High Streets Supermarkets Technology

The Shoplifting Epidemic

Chris Noice, Communications Director at the Association of Convenience Stores, joins Natalie to discuss Britain’s shoplifting epidemic. They explore:

  • The scale of the problem and factors driving the growing wave of shoplifting.
  • What motivates shoplifters and is it a victimless crime?
  • Cops in shops – will we see more retailers and shopping centres collaborate with the police for in-store police stations?
  • From equipping staff with body cams to hiring undercover security guards – what more can retailers do to deter theft?
  • Retail staff abuse and the issue of under-reporting.
  • The rise of middle class shoplifting and how automation is exacerbating the problem.
  • Will retailers see more TikTok-inspired mass shoplifting rampages?
  • How can the government take action to curb the rise in shoplifting?

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AI Consumer Economy ESG 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 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.

Payments Technology

Next Level Retail

Live from Paris Retail Week, Natalie speaks to FreedomPay and Worldpay about unified commerce and how payments are evolving to meet customer needs. Panellists include:

The panel discussion can also be viewed on YouTube.

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Supermarkets Technology

Friction vs. Reward

Richard Hammond, CEO of Uncrowd and fellow retail author, joins Natalie to explore the differences in US and UK grocery retailing. Why have British retailers failed to crack the American market? When is it ok to have friction? Automation – how can retailers balance customer satisfaction and operational efficiencies? And what is the risk of deprioritizing CX investment in the current climate? 

Listen to the end to hear Richard’s own experience of being stuck in self-checkout jail. 

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Amazon Technology

Why Amazon Should Buy Ocado

Brittain Ladd, former Amazon executive and one of the world’s leading experts in retail strategy, robotics, microfulfillment, logistics, and supply chain management, joins Natalie to break down what a potential Amazon-Ocado deal might look like. They discuss:

  • Why Brittain believes that Amazon should buy Ocado.
  • Why Amazon would want to double down on grocery e-commerce just when shoppers are returning to supermarkets.
  • Whether acquiring Ocado would be a tech/fulfilment play or a chance to finally accelerate its own grocery ambitions.
  • Implications for Ocado’s existing global partners (ie. Kroger, Sobeys, Coles, ICA, Auchan etc)
  • What is Amazon’s end game – does it want to be a grocer or a technology vendor?
  • How might grocery e-commerce evolve and what role will AI play?
  • Why Brittain believes that Amazon will still be disrupting by 2030.

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AI 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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Fast fashion Technology

Fast Fashion’s Fast Checkout

Boris Planer, Head of Consumer and Market Insight at the trend forecasters WGSN, joins Natalie to discuss the state of German retail and in particular why department store chain Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof is closing nearly half of its stores.

Natalie also breaks down Inditex’s annual results, exploring topics such as:

  • Self-checkouts in non-food retail. Inditex’s plans to eliminate hard tags on its clothes is expected to speed up the checkout process by up to 50%. Will it work? Who else is looking to cut friction at the checkout and how? Will we see more general merchandise retailers invest in solutions like self-checkout, scan & go, and equipping staff with mobile POS devices?
  • The importance of human touch in digital stores.
  • Innovative features of the Battersea Power Station Zara store, opened late 2022, including two-hour click & collect, an automated online returns point and RFID-enabled fitting rooms.

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AI loyalty Technology

How Will ChatGPT Impact Retail?

Miya Knights, author, consultant and publisher of, joins Natalie Berg to break down the biggest news stories reshaping retail.

They discuss:

  • Recent changes to loyalty schemes at major UK retailers Boots and M&S. Are points-based schemes becoming a thing of the past as consumers demand real-time value and rewards? Or are these changes a sign that loyalty schemes are too costly to run at a time when retailers are facing an incredible amount of cost pressure themselves? Would you pay £120 a year for an Amazon Prime-style Sparks Plus subscription? And why is Amazon’s Prime membership so successful?
  • Instacart becoming the latest player in the retail space to trial ChatGPT. What is it and why have the grocers been so quick to jump on this new technology? Who is using it today and what are the AI opportunities for non-food retailers in the future?
  • Barcelona’s plans to halve emissions from delivery vehicles with 40% of online orders to be delivered to collection points, instead of individual homes, by 2030. Will other cities follow suit? Is this proof that the future of e-commerce really is click & collect? And how is Amazon decarbonising the last mile in Europe?

Listen to the episode.

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