RTIH: What are your retail predictions for 2022 and beyond?
NB: I think the speed of the consumer is going to continue to be the primary driver of retail strategy for the foreseeable future.
Everyone has been talking about whether customers want convenience and frictionless commerce or whether they want personalised, curated experiences; the reality for retailers is consumers are going to want both.
And it’s going to be up to the retailer to figure out which one the customer wants in any given instance, knowing that the same consumer might want frictionless one time and curated the next time – maybe even for the same category of goods.
Retailers don’t have control over the channels consumers use to engage with them – consumers have that control. The more that retailers can create both the customer insights and the flexibility to respond (to what those insights indicate the experience should be), the more successful the retailer will be.
RTIH: What will be the must watch retail technologies over the next year?
NB: Well, there are the technologies that everyone is talking about and are on the cusp of being “the next big thing” and there are the technologies that retailers are seeking to implement now – and I do always look at it first through the lens of the store.
As far as implementing now, we’re seeing a lot of emphasis still on shoring up pandemic investments, like expanding omnichannel use cases, contactless/alternate payments like buy now pay later, etc.
The challenge is that anything that requires a device in a store is problematic right now. The supply chain for tech is still highly constrained and that slows down how fast retailers can move.
As far as the next big thing, I know we’ve made a lot of runs at digitising the store and bridging digital and physical (I see a lot of ‘phygital’ lately).
I don’t think we really have a solid grasp of what those things mean, but we’re going to figure that out in the next year or two, and it will define the store investment strategy for many years to come after that.
RTIH: Which technologies are overhyped in your opinion?
NB: Livestreaming. I mean, it’s cool, it’s interesting, it definitely has its place in selling channels. But it’s not going to turn every store into a streaming studio and every store associate into a social media influencer.
And the metaverse. Again, it’s generating a lot of creativity in thinking, but it has a long way to go before it’s ubiquitous.
If you compare where we are in retail maturity of the metaverse vs. its equivalent from e-commerce, we’re in like 1997, when every retailer realised they needed a .com URL.
The metaverse is not open – what you buy in one world is not easily portable to another. And in meta’s version, people don’t even have feet – so how are you going to wear those Nike NFT shoes you just bought?