Rethinking Retail at WIRED Retail 2017

Pitched as a step towards the long awaited 'store of the future', WIRED Retail 2017 showcased how existing & future technologies have the potential to rethink retail, here are my top 5 takeouts.

One: Tech creates amazing potential routes to reimagine cost of doing retail business

Whether its applying the Airbnb model to fixed warehousing costs (check out Stowga, the EY Access Startup winner of the event) or utilising robotics to create profitable on-demand micro fulfilment (like CommonSense Robotics), the historical low margin challenge of operating business is being challenged and represents enormous potential.

Photo Credit: LinkedIn

Of course, you can create a business where the ‘fixed' costs are geographically roaming, perhaps in response to ‘nearest’ out performing ‘cheapest’ on search trends since May 28 2017. In the most charming of the sessions, Per Cromwell helped us imagine the store of the future which solves the logistical challenge of connecting shopper with product with a physically roaming store (Read more on @FastCompany about the ‘Moby’ beta test in Shanghai with 10 more to come in the next year).

‍Photo Credit: LinkedIn

Two: Search format will continue to evolve and search will continue to create the future business ideas

As technology enables it to do so, search will continue to pervade all moments in the consumer journey and the format will evolve to be fit for purpose - visual mobile search (take a look at Snap Tech or the epic growth of Instagram Stories), text desktop search, voice ambient search. Consistent with the theme I discussed with Simon Gosling at the Unruly #FutureHome about the fundamental building blocks of marketing (traditional, social, ambient). 

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The nature of the analytics of search are facilitating companies to create business in categories long forgotten (take slippers, as Martin Harbechbrought to stage) and, through targeting the passive shoppers within any given category, discovery creates a consumer base that has historically been largely ignored.

Three: Mobile web gets the traffic while mobile apps get the time so build your brand experience in the apps that matter to people

The opportunity to create rich immersive brand experiences (discover, immerse, commerce) within the apps people spend most time becomes more viable with progressive web apps and/or Android instant apps (credit: Daniel Murray, Grabble). 

Conversely, if you want to guarantee that at least half of the people who visit your site will leave without it even loading, use and see if your load time is over 3 seconds (thanks Jeremy Morris for the link).

‍Photo Credit: LinkedIn

Four: Trust matters, especially for conversion

‍Photo Credit: LinkedIn

Despite the accelerated levels of adoption of m-commerce within retail, ‘trust’ continues to be critical for basket completion. 

Amazon Pay claims that is one of three benefits for integrating their service into commerce sites, along with Commerce Identity (what was my password for this site again …) and the potential for offline/online experience integration (multiple devices, physical and digital storefronts).

‍Photo Credit: LinkedIn

Trust also creates a different dimension to the value of physical real estate - for now as consumers and as Google, to facilitate the algorithm, we continue to rate physical manifestations of stores (as experienced by Tictail and the opening of their NYC boutique).

Five: The best tech will always be invisible

Whether it is the power of AI to create curated personalised experiences on dot coms like or powered by QubitAura or the potential for use cases (both consumer and B2B) for mixed reality, the broad scale adoption will be driven by a frictionless consumer experience that is only enhanced by the smart tech behind it. The question remains how much access consumers are willing to provide to their data to create a genuinely differentiated experience.

And I’ll leave with a final thought, inspired by John Vary’s session from the JLAB at John Lewis,‘We explore or we expire’ as Buzz Aldrin once said or as I would less eloquently put it, JFDI.

Written by

Joanna Allen


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