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Event Report: Shoptalk spreads the love to Europe

By Miya Knights, Publisher | Wednesday June 8 2022 | UPDATED 15.06.22

Retail Technology Magazine attends retail tech trade show’s inaugural European conference to see how well its US format travels in bringing the latest trends to London

Retailers are laser-focused on making sure they don’t deploy technology for technology’s sake while managing current industry challenges, it emerged at Shoptalk Europe this week.

Held in London, the show’s European debut pulled out all the stops to replicate the success it has enjoyed Stateside in becoming one of America's largest retail innovation shows in just three years.

A number of high-profile retailer speakers reconfirmed their faith in technology to win with customers and drive more sales. Tim Steiner, chief executive of online grocer Ocado, said retailers can foster growth through innovation, and research and development (R&D).

“We are constantly looking for new ways to drive efficiencies in the supply chain and our DCs [distribution centres],” he said. But, like many other of his fellow speakers, he also admitted that it will be essential for tech to contribute directly to the bottom line.

Frans Muller, chief executive of Dutch multinational food retail group Ahold Delhaize, suggested that tech should be put to work in service of three key customer drivers: convenience, value and relevance. “Experiential retail is at the heart of our strategy,” he said.

Sophie Moreau, president of global beauty chain, Sephora, echoed Muller’s sentiment by saying: “Our stores are social hubs.” Her observation marked a change in focus for retailers in attendance as they look to plan beyond recent, accelerated Covid-induced digital growth.

Maintaining digital sales growth

Even Steiner admitted online grocery, which saw the greatest growth of all retail sectors during pandemic lockdowns – albeit from a very low base – had returned to its 12% pre-pandemic UK market share. But he said the growth opportunity is now much greater.

With ecommerce and omnichannel fulfilment services, such as ‘click & collect’ (also known and ‘buy online, pick up in-store’ or BOPIS), arguably saving a lot of retailers who were yet to fully digitally transform their business models, a lot tech on show was designed to consolidate and build on recent gains.

This is why the presence of so many ecommerce vendors, such as Shopify, BigCommerce, commercetools, Shopware and Spryker was marked in place of the more traditional, major vendor exhibitors that dominate other retail tech trade shows. Even Amazon was on hand to exhibit its Just Walk Out checkout-free point of sale (POS) solution.

As retailers adjust to a so-called “new normal” and prevailing uncertainty and volatility that will no doubt underpin it, it was clear from the case studies they shared that they are now hardening temporary digital fixes and taking more digitally-enabled capabilities offline, into their stores.

Bringing digital capabilities into stores

After making online gains from consumers' shift to digital, UK department store retailer, John Lewis is making sure it can capitalise as customers return to stores. “We've moved our loyalty program into the app, digital first, and we've grown the sales in the app to around 30% last year," commented Cassandra Bergsland, John Lewis omnichannel director.

“We always start with the mobile experience. Even the physical spaces are designed to be interactive for the customers' phones,” added Nicola Thompson, chief executive of UK homeware and furniture retailer, Made.com.

To that end, it was good to see retailers and their suppliers focus on near to mid-term technology development, as opposed to emerging innovations around the likes of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the Metaverse.

After taking to the Shoptalk Europe stage yesterday Elodie Perthuisot, chief ecommerce, digital transformation and data officer at French multinational grocery giant, Carrefour, commented in a LinkedIn post: “In my keynote, I explained what we in Carrefour are looking for in our digital transformation: no tech for the sake of tech, but tech that gives us solutions to improve our business.

“Key examples are tools for our associates and store managers, that give them access to relevant data, information and mobile solutions without leaving the store's floor.”

Shoptalk Europe will return to ExCeL London from 12 to 14 June 2023.

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