Published on in RetailDigital Transformation

Whether you’re working in the back office or on the shop floor, the retail world moves fast.

I’ve worked in this industry for a long time now, and I’ve never been more amazed at the difference a year makes.

Let’s look at some of the 2017 highlights from this blog.

The rise of robotic process automation

By using software to emulate human interactions with applications and systems, robotic process automation (RPA) can perform various procedural tasks normally done by people.

It seems these ‘robots’ have been taking the retail world by storm, as I explained in my blog post on the subject.

And when you look at the benefits this tech is bringing to retailers it’s easy to see why: joining up systems and enhancing security, for example.

The real gift of RPA lies in the way it can positively impact the employee experience, however, freeing people from the daily grind of repetitive tasks so they can focus on bigger and better things like giving shoppers and personalised service.

As the working world changes beyond recognition in the coming years, RPA will play a huge part in creating more valuable work for people to do.

The fight for diversity

In October this year, Sarah Kaiser joined forces with Women in Retail to ask three working women about their experiences.

One of those women was Amy Sinton, Commercial Manager at Pets at Home Vet Group.

Amy said that while she’s pleased with the number of women doing well at her company, she recognises her experience isn’t common across the sector.

With the pressures of the retail industry and the strain of family life, it’s not always easy for women to get ahead. But many are making enormous strides and I’m excited to see things develop in the coming years.

Huge opportunities for the high street

Speaking of making strides, the high street is far from dead. In fact, it has the opportunity to thrive if it makes the right changes now.

This was the message at the heart of our ‘Forgotten Shop Floor’ report, for which we surveyed 1,000 consumers and 1,000 retail employees from across the UK to learn their thoughts about in-store technology.

The results were eye-opening. Employees said they could serve customers quicker and more effectively using their own devices, while shoppers said they would happily use Amazon or eBay over traditional high street names if those online giants had a physical presence.

Some alarming findings, no doubt. But nothing that can’t be turned around with the right technology investment.

I think 2018 could be a really exciting year for bricks-and-mortar shops.

Bringing the theatre back to the shop floor

One of the best ways for high street stores to differentiate themselves will be to create a personalised in-store experience.

In the retail session at Fujitsu World Tour this year, the panel referred to this as “bringing back the theatre of shopping.”

This is the only way traditional retail brands will fight of the likes of Amazon et al.

They need to stop trying to compete and instead find their own differentiator. And tech like augmented reality is the enabler of that – fuelled by brilliant data, of course.

The move to voice ordering

While we’re on the subject of digital transformation in retail, another tool has been making some waves this year: voice ordering.

As I wrote in a recent blog post, 20% of all searches now are made via voice, while 45% of consumers are already using or intend to use voice assistants in the next 12 months.

Clearly, this is about to take off. The question is which retailers will adopt early and get ahead and which will be left lagging behind.

Forget what you thought you knew

The above subheading seemed an appropriate way to summarise the way the retail industry has evolved in the past 12 months.

After Forum this year, I summarised some of the most important points about retail tech’s transformation, namely:

  • Customer experience matters more than ever
  • Back office is the new front office
  • Reactive IT is no longer an option

The above bullet points tell a simple story: transformation in the retail industry is not showing any sign of slowing down, and to ignore what’s happening around you could be devastating in the long run.

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It’s been a brilliant year in tech and retail, and hopefully, this post has given you a useful rundown of all the important developments.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and I look forward to working with you in 2018!

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