Retail Business Technology Expo proves better by design

The recent RBTE in London highlighted the critical role technology has to play in making the omni-channel dream more of a reality. The event was packed full of innovative ideas and inspired speakers and, most importantly, the focus was very much on what is achievable right now…

Innovations that we’ve been banging on about over the last year or so are becoming more of a reality. Things aren’t quite as integrated as we’d ideally like in all areas but it’s a huge step closer – and there was a real emphasis throughout the Expo on ‘agnostic’ software and hardware designed to be interoperable among various systems.

For example, we saw how mobile data and iBeacons can be used to track customers, entice them in store, and create more targeted offers. This in turn provides better data, which can be used for all sorts of analytics and future campaigning.

Once in the store, digital technology enables a whole host of customer engagement initiatives, including clever 3D advertising spaces, video streaming and out of hours purchasing.

With the world of Omni channel and ordering anywhere everywhere, the focus is on accuracy of stock in store – which has turned attention once more on to RFID, with the technology smaller and more cost effective than ever.

And it doesn’t just mean that the days of having to work late for a full stock check are over. As well as using RFID and a hand held device for almost instant stock accuracy, you can combine the two to put enhanced product information at your customers’ fingertips.

Pushing the boundaries – and fingertips – a little bit further, conductive ink provides real innovation and customer interaction, as a simple design on a wall or poster can trigger any content (such as a voice or music) to provide more opportunities for advertising or marketing, or to share product information.


Video: Retail Design Expo 2015 Walkthrough Day 1


Time to give up on omni-channel?

In one of a number of interesting presentations, Tim Curtis, multichannel director at Dobbies Garden Centres Plc questioned the use of omni-channel as the buzzword of the moment in retail.

During a presentation called “It’s not omni-channel, it’s customer centric retailing” Tim explained that he felt the term was just too grandiloquent; it implied shopping all channels and ended up just blurring the picture.

So we should all stop worrying about achieving the impossible. Multi-channel is impossible to master, optimise or deliver across all channels, devices and challenges. Therefore it is: “Better to be consciously incompetent than unconsciously competent.”

For Tim, the terminology – and focus – should be on customers, not channels. With power shifting to the consumer, multi-channel is becoming the norm not a differentiator. Instead brand and product development are what will set you apart from the rest.


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