Retail Reloaded Roundtable

Retail was already undergoing huge change before the Covid pandemic struck. Now we believe there is an even greater urgency for the industry to adopt advanced technologies to boost post-pandemic recovery.

To that end, we recently hosted Retail Reloaded, our first ever virtual roundtable, together with CogX, a knowledge network that connects clients with AI experts. We invited select retail clients to take part with the aim of sharing experience and feedback as well as to help them visualise the transformational impact 5G could have upon their business.

Paul Eastman, head of customer and digital technology at AS Watson Group spoke first. He described how the company’s brands (Superdrug, Savers and the Perfume Shop) had actually been growing pre-pandemic. Their challenge now was to maintain the momentum. He spoke of the company’s desire to improve the retail experience for clients going forward, for example, with the use of AR/mixed reality for make-up trials as testers are unlikely to ever to return to popularity in a post-COVID world.

Eastman is also looking for ways to digitise some of the company’s assets, such as its nail/lash bars, the company’s nurse clinics and its 200-strong chain of pharmacies. However, he admitted that a key challenge to adopting advance tech will be the cost.

“We need tech that is scaleable and ready to go on a budget,” he stated.

Joseph Van Vlijman, group service architect at Selecta, the vending specialist, believed that 5G couldn’t add much to the experience of buying from its outlets but thought it could be beneficial in areas such as category management and logistical efficiencies.

As he put it: “Can we save labour, reduce stress, increase yield and reduce costs?”

Vlad Jiman, group head of analytics platform and data engineering at Pets At Home, also sounded uncertain at first: “When will 5G be scaleable and implementable. To me that date is five years from now.”

He revealed the fact that basic connectivity is an issue for some of Pets At Home’s 450 stores, sharing the fact that some, such as those in the Scottish Highlands do not even have internet access.

“5G is our hope for good, fast, cost -effective connectivity.” He said.

Daniel Hulme, ceo of Satalia, an enterprise AI compay, said 5G has been integral to optimised routing for its clients.

“It has enabled us to calculate routes quickly and accurately in real time. This means our client’s last mile delivery service is one of the best in the world.”

Back at the consumer in store level, Paul Eastman was concerned that most consumers would not even have access to the tech that is all around them.

However, Claire Caminade, head of product and partnerships 5G at Digital Catapult, was quick to allay retailers’ fears in this regard. She reassured attendees that the benefits of 5G were not just in the area of logistics and fulfilment but also 100% on the consumer-facing side.

“5G enables low-latency access to computer-strength power! Devices don’t need to be super-clever. It’s down to retailers in the stores and the malls – they have a role to play.”

She predicted that 5G would be well and truly making in-roads to the retail sector by 2024/25.

“5G is the first mobile technology specifically designed for business use,” she pointed out. “Why is 5G the endgame? Because it can operate on a very varied spectrum from low to high frequency, it is stable and it can act like an umbrella for retailers in terms of operations efficiency and customer experience.”

The round table ended with the participants agreeing to work on a pilot 5G programme.

Together with CogX, Digital Catapult is running a survey to gauge the state of awareness and interest in 5G among a wider cross-section of retail clients.

A second roundtable event will take place later this year.

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Blog

Related Articles