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EDITORIAL Better make sure your connected…

… the writing’s on the wall. So said The Stereo MCs back in the day, before being connected in its most basic form meant having a mobile phone. Simpler times, my friends, simpler times.

These days, being connected is a given: imagine trying to go about your everyday business without the internet, not least the internet in the palm of your hand? But if O2 is to be believed, what it is soon going to mean to be connected is something almost beyond belief.

Everything will be connected to everything else, with shoppers being able to access information, goods, services on pretty much any other connected device. It is going to be awesome.

However, right now most businesses – retailers included – aren’t making use of the level of connectivity that is available to them today. Giving access to staff to what is available right now could add some £34billion to UK businesses’ bottom lines.

Brexit uncertainties – and lack of sleep – are all being seen as putting the brakes on UK productivity, a problem that is likely to see the UK turn in as the only major economy to not grow in terms of productivity in 2019. Leveraging connectivity could help reverse that, says an O2 study.

According to O2, empowering staff, connectivity could deliver overall time savings of 3.14 hours per week for each employee – or an extra 18 working days a year, representing a significant advantage for workers and British business. Giving people the ability to work where, when and how they want can reduce time commuting to fixed places of work, enabling a more efficient use of working time.

And it is the retail sector where this connectivity could generate the most improvement. The report suggests that the retail sector in the UK alone could generate an extra £4.9 billion a year from better connected staff, as well as better use of data and connectivity to simply make processes and working conditions more efficient.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. This is just looking at creating efficiencies amongst staff in the retail sector: imagine what could also be generated adding better connectivity to general store experience too?

To get the hyper-connected world of tomorrow, connectivity needs to be universal to staff, customer, suppliers, warehousing and delivery. All the elements of retail need to be connected using technology, but perhaps also have to look at how they connect and interconnected on an almost spiritual level.

Now, that sounds a bit out there, but it means that not only do these elements of retail need to connect their data and devices, but also create processes and an ethos – a spirit – of connectedness that makes it all work together.

Without the will to act as a joined up business, physically joining the parts of the business is only going to get you so far.

All this is part of the general reset of retail that is occurring around the world. And while the UK may be one of the least productive of the developing nations, perhaps we are at the forefront of embracing the new ways of doing things.

I certainly hope so. As Brexit takes us into the realms of looking like the lunatic fringe of the G20, whatever happens, whenever it happens, is going to leave the UK punch-drunk and dazed. From that we need to look ahead and we need to rise from the ashes, Phoenix-like – and pioneering the new face of retail could well be the way to do that.  

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