These are exciting times for the retail sector. The digital world is changing how retail works in so many ways, challenging convention and generating alternate approaches. Every time I sit down with a retailer now, I’m struck by how the psychological lens has changed. The focus used to be on the ways and means to sell to shoppers. Today the mission is about helping customers to buy. 

Technological innovation is a core strand in making this happen and Britain is right at the heart of its engineering and development. At Ipsos Retail Performance we are constantly evaluating new solutions for our clients. It is a real challenge for us to advise on which technologies to back. Many come from start-up businesses without track records or a deep understanding of the retail sector. For sure, innovation is not without its risks for retailers. Not all new technologies are winners. 2017 perhaps marks the tipping-point for some of these technologies, as proof of concept testing comes to an end. I expect rationalisation of the first flush of dig-techs to ensue among the likes of Wi-Fi tracking, iBeacon BLE, smart mirrors, video analytics, 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality and contactless payment. The acid test, of course, is whether the value they add justifies the investment.

This brings me on to the first of the things I really look forward to when I attend RBTE each year: walking the exhibition floor to see what’s new and, just as informative, what has disappeared from the stands. I find this a great sense check on the conclusions that we have reached about technologies that we have come across, evaluated, or perhaps just been intrigued by over the previous 12 months.

The other main aspect of RBTE that I value is listening to as many of the speaker sessions as I can. It is a melting pot of ideas from which I always end up compiling and contemplating the common themes that emerge.

Both elements give me a real grasp on how things have changed from one year to the next and what’s around the corner. When one is immersed in one’s day job involving technological development and the retail insight it provides, as I am, it is often hard to appreciate the subtle course of change.  RBTE gives me a valuable “stop-the-clock” couple of days to reflect on the new status quo, on progress made and to update and sharpen my cutting-edge thinking.

Find out more about Ipsos Retail Performance here.

Denison will be chairing Theatre Two at RBTE 2017.