The third annual Retail Tomorrow event brought together the great and the good movers and shakers from the retail landscape for what has now inarguably taken its place as one of the regular events in the UK retail calendar.
It has taken me the best part of a week to come down from the ceiling after a head-spinning couple of days last week at the Four Seasons in Hampshire. Our mission-statement for Retail Tomorrow is ‘Igniting ideas & accelerating innovation’ and the conference programme is always focused on delivering both the visionary and the practical.
Our keynote speakers provided the vision thing. Retail behaviourologist Ken Hughes’ wide-ranging talk gave us thoughtful examples of when retailers and brands may have been less than thoughtful, and unpicked why the Artificial Intelligence revolution is so important to retail. Consumer champion Kate Hardcastle’s talk ‘What would Mary Poppins do?’ proved to be much harder-hitting than the framing device of the lovable Disney character would suggest, and probably took some retailers out of their comfort zone. Customer experience ninja Martin Newman tackled ‘Customer-Centric Transformation in a World of Disruption’ and treated us to some of the key concepts from his book ‘100 Practical Ways to Improve Customer Experience’ and, as I mentioned, heads were by the end spinning with inspiration and possibility. (If you want more detail about these– fret not, I’ll be thinking about these deeper in the next few blogs.)
On the practical side, our tireless ‘Dragons’ Den’ sessions once again introduced retailers to technology they wouldn’t necessarily have come across before and gave them the chance to vote Yes/No in real-time. My thanks again to the very game and very brave participants for eleven pitches across three sessions, nearly all of whom passed the 50% ‘buy-in’ mark.
The interactive workshops with technology partners took a deeper dive into various aspects of retail challenges (from inventory intelligence to empowering associates, to Brexit’s impact on retail, and much more). My team tell me the workshops were indeed packed with insight, debate, and compelling examples of emerging best practice.
That the second day of the event marked International Women’s Day was a very happy coincidence. Retail might be one of the sectors awash with strong and successful female role models, but the technology sector has, traditionally, been less so. I think the tech partners in the room took my instruction for them to bring more female colleagues next year good-humouredly but seriously. (Let’s see…)
Over the coming weeks we will publish an event summary, a video (or two), and some fresh blogs picking up on some of the keynotes and retail trends discussed at the conference. So as they say … watch this space.
For now, I just want to say a HUGE thank you to all the retailers and tech partners who made it such as success. If you weren’t able to make it, keep an eye out for its sister event Retail Tonight taking place in London in September. And do everything you can to make sure you don’t miss Retail Tomorrow 2020.