More than 5,000 people from the global retail industry visited the InternetRetailing and eDelivery Expo over the two days of the show. Many joined in with the workshops and attended conference sessions while others concentrated on the exhibition area where virtual reality, robots, cutting-edge technology and never seen before software, took the spotlight. Companies including Brightpearl, Eiratech Robotics, OrderWise, Consignor, Payoneer, Khaos Control, Papier Mettler, Netmatter, Kardex Remstar, Profulfilment, Akamai, Swisslog, VL, Automated Packaging Systems and Volo Commerce launched new technologies, products and features for the UK market.
The Ingenico ePayments’ stand proved extremely popular. The payments brand that recently announced a multichannel partnership with burger chain Five Guys, presented its latest innovation, Gamified Checkout – a solution that offers shoppers with the chance to play games and win prizes at the checkout, boosting conversion and loyalty.
Another central piece of this year’s exhibition was the Innovation Hub. Independent retail accelerator and investment fund, TrueStart, together with 10 start-ups, Posttag, ChoiceMaster, Blockverify, LogistCompare, Milkman, ZigZag Global, PixonEye, Hullabalook, Photospire and Streetdots, showcased the new technological solutions and platforms that are disrupting the retailing industry.
These ground-breaking entrepreneurs also participated in the Retail Innovation Award on Day 1, where ZigZag Global and Hullabalook were selected as joint winners after their outstanding pitches. Patrick Eve, Managing Director of ZigZag Global commented: “There were some great companies on stage this year, so it means a great deal to get the popular vote from an audience of retailers of all sizes.”
Bryony Elliott, Co-Founder of Hullabalook, added: “Our mission is to create beautiful and playful discovery experiences which replace filters. It is a privilege for our technology to be recognised as winners.”
In the conference, visitors heard from retailers from all sectors about their real-world experiences and the challenges being faced by many in this fast-moving digital landscape.
Phil Pavitt, Global CIO, Specsavers, gave an interesting view from the IT department’s perspective of how IT needs to transform to meet the demands of a global company. Along with warnings that you need to get the fundamentals right – such as the printer always working in the CEO’s office – he says that IT managers should be ready to change everything around them. Specsavers, for example, is moving from 2,500 technology platforms globally to just 15. While it is cheaper to run IT in house than to pay an agency, IT does have to go up against the biggest agencies in the world, he said. It also has to work closer with marketing and ecommerce.
Discussing one of the company’s recent projects, Pavitt told the audience about a new Specsavers app which will allow staff in store to use their existing iPads to show customers a CGI-rendition of what different pairs of glasses look like on their face. The functionality is currently being trialled in 3 stores and is due to be rolled out across the store estate this summer.
Three retailers came together to answer audience questions about the omnichannel store of the future. Talking about the Internet of Things, Ian Plummer, Head of Brand Relations at Autotrader, explained how your car is the communications tool of the future. It offers “a feast of opportunities” from enabling a garage to diagnose problems with the car at a distance – and fixing them remotely – to being a connection to your home and a mobile ‘Alexa’.
Chatbots were discussed too, with Cally Russell, Founder of shopping app Mallzee, talking about how to make your brand voice. He believes that chatbots are at the stage of minimal viable product and minimal viable personality currently but they will have a role to play in the future. “The average consumer is not there yet and until you can get that level of personality into it they won’t be,” he said.
When rolling out “cool stuff,” you have to unlock the emotional experience for teams in store first commented Plummer.
The importance of teams was further highlighted by Fabrice Khullar, from Sainsbury’s, who sees one of the problems of omnichannel as people’s view of it as a technology point making journeys work for the customer rather than it being an organisational issue. “It needs one person at the top to drive it,” he said. He continued: “You want to make sure you’re explaining the benefits of change and how it will impact people. Some of it will be good and some of it will be different.”
SUCCESS ALL YEAR
One of the Elite retailers from InternetRetailing’s UK Top500 ranking keynoted at the eDelivery Expo. Terry Murphy, Director of the John Lewis National Distribution Centre, described to the audience the retailer’s approach to Black Friday.
One key challenge, said Murphy, is around price matching, as the retailer keeps to its ‘never knowingly undersold’ promise. “When other bricks and clicks retailers reduce a price on a tablet or a wireless speaker for Black Friday we have to price match it. The team works right through the night on Black Friday looking at the competition so we can price match – in 2016 we saw thousands of Sonos wireless speakers pumping through.”
In 2016, more than half a million items were shipped on Black Friday, but the peak packing day is Cyber Monday.
Planning for Black Friday starts on Black Friday the year before, says Murphy. That’s when the John Lewis logistics team asks how it would respond next year in the light of the current year’s experience. He said that “we plan obsessively” but “it’s hard to predict demand”.
Operational alignment is key to making it all work: if some parts of the pipeline can deal with half a million units a day, then all parts have to, in order to avoid bottlenecks. “We have to make sure the right products are across distribution centres in order to avoid spikes and bottlenecks. As far as we can, we need to understand which products are ordered with other products. It’s about operational alignment, the intelligence, understanding the ‘what ifs’, the contingency.”
Supply chain was also the focus of a presentation by Simon Finch from Harrods. He shared 6 key lessons when it comes to supply chain transformation. These included getting help, being realistic and not forgetting business as usual. He also spoke to InternetRetailing after his presentation; the interview can be read on the eDelivery pages of this issue of the magazine.
Overall, commenting on this year’s event, Sam North, Portfolio Director, said: “The success and participation we have seen only proves, once again, that IRX and EDX continue to be the key meeting space for the multichannel retail industry. Particularly, this year we have concentrated on creating the perfect balance of education, innovation, interactivity and networking. We have also showcased an upgraded Top500 Lounge for the UK and Europe’s best retailers to call home, because we know networking amongst peers is a huge part of this fast-paced market.
“The feedback we have had from retailers, partners, exhibitors and guests has been fantastic. Everyone got a lot of value out of that networking as well as the learning and immersive experience within our theatres and with our exhibitors.”
Videos from the presentations, as well as the slides used by the speakers, will be shared soon at internetretailingexpo.com and edeliveryexpo.com where visitors can also register their interest for next year’s event which takes place on 21-22 March 2018.
However, if you can’t wait that long for the next InternetRetailing event, the InternetRetailing Conference and eDelivery Conference will take place on 5 October 2017 at Novotel West, London. To book your place visit internetretailingconference.com and edeliveryconference.com.