why-the-brc-conference-was-such-a-hit/#5d2be0f51bb9