#RetailEXPO: Retail is still incredibly exciting, says Simon Calver

The rise of the small innovator, and fundamental changes in society and the corporate world, is removing the long-held strategic advantage of large companies. 

Simon Calver, head of venture investments at BGF, said at RetailEXPO in London, this innovative backdrop enables businesses to launch a “minimum viable product” for around $500,000 compared with as much as $5 million previously. At the heart of these new retail propositions is data.

“Data and insight is critical. Amazon uses data to get as much insight as possible on its customers. If retailers can do it a bit better than Amazon then they can be successful. It’s all about collecting customer data. That’s the hard bit,” said the former LoveFilm and Mothercare boss.

Calver has some key insights on the retail market that he recommends retailers take note. Firstly, it is to think of retail as a platform just like Shopify and Klarna, as this is where the value is being created.

Secondly, there is the major move to personalisation whereby companies know everything about a customers’ previous behaviour and can use predictive technology on this data.

Thirdly, is the increased importance of advocacy and that retailers must recognise that customers share information on social media and therefore they need to work hard to get referrals.

Fourthly, Calver suggested retailers create barriers around themselves by using data insight to lock people into ecosystems of products and services.

To deliver on each of these points he said retailers need to develop an inter-operable platform into which can be plugged various services: “You can’t be experts in everything so you need to plug into the specialists [to help]. Being just good enough is not good enough in today’s global market.”