Pretty much every night of the week, the glamorous hotels that line London’s Park Lane are filled to bursting with the brightest and best of the business world. Every sector of society has its own awards night when, dressed in black tie or ball gowns, executives from Britain’s top organisations flock with fingers crossed to the heart of the West End. Last Tuesday was our night, the night of the BT Retail Week Technology Awards.
Giving awards in the business world can seem a little trivial at a time of austerity but, with people often working longer hours with fewer resources, there’s no better moment to publically recognise success. And we can testify from our own experience that a sliver-winning project team will return from London brighter and better motivated than when they left, albeit with eyelids propped open with matchsticks for a few days. Trophies look great in the boardroom too.
This is the second year we’ve sponsored the Retail Week Technology Awards. It’s a great hospitality and networking event where we can meet existing and potential customers in informal – but heavily branded - surroundings. You can network equally well in a box at Lords but associating our brand strongly with a leading publication, and with innovation pays dividends. The other positive about awards sponsorship is that we get plenty of brand awareness in the run up to the event, as the organisers crank up their marketing, and afterwards as the winners publicise their success.
This year, there were many worthy winners and you can find out who they were and why they won on the Retail Week Technology awards 2011 website. I’d like to highlight two of my favourites. The first is the surprise success of Whistles (one of our customers) in the Best Project Implementation category which shows that smaller retailers can compete on the big stage. The second is Shutl’s success with Argos. Shutl offer 90 minute delivery of online orders by sending a local courier to pick up the goods from store. This turns shops into a competitive advantage for multichannel retailers versus the pure plays and is the most innovative application of technology to a retail business problem for a while. We’ve subsequently implemented Shutl linking to our Integrated Store product at Aurora Fashions.
So, that’s it for the BT Retail Week Technology Awards for this year but the brightest and best in retail technology will be reconvening in Park Lane in the Autumn for the Retail Systems bash. Maybe we’ll see you there.
Blog post by Geoffrey Barraclough - Director, Strategy, Marketing & Propositions, BT Expedite
What do you want, difficult challenges or beautiful problems?
If your answer is “neither, I’d prefer an easy life”, you’re probably not cut out for retail.
At last week’s BT Expedite and Fresca Retail Client Conference we had over 80 delegates from some of the UK’s (and the world’s) leading retailers lock themselves away for two days to get down to the real nitty-gritty of retail IT. It wasn’t for the faint-hearted.
This annual event is getting bigger – and better – every year. This year there were more retailer-led sessions, more technology demos and more user groups than ever before. We even had Kryten from Red Dwarf.
And there seems to be a little more optimism around again. We’re not completely out of the woods – it is retail we’re talking about here – but things are looking up.
Last year we gathered together like post-apocalyptic survivors, guiltily checking off the names of those who had gone under in the previous six months. We were in the midst of a massive economic downturn and all thought revolved around survival. So what’s changed?
Two things stood out: Social media and international expansion. It seems, like life, retail will always find a way.
The 40+ retailers who crammed into the first, steamy breakout session of the day highlighted this. During the session, Lyle & Scott’s Will Dymott outlined the brand’s website refresh and mobile focus, and ran through its social media strategy and successes. He presented himself as a bit out of touch with it all – drawing inspiration from the derision of his nieces – but it’s clear the success is no happy accident. Lyle & Scott has developed a ferociously loyal following – and there’s no great secret to it, as Will pointed out. If you’re going to get involved, get involved properly. So Lyle & Scott takes a very active part in their customers’ social networking. This takes in everything from organising Twitter races and underground music events to launching a Facebook commerce page.
In the afternoon, another standing-room only session explored international expansion – with two retailers offering a different take on it. One, Aurora Fashions, has gone down the e-commerce route. The other, Aldo Group, is working through franchisees. Both have had successful years. Both have made mistakes – and have learned from them.
And it was in this session that I heard about “a beautiful problem”. It summed up the whole mood at this year’s conference. And the nice thing is, we’re talking about the same old problems, but we’re looking at them in a different way. The world is no longer lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce out and crush you. We’re not automatically taking defensive measures. There’s a whole world of opportunity out there now – with no more difficult challenges, just lots of beautiful problems.