RetailEXPO 2019 review: Retailpocalypse, last mile issues and innovative tech

RetailEXPO 2019 review: Retailpocalypse, last mile issues and innovative tech

RTIH brings you highlights from RetailEXPO 2019, which took place in London last week.

This year saw Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE) combine with its Retail Digital Signage Expo (RDSE) and Retail Design Expo (RDE) offshoots and emerge as RetailEXPO.

The organisers, Reed Exhibitions, said that the move was the result of research involving over 150 senior retailers and brands. The new look event took place on 1st to 2nd May at London’s Olympia. 

Former Sainsbury’s CEO, Justin King, was the keynote speaker at the conference part of the show. Contrary to media reports, the industry is not in the midst of a “retailpocalypse”, he argued. “The total retail market is £360 billion and about £60 billion of that is online. That means £300 billion is still in shops, which is almost exactly the same as ten years ago.”

King also hit out at pureplays who are subsidised by shareholders giving them “risk capital with no return”. They also benefit from an unfair business rates system and in addition are using the gig economy to their advantage, he stated.

Operations Stage 

Over at the Operations Stage, meanwhile, there was talk of how retailers’ attempts to compete with Amazon on the last mile and cash in on Black Friday have led to a major logistics headache. 

With the introduction of next and same day delivery, one hour slots etc, and the likes of drones and robots being piloted, the space is getting both increasingly innovative and complicated. Overly complicated, it could be argued. AO, which bought a logistics business so it could try innovative things in-house, offers next day but very few customers actually use it. 

“They like the idea but often have to factor in taking the day off work, so that sense of urgency isn’t there,” said Anthony Sant, Managing Director, AO Business. “Nominated days is the most popular option. Also, when it comes to same day, companies who offer two hour slots rarely meet their targets, leading to unhappy customers. Give a promise you can actually meet.”

Some Mamas & Papas customers, meanwhile, place orders months in advance of delivery, so ultra fast options are off the table. “Our customers do research and place orders at certain stages of the pregnancy lifecycle. Our challenge is communicating with the customer on the day of the order,” said CIO Chris Greenwood.

“That is where our investment has gone, into influencing carriers to deliver what we want. Be innovative, yes, but also be practical and speak with your carriers on a regular basis, don’t let them run the show. I don’t think we will ever get to same day delivery.”

The Amazon effect

Amazon has driven significant advances in delivery, but it has also arguably created as many problems as it has solved. Too many retailers are making promises they can’t keep, simply because they feel they must compete with the US e-commerce giant. 

Ultimately, whilst innovation is rife, much of it is a case of ‘tech solving problems that don’t exist’. And whilst there has been progress in some areas, there have been backward steps elsewhere, for instance, chaotic scenes and broken promises around Black Friday.

As a result, many customers still have little faith in this part of the shopping experience. “Sometimes retailers forget the importance of the last mile,” Sant observed. “If you look at our reviews on Trustpilot, many of the good ones focus on the driver being nice and helpful. That emphasises how low customer faith in delivery must be, that it’s a pleasant surprise the driver was nice.”

Halfords/Yoobic tie up

Halfords has teamed with Yoobic to roll-out an app for use by area managers when visiting stores.

Speaking at RetailEXPO, Louise O’Keeffe, Head of Retail Support at Halfords, said that this was previously an inefficient process, with area managers predominantly utilising paper and email. “They had to manage a mass of paper-based information, using notepads and with the frustration of smartphones being available but only for sending emails and making calls,” she commented.

Digitalisation was the answer, enabling, for instance, photos and videos to be introduced into the process. Enter Yoobic. “A number of suppliers ticked all the boxes. But Yoobic showed us that they could embrace every part of our culture,” said O’Keeffe. A pilot kicked off in the summer of 2017. Over a period of 12 months, feedback was gathered and a series of questions was whittled down from 200 to 35, covering the “mission” of store visits. This formed the basis of the iVisit app.

In addition to store visits, it is now being used for the likes of health and safety, profit protection and trading feedback. More store visits are being completed, valuable data is being collected and the app also played a key role when Halfords implemented a new till system last September.

As for future opportunities, Halfords is working with Yoobic to digitalise its five point car health check. “This will help us with recording how many we do, identifying the biggest opportunities and capturing customer data,” O’Keeffe said.

And the winner is…

NearSt was announced as the winner of RetailEXPO’s 2019 Innovation Awards.

The shortlist was as follows:

Digimarc Corporation – Digimarc Barcode, an advanced code for packaging, thermal labels and apparel hangtags, offering more reliable and efficient scanning for shoppers and associates.

DigitalBridge – Aspect, a guided design platform that integrates onto retailers’ websites to help customers design and buy their dream bathroom or kitchen.

Dotaki – an AI solution that improves online conversions by adapting content and experiences to each visitor.

EUVEKA – a biometric robot mannequin to enhance performance and mass customisation.

Geoblink – a location intelligence platform delivering in-depth market research via advanced predictive data capabilities.

Klarna – Pay Later gives consumers the option to pay later or over time.

M-Netics – iM2Retail provides full visibility of online and retail stock on one single platform.

Onestock – an omnichannel order management solution, connecting online demand with store supply.

NearSt – a solution that drives footfall by integrating with a store’s PoS to identify available product and connect it in real-time to local shoppers’ online search.

Trueform – a bespoke digital signage provider shortlisted for its work with Westfield in delivering digital interactive display hubs.

This year the judging panel was made up of: Kathryn Malloch, Head of Customer Experience, Hammerson; Ken Daley, CEO, JML; Mark McMurtrie, Director, Payments Consultancy; Matthew Valentine, Editor, Retail Design World and Caroline Baldwin, Editor, Essential Retail.

All ten shortlisted exhibitors were included on the ‘Innovation Awards Wall’ at the show. They were also featured as part of guided tech tours, which took retailers and brands to their stands for a three-minute elevator pitch of their solutions.

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