Read on for insights from the two-day event
The Retail Technology Show has become a calendar mainstay for ‘Europe’s most forward-thinking retailers and leading tech innovators’. Over 10,000 attendees flock to west London’s Olympia each spring to network, exhibit retail tech solutions, and attend (or present) talks on the latest trends in these sectors.
Olympia abuzz with industry energy
I was among the thousands of industry professionals to attend this year’s event from 24-25 April. The enthusiasm from both speakers and audiences alike was plain to see – there was a palpable and exciting sense of openness to sharing ideas across the market. The dust has settled after a whirlwind couple of days, and now seems like a good time to reflect on some of the main topics that dominated the 2023 Retail Technology Show.
Bricks-and-mortar shopping bounces back
The return of in-store shopping since the pandemic was a major talking point at this year’s event. Retail has witnessed a swing back to pre-COVID bricks-and-mortar shopping habits, leading to more cautious funding of new digital initiatives.
However, there are still plenty of opportunities in physical shopping – for instance, now it’s even more incumbent on retailers to sell projects and initiatives on how they can improve the in-store experience and drive wider revenue growth.
Main sources of revenue growth are data-based
Two of the key facets for driving physical revenue are rooted in hard data. One of these drivers is personalisation. How retailers can learn about the customer online to micro-target what they want, making them part of a community that can drive products and marketing forward, are core areas of interest. Amid the cost of living crisis, retaining consumers is absolutely essential – the last thing retailers want is for the increasing numbers of price-driven customers to go elsewhere.
Similarly, how consumers operate in-store is another main focus for the industry. This involves reconfiguring product placement and marketing efforts, feeding these through to in-store employees to drive efficiency and service improvement as well as staff satisfaction. Data collection is more crucial than ever, with more and more companies developing their data capacity internally to improve the deployment of solutions across the business – online, in-store, and for employees. Online programmes have enjoyed massive instant buy-in and funding over the last few years; now, businesses need to be more cognisant of how they sell, and the overall place of online shopping for funding and growth within organisations. Slow sales in the cost of living crisis are not helping on this front.
The return to the office is a hot topic – and candidates can use this to their advantage
Shopping habits were not the only thing to be shaken up by COVID-19. Three years on, debate continues as to the benefits and drawbacks of in-person and remote working – something that has been particularly prevalent in tech. Increased demand for digital skills in the wake of the pandemic often left tech professionals holding the cards when it came to working conditions, though this has begun to shift. The return to the office is very definitely real, even in retail, and this was on everyone’s mind at this year’s Retail Technology Show. All the C-suite professionals I speak to are back travelling internationally, while VPs and directors are back in the office at least two to three days a week in Europe and the US.
Among many tech professionals, the return to in-person working is unwelcome. However, while more junior tech workers continue to push back and seek fully remote working options, between the current tricky economic headwinds and the scaling back of digital post-pandemic, hybrid working is here to stay for most major businesses. Still, this is not necessarily bad news for candidates. In this competitive employment market, with both big tech and consultancy firms scaling back their digital operations, being open to hybrid working as well as travel can make you a more attractive commodity in the job market.