Retail technology: a view from the US

How important is mobile, social networking, eCommerce and the cloud to retailers? What other subjects do you think are key considerations?

All of the above are very important but you are missing the two biggest: omnichannel and big data. Omni is about creating one consistent shopping channel for combining eCommerce and mCommerce, in-store and all others. Check what Macy’s, Saks and others are doing in this area. Big data is all about gathering huge volumes of data about consumers and new tools to filter and find products and services to satisfy consumers. I refer you to this link to recent Big Data survey.          

Are there any innovations that you’ve seen or heard of recently that have caught your interest (this doesn’t have to be linked to retail)?

Most hot new innovation is linked to the above trends. One is using Wi-Fi to connect with consumers in the store – Wittos is a perfect example of new company in the UK. Like Wittos, many of the innovative new systems are about gathering data to analyse and predict offers and services that will attract/satisfy customers. Another innovation is using voice recognition to validate payments, which is a big deal as there is lots of focus on mobile payment but no big breakthrough yet. Another innovation is PayPal’s use of Beacon technology for mobile payments instead of NFC.                    

Who would be your dream speaker at a conference?

Always Sam Walton, but he is no longer alive. So Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, or Larry Ellison of Oracle would be good speakers. Real opportunities would include entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, and Charlie Mayfield or Andy Street from John Lewis.

What’s the best example of digital engagement that you’ve experienced/heard of?

Here are the best mobile application per recent survey on the five highest rated retail mobile apps, showing percentage of favourable ratings.

The Target “My Kind of Holiday” application that combines mobile and social is very cool. It incorporates buy online and an option to pick up in a customer's closest store.

I also like Wal-Mart in store shopping application that guides consumer through the stores to find items on their shopping list. Precise in-store mobile positioning is one of the hottest new technologies. Watch for innovative applications in this area from in near future.

Richard Mader is also a Steering Committee member of RBTE, the UK and Europe's leading retail event, which takes place at London's Earls Court between 11-12 March 2014.