The Retail industry unravelled:
What we learned from the GDS Retail EU Summit

Article - CX
By Stephanie Garey|19th September 2023

As we bring the Retail EU September 2023 summit to a close, it’s time to reflect on the invaluable insights and knowledge that we’ve had the privilege of hearing, learning and sharing over the past three days. This event has been a platform for learning, networking, and gaining fresh perspectives. So, let’s delve into the key takeaways that have emerged from our time together.

In brief:

  • When it comes to balancing convenience and sustainability, empower your customers with choices, flexibility, and control over their purchases
  • Understand the value of taking calculated risks, learning from failures, and adapting
  • When new technologies and ideas are introduced, explore them first before committing

Pressing concerns in retail

We asked our audience of senior retail executives from across Europe to identify their most pressing concerns for the next six months. The responses provided a snapshot of the diverse challenges facing the retail industry.

  • Cost: 22%
  • Talent: 19%
  • Technology: 19%
  • Data: 11%
  • Culture: 7%
  • Changing customer/business requirements: 22%

These responses reflect the multifaceted nature of our industry’s challenges. While cost concerns and the global cost-of-living crisis weigh heavily on us, the rapid evolution of customer and business requirements demands our attention. It’s evident that there are no easy answers, but together, we can navigate these challenges and find innovative solutions.

Convenience vs. sustainability

During Loek Berendsen’s captivating omnichannel keynote, an essential question was raised. “Are customers really willing to give up on convenience to save the planet?” Loek’s response was thought-provoking, “what we’ve seen is the customer wants to be in control.” To reconcile convenience with sustainability, we must empower our customers with choices, flexibility, and control over their purchases and deliveries.

Defining value

Retail leaders are focusing on the projects that will bring their customers and employees value. As Ben Bulpett, Senior Director and Field Marketing Partner at Algolia says, “we’re all guilty of chasing the next big thing in technology that’s going to ‘potentially save and transform’ everything. But you’ve got to be very clear. You’ve got to maintain your consistency. You’ve got to look at your brand’s core value.”

Bryn Rees, Director of Digital Content Strategy at IKEA so eloquently puts it, “value means servicing your customers. So, whatever we do, whatever innovations we achieve or don’t achieve, whatever changes we make internally to processes, it must add value and it has to drive a positive change.” This of course extends to how employees, communities, and our customers are incorporated into operations.

Embrace risk: Who dares in retail wins

David Wild, former CEO at Domino’s, delivered an inspiring opening keynote, highlighting a fundamental truth in retail. “Who dares in retail wins.” He acknowledged that not every risk or dare will yield immediate success, but standing still is never an option. We must remember the value of taking calculated risks, learning from our failures, and continuously adapting to meet the evolving needs of our customers and our business as we move forward.

Innovate to accelerate

In the “future of retail” panel, it was emphasized that there is a need to “innovate to accelerate.” Innovation can go beyond technology. It encompasses finding ways to improve employee and customer experiences, deliver delightful customer interactions, and of course automate processes.

The pursuit of innovation is key to staying competitive and relevant in the ever-changing retail landscape. But wise words from the panel as they say, “beware the next NFT”. When shiny, new technologies and exciting ideas come around, explore them, but don’t commit to them 100% until you’re sure they’ve stood the test of time.

The importance of collaboration and learning from peers

Finally, one of the standout moments from our event came when John Smith, SVP at Philips expressed a sentiment that resonated with many. He emphasized the importance of learning from our peers, sharing knowledge, and supporting one another. He says, “I really like these events because it’s a great place to learn with peers via peers … we can all learn & lean on each other.”

This sense of camaraderie and mutual support was palpable, even in the virtual setting. The connections forged and knowledge exchanged at this event have been instrumental in our collective growth. It’s heartening to witness the retail community coming together to support one another.

In conclusion, the Retail EU September 2023 summit has been a remarkable journey of learning, sharing, and networking. We’ve gained insights into pressing challenges, explored the delicate balance between convenience and sustainability, and embraced the value of daring to innovate. As we return to our respective roles and organizations, let’s carry these key takeaways forward:

  • Collaborate and learn from peers
  • Address pressing concerns with agility and creativity
  • Empower customers to be in control
  • Embrace calculated risks to drive value
  • Innovate relentlessly to accelerate growth

Together, we will shape the future of retail and continue to thrive in a dynamic and competitive industry.

Looking for ways to accelerate your sales cycles, engage in industry conversations, and achieve better outcomes? Look no further than our digital summits – our unique 3-day digital event experiences that bring together senior executives and solution providers.

Partnering with GDS Group can help you get in front of the right people at the right time.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to attend one of our unforgettable event experiences that promise to leave you feeling inspired and empowered.

Check our calendar now and join us. We can’t wait to see you there!

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