Retail technology companies that exhibited at RBTE 2015 have rushed to sign up to next year's event at a record rate, and Essential Retail is running a series of Q&As with the early re-bookers over the coming months.

Today it is the turn of iVend. The company's senior vice president of European operations at iVend Retail, Richard Kolodynski, explains why the business is returning to RBTE 2016 with a bigger stand than this year, and why the digitalisation of wallets will be an area to watch in the coming months.

What were your highlights from RBTE 2015?

RBTE 2015 was the launch of iVend Retail's European presence, so taking a stand at the show in itself was a huge highlight for us. As Europe's leading retail event, RBTE felt a fitting launchpad to introduce iVend's integrated retail suite to the market – and we certainly weren't disappointed with the buzz the show delivered. 

The level of interest and engagement we experienced on the stand meant we were constantly busy – great for building awareness for iVend, but not so great news for our feet! And the quality of attendees, both in terms of their job roles and the scale of the retailers at the show, was second to none. At iVend we have built our team around technology experts with retail backgrounds, and we found that retailers appreciated talking to like-minded people who truly understood their pain-points and how these can be addressed through technology when visiting the stand.

And, while we were very much showcasing our current solutions, the show proved a great testing ground for innovations. For example, we trialled an application for our digital passes at RBTE. Those booking an appointment were sent a pass via our mobile loyalty solution, which when redeemed on the stand made a donation from iVend to the Marie Curie charity. We had some great feedback about the application of the Marie Curie pass, which seemed to strike a real chord with attendees, and it was great to be able tie in our presence at the show with raising funds for such as good cause.

What were the hot topics at RBTE 2015 compared to previous years and what's your overall view of how the show has developed?

While we weren't at RBTE 2014 formally, lots of attendees and exhibitors we spoke to praised the organisation and the buzz around this year's show. Olympia was a great event space. All too often with trade shows – whether attending or exhibiting – you can be in cavernous exhibition halls, with nothing but artificial light, making you lose all notion of time and space which is when cabin fever sets in. Olympia was busy but easy flowing, making it more enjoyable to take in the stands as a visitor, which in turn was beneficial to those exhibiting!

What were the top three reasons for re-booking a stand and confirming your appearance at RBTE 2016?

We were delighted with the recognition and interest we achieved at the 2015 show – not just from retailers but from prospective partners too – so, RBTE 2016 is an ideal showcase for iVend Retail and our partners for all we have planned for next year.

We've taken a larger stand for RBTE 2016 – this is a reflection of, not only of how well we perceived last year's show to have gone, but also of the rapid growth in our customer and partner base in the market following our launch six months ago. 

Our decision to rebook for 2016 underpins iVend's commitment to showcasing the best in omnichannel retail solutions at such a respected industry event.

What are the main areas of focus for your business in the year ahead?

As well as growing our network of strategic partnerships across Europe, driving innovation will be a key focus for iVend this year – both in terms of integration, omnichannel and mobile as well as our digital passes. 

At iVend, our mantra is that retailers shouldn't have to worry about managing hardware, software licenses, upgrades – they just need the tools to offer great customer service – and this is exactly what our focus on innovation seeks to deliver.

Which technologies in particular do you predict will shake up retail in 2015/16?

The digitalisation of wallets will be one to watch – with the recent Apple Pay launch and the rebranding of its Apple Passbook to Apple Wallet, which allows customers to manage store cards and loyalty schemes via their iPhones as well as making payments, UK consumers' wallets will take another step towards becoming truly digital.

With a global super-brand, such as Apple, throwing its weight behind this mobile technology, it is bound to normalise these behaviours amongst consumers and boost shoppers' consideration in adopting them. This will stand forward-thinking retailers, who are ready to make the move toward mobile loyalty, in good stead to capitalise on this growing trend, as traditional physical wallets become increasingly phased out.

What is currently the greatest challenge to (a) your business and (b) the wider retailer industry?

The speed of disruptive technologies and transformational change, which is very much being driven by consumers, can be mind-boggling. 

Retailers are no longer setting the agenda for how we shop – with customer demand for new and ever more connected retail propositions evolving on a near daily basis; they want it fast, simple and joined up. If retailers can't do that they are in danger of becoming irrelevant or marginalised. We need to ensure our rate of innovation continues to underpin retailers' abilities to deliver the experiences customers crave, which is why our focus for 2016 lies in further developing innovations to support this.

The next RBTE takes place at London's Olympia between 9-10 March 2016.

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