The biggest UK retail news from RBTE 2016

by Louisa Bainbridge
on Jan 23, 2017

The Retail Business Technology Expo 2016 is over, and for anyone who couldn’t make it to Olympia last week, we’ve picked out the biggest trends and must-have tech we expect to see all over UK retail news in 2016.

 The future of brick & mortar


The retail panel at RBTE discussed the future of brick and & mortar stores, with a panel of industry experts giving their insight into what lays ahead for traditional high-street retailers.

Simon Roberts, Executive Vice President of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.

Simon explained that retailers need to think about what customers really want to see in stores – and as a result offer differentiated store experiences and new levels of convenience. Simon also revealed that three-quarters of all online purchases are click and collect.

Luke Jensen, Former Group Development Director at Sainsbury’s

The biggest challenge for brick and mortar stores is replicating the ‘segment of one’ that online retailers are able to provide. In e-commerce, every store can be tailored to the customer’s specific needs, preferences and recommendations. How can this translate to an actual store? Luke says that “check in could be the new check out”, using mobile to locate and push relevant deals and offers available to every single customer.

Dharmash Mistry, CEO & Cofounder of Blow

Blow is one of the many on-demand services we’ve seen crop up over recent years, along with Uber, Laundrapp and Deliveroo, allowing immediate access to services that were once a long-winded affair. Dharmash explained that because of changes in customer expectations, gradual innovation simply won’t cut it. If you’re going to innovate, go all out, otherwise you’ll face the same fate as a number of high-street retailers.

 Mobile strategies for retailers

uk retail news mobile

Far and away the biggest focus of this panel was engaging with in-store customers on mobile, with speakers from Marks & Spencer, Camelot, GSMA and the MMA. They discussed how mobile can be utilised to create an effective omnichannel experience for the customer.

David Thomson, the Head of Product for M& and Mobile, discussed how retailers can ensure their mobile innovations are up to scratch. Before launching any new tech to the wider public, the M&S user experience lab tests each and every idea before release, ensuring a smooth launch and continued operation. He also stressed the importance of a unique mobile experience – it should never be a direct adaptation of desktop. The panel also discussed the importance of location-based technologies, the techniques currently in use by M&S included RFID tagging and geofencing.  

uk retail news rbte

Our favourite tech at RBTE 2016

Best In-store experience tech – Pepper the robot

Pepper the robot, developed by Aldebaran, is a truly mind-boggling technological development, taking the fully autonomous robots of science fiction and planting them firmly into the real world. With the ability to read a person’s mood based on facial expressions and tone of voice, Pepper reacts accordingly – sharing joy, or offering comfort.

Besides the overarching changes that such a technological breakthrough holds for the world, Pepper has the potential to completely revolutionise an in-store experience. As a greeter, Pepper will never lack enthusiasm, have an encyclopedic knowledge of the latest deals and offers available, recognise returning customers and provide real-time, big data analysis.

It’ll still be a few years before units like Pepper become commonplace, but it’s a very exciting sneak peak into the future.

Best for boosting employee sales – Mercaux

Developed by the boffins at Harvard Business School, Mercaux gives store staff a huge array of product information at their fingertips. They’ll be able to access any product in the store catalogue, scan any barcode to check availability, provide cross-sell and style recommendations, and even give the customer alternatives if what they’re after isn’t available – all from a tablet or smartphone.

It’s remarkable technology that blends the convenience and knowledge database of online platforms with the personal touch that brick and mortar stores offer. We expect to see Mercaux tech cropping up in stores across the world very soon.

Best for driving clicks to bricks

Store locators currently use miles radius to help their customers discover their nearest outlets, but a mile in rush hour can be very different to a mile mid-morning. TravelTime takes into account the factors that affect a user’s journey – time of day, transport method, and most importantly – location. It knows that a store 0.5 miles away might take longer to reach than a store 1 mile away, and provides up-to-the-minute accurate results to help customers find truly relevant results.

It’s already had proven success in the recruitment and property sectors, and became available to the retail sector for the first time RBTE 2016. Want to find out more? Take a look a look at the TravelTime.



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