Disruption in retail

The retail market is going through a tough time right now, with one of the worst Christmases on record for the high street we are seeing empty shops becoming an alarmingly regular sight. In the latest episode of Comms Business Live David Dungay was joined by two experts in the retail space. Dan Cunliffe, MD of Pangea, and Daniel Scott, Director of Virocom, spoke about how they view the next wave of disruption for retailers and how that may impact resellers.

David Dungay (DD): What is your current assessment of the retail market?

Daniel Scott (DS): The retail market is going through a transition, historically shopping centres used to take large footprints just outside towns and they are now realising that as the online competition is consistently growing that these shopping centres have to adapt. You can buy anything online, it doesn’t matter what product it is. If you went to a store those products might not be so easily accessible, so they are having to change. Shopping centres are having to embrace different forms of technology and different ways of bringing people into the shopping centres and offering entertainment. I see a lot of ice and cinemas in shopping centres, as well as other attractions. Shops are looking for anything that will improve the customer experience when customers come in.

DC: I think some of the larger retailers should use their real estate for more hybrid ideas, click and collect is a good one. Why not integrate third party services like Deliveroo to get services out there quicker?

I think it is about creating an experience of pre, post and during for customers coming into your store. That might be pop-up stores, moving outside of your store for a short period of time where there are lots of people. Why wouldn’t a retailer or a fast-food restaurant go to a festival environment just to build more brand presence? There are solutions which enable you to deliver an in-store experience outside.

DD: Is voice, Alexa and other AI devices, impacting the way people purchase?

DS: Yes it is. But I think we have to understand what our customers want before we make those decisions. It’s very easy to get a shiny new product that people want to talk about, artificial intelligence is an example of this. Sometimes we need to go back to basics and understand what value we draw from getting customers into the stores. There are certain applications and products which understand how people are interacting and communicating. Some companies use chat bots to understand what customers are actually asking for. A lot of people don’t want to shop at shopping centres outside of their local vicinity. They want to go to their shops and interact with people. For me it’s more about upskilling your staff, and giving real value to them. Yes, AI and IoT devices do have a part to play but I think that is still quite shiny and new.

Dan Cunliffe (DC): When it comes to ordering items with voice activated devices I think it is about the value of the item or what the item is. If it’s a passing comment like, “Hey Alexa, buy me some milk and bread” I think that is quite normal. If you are going to but something a bit more expensive or something that takes a bit of effort then I don’t see it playing a big part at all.

DD: Where does the Channel fit in, where can they look to add value to retailers?

DC: I know my customers have gone to retailers with cost cutting solutions. From a cost auditing perspective there is some pretty cool solutions around IoT with things like building management solutions. With those solutions users can improve the way they use energy, particularly with the bigger retailers, and we can help them understand how to manage their spend.

DS: Tier 1 and 2 retailers typically have between 50 and 200 sites, they have a huge proportion of hardware and software items that are going about a daily routine of keeping the lights on. Historically, these retailers have IT departments that are very stretched. They are under increasing pressure to cut costs, I think as resellers we can offer real value to them by taking a view and looking after assets, certainly from a GDPR perspective, or managing equipment which is going end of life.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine