Anna Oleksiuk
Blog post

The Latest and Greatest in Retail: WRC 2019 Highlights

Get insights on what’s new and what’s next for the industry from World Retail Congress 2019.

May 27, 2019

5 mins read

​On May 14–16, 2019, thought leaders and innovators in the global retail industry came together in Amsterdam to share a wealth of insights and introduce the new world of high velocity retail at World Retail Congress 2019, a premier global gathering for international retailers. The event convened over 180 speakers and over 1300 attendees from 55 countries for three days of inspiring sessions, thought-provoking panel discussions, and futuristic retail solutions.

Retail Congress is a truly interactive experience where you can hear from a diverse set of experts, explore the latest innovations, and build high-level connections.

​An excellent and invaluable opportunity to connect, share, and learn from the best retailers and experts in the world.

Magnus Brehmer, Partner at The Sephia Group

Senior leaders from Google, Walmart International, Alibaba Group, and many other brands took to the stage to share their stories of success, failure, and transformation – and the lessons learned along the way. In case you missed the event, catch up on the key topics with this overview from Intellias.

High velocity retail

Retail is a vibrant, fast-paced environment, and businesses need to understand today’s consumers and build processes agile enough. The theme of this year’s congress – high velocity retail – captures the essence of what it takes to stay ahead of the curve and be a successful retailer in the twenty-first century.

​This year’s theme grew naturally out of the many conversations and discussions with retailers around the world. The biggest issue raised by retailers was the speed of change and the impact it is having on consumers, technology and more importantly the very way that retail operates. As we are seeing clearly, a new, faster and more dynamic retail is emerging and will have to emerge if it is to be able to serve tomorrow’s customers.

Ian McGarrigle, Chairman of the World Retail Congress

Successful retail today is all about speed and dynamism. Practicing high velocity retail sets you well on the way to readjusting your strategies and ensuring your business is relevant in the new retail landscape. Technology is, in many respects, a huge driver of this change. The disruption of retail by IoT, robotics, and artificial intelligence is happening now.

Retail and IoT: The world’s next tech frontier

​Smart connectivity keeps soaring, and it’s estimated that over 5 billion people will be connected to over 30 billion devices through the internet by 2020. According to Kelly Stickel, Founder and CEO of Remodista, the potential economic impact of IoT on the retail sector will range from $40 billion to $1.2 trillion per year by 2025.

Think connecting displays that engage shoppers, smart shelves that drive more activity. And facial recognition technology, where with the scan of your face, you get access to a personalized shopping experience.

Kelly Stickel, Founder and CEO of Remodista

Stickel’s claim is supported by compelling stats from retailers using self-service shopping and automated checkouts: they saw an increase of 28.5% in revenue over a one-year period.

Will AI rule the retail world?

Robotics and artificial intelligence are already making their way to retail. For example, robots can help in a store so staff can focus on the customer experience. Robots are coming, but where will AI eventually take us, and what will it mean for retailers and their customers? Hod Lipson of Columbia University believes there’s much more to it.

Most companies tend to develop AI in order to solve existing problems or to automate in order to reduce the time or cost of a process. But the real advances come from testing ideas that can go anywhere. The potential of AI is so vast, it’s beyond comprehension.

Hod Lipson, Professor of Engineering and Data Science at Columbia University

In his powerful keynote, Lipson challenged retailers to experiment with AI and continue to press on with tests, even when they fail. Rather than looking for a success formula, businesses should adopt an innovation mindset to refine and push the technology forward. AI may soon surprise and delight customers in a whole new way.

Living with robots: What’s next for stores?

Understanding triggers behind consumer behavior is one of the key ingredients to any retailer’s success. What are sales associates doing right to move a shopper from experience to purchase and ultimately win their loyalty? Can robots do the same?

The big problem that retailers are facing is not the robot itself, it’s coding them correctly.

Dr. Gaia Rancati, Lecturer at IULM University

Dr. Rancati outlined her research on robot and human interactions and revealed findings from several experiments and a year of living with a robot herself. In an effort to disclose how human and machine worlds can coexist and benefit the retail industry, Rancati’s team relied on neuroscience to collect the most accurate data. They discovered that the immersion level across generations was different. While Millennials, who have grown up with technology at their fingertips, felt quite comfortable with machines, Generation X and Baby Boomers showed higher stress levels when interacting with robot sales assistants. The complexity of a product also had a significant impact on customer decision-making when choosing between robot and human sales assistants. When customers needed more information about the product, they would prefer a human over a robot. However, with simple products, it was the opposite.

World Retail Congress 2019: Wrap-up

​The speed at which consumers are changing their behavior through technology is dizzying. In today’s world of high velocity retail, innovation is the name of the game. To thrive in 2020 and beyond, retailers need to rip up the rulebook and implement novel strategies to create the industry of tomorrow.

From the first to the last, World Retail Congress 2019 was nothing short of energizing. Intellias is excited to share the hottest trends with you and consult on the most innovative retail solutions to grow your business.​

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