RBTE is where the UK and European retail sector converges to seek out the latest technology, hear from those at the heart of the industry and network with their peers.
The latest edition of the event, now in its seventh year, took place in London last week – and it featured a packed two days of high-level retail technology talk from business leaders as well as exhibition stands from hundreds of international solutions providers.
This year, mobile point of sale software and retail analytics were front and centre as retailers scramble to find new ways to understand and engage customers in-store.
Rosalyn Potts, digital customer experience manager at clothing brand George at Asda, took part in a fascinating panel debate which was set up to focus on e-commerce but could not help but slip into discussions about the importance of connected commerce. Retailers just can’t afford to think in siloes anymore.
Potts, who was joined on the panel by Fabrice Khuller, senior product owner of digital and technology at Sainsbury’s, said the modern retail challenge is very clearly around how to “drive consistency across the different channels”.
Both retailers – two of the largest players in the UK market – agreed that businesses in the sector need to do more to provide shoppers with a seamless customer journey wherever they choose to shop.
In a separate session, the importance of store assistants in the customer loyalty marketing process was a central topic.
Dave Abbott, omnichannel manager at shoe retailer The Dune Group, highlighted the journey retailers must take to “win the hearts and minds of the store employees” and ensure they are not frightened to use technology to serve customers in the shopping journey. He underlined the multiple job roles now facing store staff in an omnichannel world, where they are required to fulfil online orders and understand their changing needs, and said retailers should prepare their staff accordingly.
People and technology
Charles de Clerck, the IT customer relations manager at upmarket grocer Waitrose, and Lola’s Cupcakes managing director, Asher Budwig, both highlighted the importance of combining people and technology in the store environment.
Whether a retailer invests in mobile point of sale software, kiosks or self-service machines, there was a clear message from speakers that interaction with people in a store is crucially important for customers in the modern age, and technology should be used only when it enhances the experience.
Establishing a fine balance between automation and the human touch is very much an ambition for many businesses speaking at RBTE – with Budwig suggesting it is important that tech investment suits the individual retailer’s brand image.
It was also great to hear Boots’ head of personalisation Dave Robinson reveal how the health and beauty retailer uses retail business analytics to make the shopping experience more relevant to individual shoppers.
Boots’ internal analyst team crunch data which enters the organisation from various streams, such as its Advantage loyalty card or from its opticians’ arm or online operation, and this insight is used to set different commercial goals for each of its customer segments. Very clever practice.
The place to be for European retail
With such renowned retail names talking in the conference theatres and many senior members of their technology teams walking the floors of the exhibition hall, RBTE was the place to be last week.
We were joined at RBTE by our customer Oscar Jacobson, which recently invested in iVend’s omnichannel platform to align its trading channels. And as the Swedish menswear retailer continues its journey with us to better connect its store staff with a single view of stock and customer data, it was encouraging to see other retailers have identified this as a crucial part of their strategies too.
The message from RBTE 2017 was very clear: retailers are using technology to help their staff serve customers better. And there is clearly no denying the power of sophisticated retail business intelligence in modern retail.