Here is what Gartner predicts are the top 10 technology trends. I’m not saying I disagree, but it is further evidence that everyone wants to talk about the future, because it is safer and more seductive than talking about the present. This is not helpful for retailers, because there are some fundamental challenges that need to be addressed before most of them can hope to take advantage of what is coming.
Basic data problems must be overcome
Take AI. Most retailers do not have access to their data in ways that will enable AI to add much if any value. We know retailers that have actually managed to get more value out of existing and well-established tech than AI, simply by fixing their basic data integration problem. Sure AI is coming and it will have a dramatic impact in retail, but it will not cure a sick data strategy.
Privacy and security are a must
One prediction which I think will hit early is the digital ethics and privacy one. While implementing GDPR is hard and the application clunky, there is no less will on the part of the European Union to enforce standards. Further proof of this is provided by the way the EU is moving in on the tech giants to make them accountable for content, privacy and of course tax. The UK, even if it leaves the union, will almost certainly enforce the same standards.
Go ‘immersive’ for a reason
Immersive experiences is an interesting one and we already see how some retailers are enabling customers to experience holiday destinations or sports through augmented or virtual reality. Again, there are plenty of retailers for whom immersive should simply mean better, more meaningful and helpful engagements with store associates. First generation tech for store associates such as iPads have had limited success; phones and watches are a much better bet because they do not put any obstacle between the interacting human beings.
So, all 10 trends highlighted by Gartner (see below) are of interest to retailers, but none of them should get in the way of enabling retailers to focus on executing better in stores, online and in the call centre.
Here’s my prediction – execution, execution, execution
I believe it is execution that will divide retailers into winners and losers. With thin margins looking like they are here to stay, ruthlessly efficient execution is going to be the bedrock of successful retail.