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Retail Business Technology Expo 2018: The lowdown

Retail Business Technology Expo 2018: The lowdown

Retail Business Technology Expo 2018: The lowdown

The following is a blog from Preoday’s CEO, Nick Hucker. You can follow him on LinkedIn and contact him direct through his profile. 

The Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE) was quite a show for us this year. Not only did we get the chance to meet with existing and prospective partners and clients, but we participated in a brilliantly attended panel event as part of the event’s business conference programme.

Here I want to summarise three of the talks that took place during RBTE – including the one in which I had the pleasure to participate.

Vita Mojo
The first order of the day was a talk from Vita Mojo, a restaurant chain carving a path for digitally minded food businesses. The founder, Nick Popovici, discussed his original vision to build a profitable restaurant for the future. That vision became Vita Mojo, a restaurant driven by data, automation technologies and personalisation.

Aside from explaining what his restaurants serve (food personalised to a person’s nutritional requirements) he delved into what it took to become the first cashless restaurant in the UK, and the benefits. Through digital ordering and ultra personalisation Vita Mojo has found customers spending 17% more and increasing their visiting frequency. Using technology to transform their operations they’ve resisted rising ingredient and business costs, limited waste and kept labour requirements minimal. In short, this is a digital restaurant to be inspired by.

Sodexo and Omnico
The 19th largest employer in the world, Sodexo’s talk began with a quick journey through the size and reach of its business, as well as its aspirations. Taking £3bn a day at the moment, it aims for this to become £6bn by 2020.

The food services company increasingly sees high street retailers as its competitors and is focused on enhancing its omni-channel offerings in order to compete.

The consumer equation is changing, they told us, it is moving towards omni-channel and guest experiences. The last part, they said, is the hardest to get right as their intent is to give consumers control of that experience. The implications of getting this wrong would be massive.

Sodexo currently considers itself as somewhere between multi-channel and cross-channel. It admits it is not omni-channel yet and questioned whether anyone can fully achieve a successful omni-channel presence because, for this to happen, the consumer needs to see only the brand and not a channel within the brand.

Guests want to be in charge of their experience – there are many entry and exit points though. For Sodexo, the immediate goal is to influence rather than to control it. As part of this it is now looking to add app channels, mobile responsive websites, online ordering and presented menus.

Sounds like a great strategy to us!

Panel event: Enhancing the in-store and online guest experience
With 100 people in the audience, it was clear that this is a popular topic for the retail industry right now. The panel was represented by a great cross-section of the market – ourselves as tech providers, The Chesterford Group as a medium-sized food retailer, Dixons Carphone as a large, technology retailer and BT as a service provider.

Key to the discussion was the question of how to make technology disappear into the customer experience. The answers varied, from accuracy and personalisation to ease of use and finding a technology partner that can execute against the brand.

Asked how to not commit random acts of digital, it became clear that you have to start with the customer first. By wearing the customer’s shoes you learn the business’ pinch points and can work on solving these. The Chesterford Group specifically said that being hands-on and ‘getting in the trenches’ to experience the business first-hand is essential for company decision makers.

Testing was a point raised by audience members. How can you conduct efficient testing without distracting customers? It can be tough if you don’t have the size and scale of a Dixons Carphone (with concept stores and testing centres) but the methodology is the same. Create feedback loops with customers and aim always to run a pilot launch before a full-scale roll-out. Testing though, as explained by BT, needs to be on a time limit or risk running on unnecessarily.

As you can imagine, during the hour long session there were many more points raised and made. To cover them all here would lead to an essay so, rather than write on, I invite you to get in touch and ask your burning questions direct.

The Retail Business Technology Expo 2018 was an exciting and inspirational event and the focus on digital customer experiences was clear for all to see. Time will tell how many of the theories and ideas discussed will come to fruition before the 2019 show, but the intent is clear. Creating a seamless, digital experience – across multiple channels – for guests must play an essential role in retail strategy from here on out.

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