Retail Insider is very pleased to be linking up with Wired as a media partner of its Wired Smarter conference on October 30 where a raft of speakers will provoke debate and highlight potential successful paths for the future.
Retail is one of two verticals – along with Money – within the conference schedule and provides the opportunity for merchants to hear progressive speakers at a time when it has never been more crucial for organisations to transform their footprints to align with today’s digital-forward environments.
The roster of speakers highlights that retail has fundamentally changed, with digital and the underlying data it generates having prompted a revolution that continues to reverberate.
Sainsbury’s might have been selling groceries for 150 years but its speaker at Wired Smarter is Helen Hunter, group chief data officer, who’s relatively new job title would have been unheard of a few years ago but now says a lot about the direction of travel for the industry.
Likewise, at Matchesfashion.com where a senior executive from the company will detail its transformation from a shops-based fashion business into a global online player. The company has also recently looked to reinterpret the role of the physical store with its 5 Carlos Place outlet in London’s Mayfair that is more about building up the brand through offering immersive experiences for customers rather than looking to drive direct sales in the space.
What prompts these interesting decisions is data. It is now the fuel for the industry, and has led to the creation of organisations that are based around crunching the numbers and delivering actionable insights. At the cutting edge of this is Artificial Intelligence (AI), which is at the centre of the Peak business. Its founder Richard Potter, will highlight how he has delivered solutions to the likes of Asos and Foot Asylum. The importance of AI is further highlighted by the presence of Kay Firth Butterfield, head of AI and machine learning at World Economic Forum, on the Wired Smarter schedule.
It is enlightening to put these things in context and so it is interesting to have Kris Miller, SVP & chief strategy officer at eBay, speaking this year. EBay was a pioneering online business but what was most revolutionary about it was not its global marketplace structure, it was its simple review system. This straightforward exchange of basic data provided the underlying platform of trust on which all online markets and aggregators have relied.
Twitter is another impactful business that has changed the way people communicate and share information around the globe. Although its profitability level versus its influence has been one of the much debated topics among investors. Bruce Daisley, VP for EMEA at Twitter, might well be able to add to the debate when he takes to the stage.
The lack of early profitability of many of the technology-based businesses that have emerged over recent years has certainly been a point of much discussion within the wider business world. This situation is very much in contrast to eBay that was profitable from the outset. This ultimately created great wealth for its early venture capital backers.
Such early stage technology-focused investors have been increasingly powerful of late as they have amassed staggeringly large funds for dispersal across sectors. This is impacting all industries including retail.
The biggest player in this area is SoftBank and its Vision Fund (the original pool was worth $100 billion) that has made significant investments in businesses including Uber, WeWork and DoorDash. It will therefore be very interesting to hear the thoughts and views of Akshay Naheta, managing partner for EMEA at Softbank Vision Fund at this year’s Wired Smarter.
WIRED Smarter 2019 takes place on October 30 at King’s Place, London. To learn more about the event Click Here.
Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider