RBTE 2018 – Day two overview

Personalisation and mobile optimisation were the order of the day at the Retail Business Technology Expo, with industry players stressing the importance of understanding the consumer throughout the conference sessions.

Day two kicked off with a panel discussion on digital payments systems, and how retailers can reduce basket abandonment rates without increasing fraud. “Data is the gateway to sales,” said Paul Prodrick, head of UK corporates at Elavon, who stated that customer analytics will be the basis of every retail business in the future.

The panel generally agreed with this sentiment, while Jonathan Wood, senior vice president of consumer applications at Vocalink, warned that consumers are increasingly worried about the use and safety of their data. High profile data breaches, coupled with the new General Data Protection Regulation, will make customers more weary of where and how their data is used. “The more data that retailers want, the more consumers worry,” said Wood, who believes that data collection must now also be at the benefit of the customer.

An emergence of companies offering API experiences and loyalty programmes will help smaller retailers to collect data, according to Guillaume Pousaz, founder and chief executive of Checkout.com. “We’re seeing a convergence of data, mobile experience and loyalty,” Pousaz said, highlighting that this can only be at the benefit for the consumer. He described the necessity for websites to now be responsive to mobile, while they must also accept payments of any kind – old and new.

The ever-evolving demands of the customer are the root cause of the pressures placed on retailers, and this was picked up on in the next discussion ‘Trends Driving E-commerce in 2018’. With the likes of Amazon leading the way in payments and delivery innovation, customers are increasingly expectant of state-of-the-art technologies. Miranda Clarke, strategic account manager at O2 Digital, warned that retailers must be careful when implementing new technologies, and must ensure that they know their customer base first before invest heavily in features that may not be relevant to their particular audience.

“Customers do not think in channels or departments,” noted Mark Lewis, chief technology officer at Practicology, suggesting that retailers must be unified across all aspects of their business – online, in-store, supply chain and deliveries – to provide customers with the seamless experience that is often now expected.

A question from the floor asked the panel whether retailers should see Amazon as a threat or a marketplace platform on which to expand their sales. Lewis remarked that retailers should be extra careful and have a clear strategy when partnering with Amazon, describing it as “dancing with the devil”.

However, Camilla Tress, e-commerce strategist at fashion retailer Oliver Bonas, stated that partnering with Amazon in the US has become a priority for the company, noting that more than half of all shopping journeys across the pond begin with the e-commerce giant. “Smaller retailers cannot compete with Amazon, so you must differentiate yourself from them,” she explained, adding that providing experiences that make the customer feel like part of the brand is something with Amazon cannot do.

The next talk looked at whether in-store payments are fulfilling their potential, and what can be learned from early implementations. The increasing speed of changing customer demand was again the focal point of conversation, with Mark McMurtrie, director of Payments Consultancy, noting that it has got to the point that retailers now must be apologetic, often with signs, when they do not have contactless functionality.

Craig Borrett, product director at 3C Payments, championed the use of mobile payments and the importance of transaction speed for retailers, especially food and drink outlets. “NFC is the quickest payment option, and other methods such as QR codes will struggle to take off as they lack the sufficient speed-of-transaction.” He named Transport for London as a benchmark for success of mass adoption, with 50 per cent of all transactions now completed via contactless technology.

The final discussion of the day explored the future of retail and the shopping habits of the new wave of younger shoppers – Generation Z. Alexander Fryer, Internet of Things market development lead at Vodafone, said: “Gen Z are different in the way that they consumer media, and retailers could focus on this when planning their in-store experience.”

Ben Gale, managing director of Diebold Nixdorf, agreed with this, highlighting the growth of social media, gamification and augmented reality as ways for retailers to interact with their shoppers. The panel discussed the future of in-store retail, with Gale speaking on how retailers are now turning their stores into ‘destinations’ for consumers, hosting special events or features to get consumers through the door.

Find an overview of RBTE day one here.

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