RTIH asks major players in the retail technology space for their thoughts on the sector, and throws in a random question to keep them on their toes. This time around, our five questions go to Duncan Potter, Chief Marketing Officer at Pricer.
RTIH: Looking at the hottest retail technologies right now, check-out free stores, rapid delivery services, the metaverse and NFTs, automation and robotics, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, which ones stand out to you, and for what reason?
DP: With so many new and existing technologies being proposed to meet so many challenges it’s difficult to really identify stand outs but here goes.
Checkout-free stores are here to stay, but the technology proposal is going to become more complex as all of the implications to all the other in-store technologies are assessed, understood, addressed, trialled and rolled out.
Leading on from checkout-free capabilities, I also see that, specifically in the convenience sector and amongst independent retailers, the concept of staff-less or unmanned stores will grow.
This will enable them to offer customers extended hours and 24/7 retail, even in remote areas, which will revolutionise what service means to shoppers outside of the large cities and conurbations where the “I can get anything in 15 minutes” mentality already persists.
This means that store infrastructure technologies – or those technologies that can digitalise store operations to power remote retailing or unmanned store capabilities, whether it is dynamic pricing software, ESLs, digital signage or mobile-enabled payments, will rise up the ranks of investment priorities for retailers.
The metaverse is very interesting and with Carrefour now being very public about its plans and starting to show collaboration with major consumer packed goods (CPG) businesses, such as Proctor and Gamble, it is clear that this is an area to take seriously.
And, of course, as a marketing leader, the ability to allow the consumer to manage their own personality, data, privacy etc and create an abstracted version of themselves has huge implications to the development of consumer education, engagement, loyalty and personalisation.
Blockchain needs to stop now being seen as a “new” technology. It has already delivered huge implications and needs to be separated from its links to cryptocurrencies as it’s really now part of standard commerce infrastructure.
And, finally, robotics and automation have always been rich territory for retailers to make gains. They have already made a significant impact on retail operations in the past 40 years, revolutionising retail supply chains and manufacturing processes - and they will continue to do so.
However, the difference now is that they are becoming properly integrated with AI and deep learning capabilities that allow far greater reactivity and decision making. We’re now longer dealing with “Automata”, which have been around for centuries.
We are dealing with fully capable, integrated systems that can react instantly to their environment as part of a much bigger ecosystem.
It is that which will continue to increase the pace of innovation and change in our lives, both as retail technology providers and as consumers.
RTIH: Which retail technology trend is overrated in your opinion?
DP: Albeit it’s a slightly grey answer, it is difficult to call out one, because so many technology trends are initial misconceived or mispositioned.
They may fail to capture imaginations or drive retail ROI the first time around, only to be resurrected later in a different form to solve a different problem.
Also, so much gets written about technologies that have seen very small roll-outs - a 30-40 store roll-out does not change much globally, but may act as a great proof of concept – it’s only when that technology sees very broad adoption that we see fundamental change.
RTIH: What are the top five retail tech Twitter/LinkedIn accounts you can’t do without, and why?
Elodie Perthuisot, Chief E Commerce, Digital Transformation and Data Officer at Carrefour, because not only do we work closely with her as one of our customers here at Pricer, but she is always looking for new ways the French grocery business can push the envelope on innovation.
She’s not only a good follow on social, but she’s delivered some great keynotes of late, most recently over at Shoptalk Europe, so she’s one to watch out for on the speaker circuit too.
Simon Sinek’s LinkedIn is good source of business leadership advice and views – incidentally, his podcast, ‘A bit of optimism’ is also a good listen.
Richard Branson is also always a good follow for new and blue sky thinking.
RTIH: If you could have a dinner party with any five retail pioneers, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
DP: I am sure that my first guest, Jeff Bezos, needs no explanation as to why he’d be on the invite list as the Amazon visionary.
Next up would be Clarence Saunders of Piggly Wiggly.
They started the self-service revolution in 1916, and later tried full-service concepts, like Keedoozle and Foodelectric, setting a new standard for service and format for retail that many of today’s retailing premises are founded.
Then there would have to be either Jasper Meek or Henry Beach – the fathers of promotional products – burlap bags and metal trays and signs.
Lilian Beckwiths - or probably more correctly her father as portrayed in “About my father’s business”, who started and ran an old fashioned grocer’s shop in a Midlands town, and who gave me my first insight into retail when I was about 10.
Finally, there would be Mrs Cusick (and her husband) who owned the corner shop where I grew up and knew more about personalised customer service than any other living person (as far as I was concerned at 11 years old).
RTIH: If someone wrote a biography about you, what would you like the title to be?
Title: A Full, Varied and Interesting Life
Subtitle: How the heck did he fit all that in and why-oh-why did he make all those mistakes?!?