Digitising industry - Retail and consumer electronics - what we learnt.
This session was co-ordinated by Tom Day from Market Gravity, the discussion followed 3 businesses operating in and with retail products.
The session started with ghd. The brand, now part of the Coty group, has a real belief in technology making a difference. It’s a major part of what they do, how they carry out their R&D and ensure that they remain ‘front of mind’ with their customers.
Technology drives their ability to deliver a personalised product, sustainably and share it with the right people (influencers – both online in social and physical locations - salons).
We can’t talk about retail without acknowledging the seismic shift in the bricks and mortar retail experience, something many people, ghd included, believe is long overdue. Many of the so-called casualities actually being victims of their own lack of creativity or arrogance about what people want as technology has changed and peoples expectations have evolved.
What did we learnt from Tim Moore last week?
Technology, in the eyes of ghd at least, gives them the opportunity to create a richer personalised experience for their customers. They’re not bothered about where on the customer journey people convert and buy, there are some obvious sweet spots of course but they are thinking bigger than units off shelves, they think theatre, experience, memories and most of all people.
They want to provide a great multi point experience, inspiring confidence in the brand and its products wherever it is encountered, giving people the tool to get seriously creative with their hair.
Next up we had Julian Burnett from IBM, a business at the heart of many great retail businesses. You have to go back a long way to find a time when IBM wasn’t helping these types of businesses work smarter. Julian has a strong personal history in the retail sector, previously a board member at House of Fraser, where he led the first major phase of the award-winning multi-channel transformation that reimagined the customer experience. He's an advisor to the UK fashion retail industry about digital supply chain channels, above all, he’s a career retailer.
What did we learn from Julian and IBM?
Our biggest learning was the breadth of application that IBM have made with Watson, the AI algorithm, using it with many fashion retailers to streamline the development of new collections, helping them track trends from social media and respond with colours, cuts and shapes that are ‘in demand’.
The streamlining process continues elsewhere, with Watson tasked to innovate logistics processes, resulting in massive reductions in waste and the impact on the environment.
As if that wasn't enough, one of the biggest bug bears of all retailers is inventory. Watson's been busy here too, this time delivering transparency with blockchain solutions that ensure everyone has sight of the same 'truth' throughout the supply chains. Depending upon how closely you follow IBM, you may say, nothing new there… just wait.
Julian’s key focus was also brand experience, living the brand and what technology can do to allow those touch points in the customer journey to be much deeper, more personal and delivered with a genuine desire to add value beyond selling you product, very much inline with what we’d heard from ghd.
The final part of the session was given over to Cambridge based Metail. They are using tech to help with physical garment and body shape. The easiest way to describe it would be Photoshop on steroids. Which kind of downplays the complexities of the data sets and the work involved, which must be vast in what they're dealing with, but it starts to give you some visual picture of what Metail means, because it's new and ground breaking.
They have scanned and 3D modelled a number of models (people) and a number of garments, they can now dress each model, confident about what size that person needs and more importantly, what that garment will actually look like against their skin, hair and other personal characteristics - where it will finish on arms, how it will hang, every detail, nothing is overlooked.
There are a lot of great things about this system, not least the ability to have a photoshoot without any people or products – sounds crazy but it’s already happening and saving lots of precious resources.
What did we learn from Metail
Mainda did a great job of running us through the system, showing how it works and the huge potential within it to reduce inventory to an absolute minimum with make on demand logistics. Something that has to be good for the planet and it’s people.
The theme of the previous two presenters also rang out loud and clear here, this is a great technical innovation but it has been driven from a human need – right size clothes first time – in this case, but nevertheless a human need driving technical innovations.
This session was attended by approximately a third of the event attendees, there were quite a lot of empty seats and that told us something about Digitising Industry, tech developers and innovators need to remember why they exist, why they’re developing new things, what the web means (access) and why it’s important (people). Technology has HUGE potential - the ways in which it can and will help us, but it has to be driven by a human need. Tech for tech’s sake is not enough, it’s not compelling because it’s not human.
Recent history has proven that we’re all guilty of being sucked into technology at an alarming pace. Too much time in these artificial environments leaves us feeling artificial in many ways as well, with health and personal communication taking a real kicking, left by the way side, neglected. Hearing some of the biggest and most innovative tech businesses put human needs and experiences at the centre of everything that they are doing as they ‘digitise business’ was reassuring to hear.
Thank you to CW Cambridge Wireless for putting together CWIC2019 we look forward to next year.
A great article here from BoF (Business of Fashion), it's very much aligned with the views from the blog above, diving deeper into why retail environments are important, how these spaces offer measurable results for the future.