RBTE 2018 – Day one overview
Written by Peter Walker
The first day of Retail Business Technology Expo 2018 saw a variety of different suggestions for how technology could help solve retailers’ problems on and offline.
Early on, Insider Trends’ head of trends Cate Trotter made the case for technology being the “magical connector” between brand and customer, but one that doesn’t need to be shoved in shoppers’ faces.
“Don’t worry about spending money on things like large, expensive touch screens on the shop floor – they’re a novelty that will be used for about 15 seconds,” she commented. “People are there to pick up product and talk to staff – it’s all about making a connection.”
This was evidenced by Trotter’s experiences on a recent trip to New York, where visits to decidedly low-tech stores from maiden retailers Glossier and Outdoor Voices convinced her that building a relationship is key. Her key takeaway reflected this, being that retailers must ask themselves ‘what would Oprah do?’, given the US TV host and entrepreneur is the queen of audience relationships.
Over in the Payments stream, an omnichannel discussion saw participants agree on the impact of Open Banking, the problems of legacy systems and the importance of mobile.
Tao Tao, Alipay’s business development director for EMEA, welcomed the fact that incumbent banking giants would have to open up their APIs and break the account monopoly, with his part of the Alibaba ecosystem ready to offer mobile alternatives.
“From my perspective, those who can gain trust, roll out digital and satisfy customers with value will win out,” he commented.
George Greer, business lead at Samsung Pay, cited the recent TSB re-platforming problems as an example of legacy systems hindering innovation, stating that Open Banking and PSD2 will “explode the marketplace”, with traditional players having to offer new digital experiences or be very competitive with cost if they are to retain customers.
Optomany’s chief operating officer Ian Rutland agreed that banks “just aren’t very good at innovation” and criticised the lack of any payment method that has gotten widespread consumer or merchant adoption since the advent of contactless. “We should be looking towards Asia and how they use things like AliPay and WeChat - the value added from those services is phenomenal,” he stated.
Sticking with payment innovation, the Co-operative’s retail IT solutions specialist made the startling suggestion that retailers should try and match the ‘frictionless journey’ a shoplifter has when thinking about improving the in-store experience.
Paul Fletcher came up with the analogy while working on the supermarket chain’s new Pay in Aisle app, overlooking the shop floor in the company’s Manchester headquarters test site.
He explained that people were unsure whether they had paid before walking out, something akin to the advent of self-checkout. “It was very interesting to watch customer behaviour, the psychology was remarkable, because people literally did not know what to do. There are things we can do to help, one of them was to introduce a big green tick with an e-receipt, so if you are challenged you can prove the purchase very quickly.”
In another RBTE session, Hammerson’s head of customer experience Kathryn Malloch said her starting position for technology development was the realisation that many customers using the company’s shopping centres are effectively ‘on rails’.
“They park in the same location, they take the same route around the mall and only visit four or five retailers, so we knew that was a challenge for our retailers,” she stated. “From a customer point of view you’re getting a really different physical experience from what you are getting online.”
This informed Hammerson’s development of a visual search app, which lets shoppers to take a picture of a piece of clothing and discover similar alternatives within their malls.
Find an overview of RBTE day one here.