This article is part of Raydiant’s new Future of Retail series which interviews the world’s leading retail experts to better understand how the industry has evolved and most importantly, where it’s headed.
The following is from an interview with Anna Belous, Chief Marketing Officer at Competera
**This interview was conducted prior to the Coronavirus outbreak**
What personally excites you the most about the retail industry?
AB: What fascinates me the most is a giant leap from being one of the most conservative industries to becoming a front-runner of innovations the industry of retail has made recently. In retail, technology adoption has nothing to do with buzzwording. It’s all real as the effect of innovation is easily measured here. That’s why there is no such thing as innovation for the sake of innovation. Or, it’s very rare and does not last long.
Another great thing is customer-centricity. It changes everything. Today every purchase has to make the buyer happy and help the retailer hit their financial goals. This creates a big challenge for retailers but also calls for a truly multidisciplinary approach. Retail is becoming a unique industry combining business, technology, and entertainment. Witnessing this transformation and being able to contribute to it gives me pure joy.
What has been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?
AB: I’d like to name two major upheavals: zero customer loyalty and machine learning enhancing retail. Customer loyalty has transformed from something monolith to “a ball” which belongs to no particular retailer. The fight for the customer’s attention never stops. Instead, it’s getting more fierce and pushes retailers to be more inventive than ever before.
As for machine learning (ML), it’s been “hired” to optimize every process of retail front-end and back-end to eventually ensure the best customer experience. By using ML to launch the right marketing campaigns, create the right contexts, ensure the right distribution strategy, set the right prices, target the right shoppers at the right time and the right place with the right products retailers reach the unprecedented level of financial performance.
What are the top trends you see shaping brick and mortar retail in the next 3-5 years?
AB: It’s become clear that adopting even the best analytics and automation solutions serves nothing unless there is a team able to make the right decisions based on the use of these solutions. So, in the next 3-5 years, we are going to see the rise of retail teams with a completely new set of skills and mindset.
Another trend is a higher degree of interconnection of procurement, inventory management, marketing efforts — along with dozens of other processes — that serve the single purpose of creating the best customer experience.
All of this will go hand in hand with further digitalisation and wider use of “digital twins” which aim to create the space of the always-right decisions and synergy between retail teams and tech.
What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the retail industry in the next 3-5?
AB: The winner is artificial intelligence which is getting more affordable to a wider number of market players and will soon become a must-have. It can optimize almost any process (but there is no need to implement it in every area) and give retail teams an unparalleled analytical power of unseen preciseness, granularity and scale at the same time. AI is already here, and the new challenge is the right and reasonable adoption. This boosts the rise of digital transformation agencies and calls for focusing on change management.
What’s the future of brick and mortar retail?
AB: Retailers will become entertainment hubs powered by the synergy of humans and contextualized technologies. All this together will create a new type of operational intelligence. This fantastic synergy will bring great results across various fields. Its biggest achievement will be the creation of a win-win relationship between customers and retailers.
Also, this age of augmented expertise will coin retail teams of exceptional skills and professionalism.