Crealytics visited RBTE (Retail Business Technology Expo) this week, held in London’s historic Kensington Olympia venue on 8th and 9th May.
Online marketers instantly felt at home amongst the 360 exhibitors and up to 17,000 visitors, similarly, the aspiring eCommerce executive was well catered to by the conference program of 60 talks and workshops. It was only on second glance that something felt out of place about the context in which the familiar buzzwords were used: Customer journey, touchpoints, and data, data, data were as omnipresent as they were free from any reference to the online space, they were rather used to describe the instore experience. And as surprising as that was to discover, it is as understandable in hindsight.
While eCommerce is very mature with respect to data availability and analytics, the in-store experience has been untouched by modern analytics until recently. What we saw at RBTE was a game of catch-up in the early majority stage of adoption: inferring shopper demographics and interest levels via facial recognition, tracking shoppers’ movements, adapting to changed consumer behavior – all this with a focus on the actionability of data collected. The latter was well illustrated in a joint presentation from ASDA and Profitect that highlighted the additional complexity that comes with hundreds of physical outlets, which over time, added layers and layers of legacy reporting. ASDA cut through the noise by working through the triad of 1) reducing reports and metrics, 2) centrally prescribing actions based on the data and 3) making intelligence accessible beyond the PC.
While Omnichannel was present as a buzzword, it was rarely applied to pre-sale online touch points like advertising, but rather to post-sale customer care or in-store comparison shopping while connected to the store wifi. Both perspectives are important from our point of view, and while brick and mortar retailers can only benefit from opening up to the reality of customer journeys starting way before the shop door, online marketers can much better understand business objectives of omnichannel clients when taking into account the whole customer lifecycle.
Even if online marketers haven’t discovered the philosopher’s stone of attribution across online touch points yet, the real challenge lies even beyond that, in including the offline parts of the customer journey as well. But attribution was notably absent from the show, as were other underlying algorithmic concepts such as intelligent pricing and stock level aware marketing.
Intelligence providers shunning RBTE was probably a missed opportunity for them, as it would have perfectly complemented the front end of the customer experience. Providers in this front end space are well prepared for the data age of physical retail – electronic price Tag providers like SES imagotag provide context relevant content and dynamic pricing based on data feeds from competitor prices, stock levels, and weather or based on rules about time and date. The dynamic content play moves retailers into the space of offering screen real estate up for sale – a move that has become increasingly popular with eCommerce retailers looking to monetise their whole audience rather than just capitalizing on their buyers. A dedicated exposition on digital signage, the business of dynamic electronic displays in store, was held back to back with RBTE at Olympia.
In summary, this was time well spent learning about adjacent aspects of retail businesses we interact with on a daily basis, joining the dots for more holistically informed discussions with our customers. While intelligence providers were absent from RBTE, crealytics itself is actively involved in this space and will offer more insights into that exciting field via this blog in the months to come.