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AI CX E-commerce Fashion Fast fashion Podcast Retail trends Technology

Ikea Roblox, Walmart Drones & AI Update, Pretty Little Thing Charging for Returns

The interview from this episode originally aired on The Globalist from Monocle Radio. Natalie discusses the latest global retail stories with Georgina Godwin:

  • Ikea’s Roblox venture: the launch of a virtual store and how Ikea has become the first brand to offer paid work on the gaming platform.
  • Walmart’s tech update: innovation in delivery – drones and at-home delivery – and the beta launch of a generative AI-powered shopping assistant.
  • Pretty Little Thing becomes the latest UK retailer to start charging for returns.

You can listen to the original episode of The Globalist Episode 3352.

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AI Amazon CX E-commerce Non-food retail Quick commerce Retail trends Supermarkets Technology

It’s a Density Game, with Deliveroo’s Paul Wilkinson

Paul Wilkinson, Product Director at Deliveroo and former Tesco and Amazon exec, joins Natalie to discuss retail technology trends.

They explore the evolution of quick commerce, why Deliveroo won’t chase 15-minute delivery and moving into non-food to “bring the whole high street to the customer”.


Other topics covered include: learnings from the restaurant sector, supermarket collaboration, voice commerce and frictionless checkout.

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AI Consumer CX Fashion High Streets Podcast Retail leadership Retail trends Returns Technology

The Future of Retail with Chris Browne

Chris Browne, former Global Retail Director at Ted Baker, joins Natalie to discuss:

  • Visual AI and the opportunities for fashion retail  
  • How tech can enhance the shopping experience
  • Addressing the perennial problem of returns
  • What Western retailers can learn from Asia
  • Chris’ vision for the future of the high street

Prefer video? You can also watch Natalie and Chris’ conversation on YouTube.

This episode is part of a special collaboration with the Richmond Retail & E-commerce Directors’ Forum. Chris will be speaking at the event alongside leaders from across the industry – Tesco, Charlotte Tilbury, TikTok, N Brown and more.

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AI Economy ESG High Streets Inflation Podcast Retail leadership Store of the future

Helen Dickinson on the BRC’s 2024 Retail Manifesto 

Helen Dickinson OBE, CEO of the British Retail Consortium, joins Natalie on the podcast to discuss the BRC’s 2024 manifesto. They discuss: 

  • Business rates: how is the retail industry disproportionately affected and what does reform look like?
  • Retail jobs and impact of AI: how can the industry continue to attract and retain talent?
  • Shoplifting and staff abuse: what more can be done to deter retail theft?
  • ESG: how can retailers accelerate their transition to net zero and what are the BRC’s policy recommendations? 
  • Tax-free shopping: did the government underestimate the impact of scrapping this and might we see a U-turn?
  • The everywhere economy: what is the BRC’s vision for the future of retail?

This episode is available on the usual channels (Apple and Spotify) or you can watch a video version on YouTube.

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AI ESG Retail trends

3 Retail Trends You Cannot Ignore in 2024

Paid partnership with Manhattan Associates


After years of volatility and disruption, might 2024 bring some much-needed stability?

I’m optimistic that we are safely out of ‘permacrisis’ mode, but that doesn’t mean that 2024 will be uneventful. Technology will continue to disrupt the status quo, improving operational efficiencies and taking the customer experience to new heights. Here are 3 areas to watch:

AI: From Intrigue to Implementation

The buzz and excitement of generative AI bursting into the mainstream dominated the headlines in 2023, with ChatGPT alone reaching 100 million users within just a couple of months. But things will really begin to heat up in 2024: this will be the year of deployment. AI is no longer hype; it’s reality. We are on the cusp of another ‘smartphone moment’ where AI will disrupt every aspect of the value chain – from product development right through to consumption.

From a customer experience perspective, the holy grail of hyper-personalisation is finally within reach. AI-powered shopping assistants are not the future, they are here now. Rich, real-time, relevant experiences are rapidly becoming the norm. I’m personally excited to see how AI develops in our kitchens, helping consumers not only with meal inspiration but also reducing food waste, and also how AI-enabled virtual try-ons might help tackle the perennial problem of returns.

Tech-Enabled Human Touch

As retailers recognised the value in repurposed, tech-infused stores, the collective view on bricks and mortar shifted from ‘liability in a digital era’ to ‘top asset’. The industry’s primary goal of the past decade has been digitising our physical spaces. As we look ahead to the next decade, the focus will shift to making our digital spaces more physical, more immersive, more lifelike. We’re already seeing this with the rise of virtual try-ons, liveshopping, social commerce and virtual shopping consultations, to name a few. Mixed reality is coming. In the future, we really won’t know where the physical world ends and the digital one begins.

As e-commerce transitions from its current static, transactional state to one of multiple dimensions, physical retailers will need to ensure they are leveraging their staff to provide a unique, elevated experience. Retailers must look to technology here to help democratise concierge-level service, allowing staff to serve the customer in both an efficient and highly personalised way – that’s everything from clienteling to allowing customers to pay on the spot or swiftly collecting or returning an online order. Tech-enabled human touch will differentiate the winners from the losers in 2024.

ESG: Firmly Back on the Agenda

In recent years, progress on the ESG agenda may have been quietly stunted as both retailers and consumers prioritised cost efficiencies. However, it’s safe to say that this is one trend that is never going away, and I believe sustainability will be a top priority for retailers in 2024 and beyond.

Transparency will be a key theme this year. Consumers look to retailers to guide them in their decision-making and, with heightened awareness around both greenwashing and bluewashing, there is simply no hiding behind false claims or labels. Retailers will be judged on their authenticity. They should be striving for honesty over perfection. Retailers must have full visibility over their supply chain and be able to effectively communicate their practices and standards to consumers. I believe we’ll see greater demand for product durability and traceability around retailers’ broader circularity efforts. Increasingly, shoppers will want to align with brands whose values reflect their own.

 

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AI Consumer Economy ESG Podcast Technology

Inflation, ‘Insperiences’, Industry Outlook for 2024

Richard Lim, CEO of Retail Economics, joins Natalie for a wide-ranging discussion on:

  • The health of the UK consumer and why 2024 will be a year of two halves.
  • Richard’s inflation theory (listen to find out!)
  • Combating cost pressures in 2024 – business rates, labour costs and more.
  • November data releases – interpreting the BRC retail sales and Barclaycard consumer spending data – from ‘insperiences’ to ‘revenge spending’
  • Digital transformation progress and where next for the industry.
  • Separating hype from reality – why generative AI is not ‘the next metaverse’ (in buzzword bingo).
  • ESG – managing conflicting consumer demands for convenience and sustainability.

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AI Podcast Technology

AI: The Word of 2023

Collins Dictionary has announced that ‘AI’ is the Word of Year for 2023. Miya Knights, Retail Consultant and Publisher of Retail Technology Magazine, joins Natalie to discuss the wide-ranging implications of artificial intelligence. They break down the learnings from last week’s first ever AI Safety Summit, held at Bletchley Park, exploring both short-term and longer-term risks posed by the technology.

They then move into a conversation about AI’s impact on the retail sector and how it will transform the way we shop, exploring the many opportunities for retailers  – from driving back-end efficiencies to utilising AI-powered shopping assistants to deliver more tailored customer experiences.

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AI Retail trends Technology

Perpetual Disruption Requires Perpetual Innovation

If you’re not innovating, you’re standing still and that is the most dangerous place to be in retail. Perpetual disruption requires perpetual innovation.

The most successful retailers today are those that reject the status quo. They foster a culture of innovation and fast failure. Everything they do begins and ends with the customer. They understand that they have to keep moving, constantly evolving their proposition, and experimenting with new technologies in order to stay relevant in this digital era.

That’s easier said than done in the current climate. Ongoing cost pressures and soft consumer demand mean that retailers must deal with more pressing, short-term challenges. In times like these, innovation can often get put to the back burner. 

However, now more than ever, it’s essential that retailers embrace technology as a means of driving efficiencies as well as enhancing the customer experience. I keep coming back to the phrase ‘tech-enabled human touch’. In my view, this is what’s going to separate the retail winners from the losers going forward. Store associates are a retailer’s most valuable asset. Equipping them with the right digital tools means that they can quickly address any customer pain points and cut friction from the in-store experience (ie. help a shopper to find an item on the shelf, reorder an item that is out of stock, or check a customer out on the spot with a mobile POS device).

And, with greater transparency around a customer’s shopping habits across both physical and digital channels, it also enables staff to offer a more deeply customised experience. This is only going to improve as retailers look to AI to power those more personalised recommendations. 

And things are moving quickly. At a client event in Cannes earlier this month, Manhattan Associates CEO Eddie Capel reminded us that it took Netflix ten years to get to 100 million users. It took TikTok 9 months. And for ChatGPT – just two months.

Generative AI will transform retail. This is an industry that is accustomed to a certain level of disruption, but today technology is progressing at a mind-boggling pace. Many believe we are on the cusp of another ‘smartphone moment’ where an immersive digital world is about to transform our lives.

But will we all be donning VR headsets and living in the metaverse? I don’t think so. When exploring these new disruptive technologies, it can be difficult to separate the hype from reality. When it comes to the metaverse, there is much scepticism and general befuddlement. What is it? How do you enter it? Is anyone even there?

It’s difficult to define right now because it’s still being built. And if you ask those who are building it what the metaverse is, you’ll get a ton of different answers. This means that to the layperson consumer it can be a difficult, almost impossible, concept to grasp.

However, just as retailers have digitised their physical stores, they must now turn their focus to making our digital experiences more immersive. Today, online shopping is still fairly one-dimensional. It’s transactional. But it’s moving in the right direction – it’s becoming more engaging and discovery-led. For example, retailers are increasingly using video and 3D images (often AI-generated) to create more contextual experiences for online shoppers. Augmented reality (AR) is bridging the gap between physical and digital retail, especially in beauty, luxury, footwear and home. Virtual shopping consultations are connecting online shoppers with in-store staff, again harnessing expertise to elevate the customer experience. Liveshopping, too, is picking up momentum and social commerce is taking the discoverable and making it transactional. People used to find products; today products find people.

If we look even further into the future, we won’t know where the physical world ends and the digital one begins. Our AI-powered shopping assistants will make our lives easier and more connected than ever before (Bill Gates even thinks they will kill off Amazon and Google search). Virtual showrooms will never replace the physical store but they will become the next best thing. And spatial commerce has the potential to completely redefine the online shopping experience.

The future is wildly exciting for retail. Don’t get left behind.


This commentary originally featured in the KPMG/Retail Next Retail Think Tank Q3 whitepaper. Read in full.

Categories
AI Podcast Technology

Le Chatbot: Carrefour Ups its Generative AI Game

French retailing giant Carrefour has become the first grocery retailer to integrate ChatGPT into its e-commerce website. Its new AI-powered chatbot Hopla will help online shoppers make decisions based on their budgets or dietary constraints. In this episode, Natalie explores the potential for this technology to inject more inspiration into the online grocery experience. Food shopping is habitual and most shoppers are sleepwalking when ordering groceries online. Can AI solve that problem by providing a deeply customisable service for the shopper?

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AI Amazon Podcast

Will AI Kill the Amazon Star?

In this week’s episode, Natalie shares the highlights from her recent interview with Simon Arora, former CEO of B&M, and delves into Bill Gates’ prediction that AI will lead to the demise of Amazon. “You will never go to a search site again, you will never go to a productivity site, you’ll never go to Amazon again,” Gates said at an event in San Francisco earlier this week. How will the development of an AI personal assistant alter our habits in the future? How might it transform the way we interact and shop online? And who else is predicting Amazon’s demise…?

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