Financial Times: 3 Critical Takeaways from FT's 4th Annual Future of Retail Summit

Financial Times: 3 Critical Takeaways from FT's 4th Annual Future of Retail Summit

This year’s FT Future of Retail Summit focused on turning disruption into growth – a mantra that clearly reflects the industry's constantly changing environment. With a variety of speakers from Tesco’s Group Chief Executive, Dave Lewis, and Lego Group’s Global Shopper and OmniChannel Activation Director, Katharina Sutch, to Mary Portas and our very own Michael Ross, the event offered a wealth of insight into the challenges retail is facing and the solutions the innovators are finding.

Now a week out, we have had time to reflect on our key takeaways:

Winners don’t react, they anticipate                                                                                                         

Data was the word of the day. It’s no secret that data can open door to new approaches and profitable insights, but retailers have a way to go before they will truly be able to anticipate customers’ wants rather than respond to them. ‘Too many retailers are still looking at the wrong metrics,’ explained Mary Portas in her keynote. ‘We need new metrics for this new world.’

It is no wonder that many retailers are struggling to keep pace, with Portas discussing the rapidly changing needs of consumers – such as GenZ’s growing desire to buy from brands with clear values. ‘Those with no purpose will, and are, falling away,’ she stated.

To keep up with these changing habits, brands need to first be set up for success across the business. The proper data solutions will ensure they are focusing on the right metrics to help them understand the needs of the individual and the value they bring.  A ‘knee jerk’ reaction after a customer has been lost, or footfall traffic has fallen, is simply not enough.

The power of shifting a mindset across the organisation                                                                   

Learning to take risks was common thread winding its way through the day – it is not only vital to challenge the norms, but innovative thinking is what drives results for retail’s leaders.

This philosophy is backed-up by our co-founder and Chief Scientist, Michael Ross, who spoke on a panel about achieving true personalization. For Ross, rethinking how decisions are made and stepping away from averages to understand the true value of interactions for wider business goals is how it begins.

But this shift in thinking needs to be properly positioned. Innovative ideas are coming from those sitting in the middle of the business – close to the consumer interactions and day-to-day connections. But it is not enough. To make real change those in the most senior roles need to foster an environment in which new practices can thrive.

‘The retail model is broken,’ Ross explained. ‘There is a fair price for a product and consumers are getting too good a deal.’ The power lies in an organisation striking a balance between profit and customer experience, not simply giving into the customers’ every whim. It is essential for senior executives across the business to adopt this mindset in order to reduce wasted spend and secure the future of their brand.

Take small steps toward success                                                                                                       

‘Perfection is the enemy. The aim is to be better,’ Ross explained, reflecting the advice of many speakers. While all agreed that implementing the disruptive models they see driving real results is not easy, especially within the confines of long-standing establishments that are built on old-style retail practices, they unanimously concurred that something is better than nothing.

Whether it is simply taking the step away from Excel spreadsheets to implement a smarter tool or training shop managers in more advanced IT systems, a small step starts the journey of change that can result in more efficient, successful and future-ready processes.

‘The key is in understanding the evidence that supports your decision,’ explained Michael Patterson, DynamicAction’s Managing Director, EMEA, when discussing the insights he gathered at the event. ‘An inquisitive way of thinking that is guided by evidence will empower retail business leaders to rethink how their decisions are made, and ensure they are focused on the success of their organisation.’

‘Notably, while the country is focused on the potential impact of Brexit, the topic barely came up at the FT event. This highlights the need for retailers to be laser-focused on the specific issues their individual businesses are facing and not get clouded by the wider themes making the news. Change can be daunting. But it is clearly vital to cementing retailers’ place in the ever-changing digital world.’

Accessing the right data and analysing against the right metrics is vital to managing the decisions that are going to make the difference between falling-away and thriving. By taking the first steps to making evidence-backed decisions, with a focus on the value of outcomes for the business, retailers will be set on a path toward success.