Retail Summit 2019

Last week I attended the Retail Summit, produced by Akolade at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

I saw world-renowned speakers talking about the digitisation: in-store and online. We also heard all things about the Asian market; from starting a business in Asia to capture the trust of Asian consumers. Unfortunately, I didn’t attend the second day which was all about fulfilment. For this blog post, I have selected the speakers I found interesting and listed a relevant takeaway for each of them. Throughout the summit and for this recap, I kept my UX designer lens.

Digitisation: in-store and online

  • Rob Kinkade stated the importance of breaking down barriers within an organisation. He said that too often organisations slow down their customer-centric efforts, due to internal silos and conflicting priorities.
  • Steven Dennis introduced the 8 essentials of remarkable retail and the importance of having a culture of experimentation; digitally-enabled, human-centered, harmonised, personal, mobile, connected, memorable and radical. You can find more information about these 8 essentials on his website.

    Steven Dennis talking about culture.

  • Alice Barbery said that leaders in retail needs to be in touch with the workforce, the disconnect between management and the workforce can threaten the delivery of great customer experience if not the whole business.
  • Fabio Bartola explained that at Amazon, they start with a press release when designing a new product or service. This approach rallies the team around a vision and keeps the team focused.
  • Suzan Kereere talked about the latest innovation in payment and the surge of mobile commerce. I was impressed to see that 70% of Australian mobile payment users are repeat customers, selling online happens on mobile, and there is no doubt that we will see more disruptions in that space and not only for payments.
  • Jonathan Elms explained to us that retail has a bad reputation as a career choice. The difficulties of attracting talent are real and remain a challenge for both universities and retailers.
  • Kshira Saagar delivered a (fast) presentation about the centralisation of quantitative data. His mission is to make data simple to understand and accessible to anyone working in the company. Unfortunately, there was little to no consideration for qualitative data as he seems laser focus on quantitative data.

China and Beyond

  • Dustin Jones a young entrepreneur that started the digital business of Macy’s in America introduces us to Arc, a full suite of tools and services to help retailer getting into the Chinese market.
  • David Thomas gave tips for succeeding in China as a retailer: signs, website and brand in Chinese, learn about Chinese culture, relationships, not transactions, work with the Daigous, do your research, become a WeChat Expert. David also talked about the concept of the 3 cups of tea when dealing with Chinese customers, a fantastic concept that you can find in his free ebook.

    David Thomas showing how Penfold rebranded itself for the Chinese market.

  • Catherine Cervasio who created AromaBaby delivered an outstanding talk. For the first time during the summit, I saw a retail entrepreneur offering an amazing retail experience in China. She not only sells a product, but she also sells an experience, and she attracts tons of customers each time. Discover more about her 10 years journey into China.

    Catherine Cervasio showing one of her workshop.

Perspectives from a UX Designer

I took the opportunity to network with a few big retailers and ask questions about the state of their digital transformation. Interestingly, I noticed that pretty much everyone has challenges with it. Secondly, the maturity of design practices vary amongst organisations but overall remains low. Finally, I noticed a strong focus on leveraging quantitative data to understand customer behaviour, and I believe it is a dangerous way to play the game. Retailers need to use both qualitative and quantitative data if they want to succeed. I witnessed similar traits in the early days of digital transformation for other industries.

The conference offered a wealth of new ideas and perspectives from the Australian retail industry, connecting with people and discussing the challenges of going through a digital transformation was also insightful. I also learnt that the retail sector in Australia has a long way to go; the transformation is at its infancy. I recently stumbled across a 2017 report from McKinsey describing the situation for Australian retailers and I think it is still accurate: “Despite strong strides in recent years, the digital maturity of Australia’s retail sector lags behind international peers, particularly in relation to reaching and influencing consumers through digital channels.

Hopefully, we will see more Australian success stories at the next Retail Summit in 2020.

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