New quickly becomes old with retail technology and business mindsets

What was particularly interesting about the recent Wired Retail event was that it highlighted how newer technologies and thinking are taking apart some of the beliefs that the earlier digital developments put in place.


For instance, Randy Dean, chief business officer at Sentient Technologies, argues that with the advent of AI (artificial intelligence) the incumbent way of searching for goods by typing into a search engine is becoming outdated.

He reckons 97% of customers are typically lost when searching for goods online: “Most online stores are a graphical user interface sitting over a database. The retailer gets them to search and maybe from this they’ll find what they want to buy.”

By instead using visual search combined with AI technology it is possible to more quickly and more accurately hone in on the ideal products for the customer. This capability is available today, according to Dean, who says: “There is lots of talk of AI in the future but it is here today. The sooner retailers embrace and adopt it then the morse successful they will be.”

We are also in a period when the likes of Uber have propagated the thinking that the future is all about a model where few employees are on the payroll. Where they instead effectively sit in the cloud and are called on when required.

Kevin Gibbon, CEO of Shyp, originally adopted this model but found it to be flawed as it does not deliver the best level for service: “We originally had this contractor model like lots of start-ups but we wanted a different level of service. We offer training and deliver a better service and for this we need full employees.”

Idriss Al Rifai, CEO of Fetchr, echoes this thinking and has built his logistics firm into an organisation employing 1,400 people. “We deliver 95% of orders within five minutes of the [allotted] time slot  and for this we believe in offering full employment. You need to have people on the payroll.”

For Nick Brackenbury, co-founder of Near St, the whole idea of home delivery as the most convenient option for shoppers is flawed. He is building his business around the belief that the high street has a bright future on the back of linking people with the goods on the shelves in physical stores. This addresses the fact that there has been a big disconnect to date.

He is developing ‘predictive’ and ‘location-aware’ shopping solutions that will “take value for the products on retailers’ shelves” using the data that is presently widely available but not fully utilised..

“We’re sat on millions of data points and millions of stock uploads. When you join them it’s possible to see where the products are and what people have been searching on. This could be very powerful,” he suggests.

Retail Insider was pleased to be a media partner of Wired Retail

Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider