Catalysts of Change: Retail and Technology in the Age of Disruption

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On April 4th we hosted over 150 retailers here in London at our inaugural Catalysts of Change event to launch our latest research in partnership with Retail Week. Featuring insights from over 70 retail executives on the technologies set to transform retail, the morning was a great chance to delve into the findings as well as hear perspectives from our diverse range of speakers. Here we've pulled together the key take-aways from Westfield, Grabble, Tesco and our panel (and stay tuned for video content coming very soon!).

For a quick look at the highlights watch the video below, otherwise read on for all the insights...


We kicked off the day with a deep dive into the findings of our research, hosted by Alex Hamilton, Head of Research at Retail Week, and our own retail team lead, Elinor Noble.

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We won't give too much away, as you can get your very own copy of there research here. It's packed with insights and stats on which technologies retailers are investing in, how technology is changing the customer journey and more.

Our first keynote speaker of the day was Myf Ryan, CMO for UK & Europe at Westfield. Her talk, 'Technology for technology’s sake is meaningless' set the tone for the morning, as she discussed the importance of putting customer experience at the centre of everything Westfield does when it comes utilising new technolgies. Speaking to Essential Retail, Myf shared Westfield's challenges when it comes to gaining a 'single view' of their customers from siloed data sources. She also touched on the importance of personalisation, as well as the incredible complexity involved as a landlord rather than a retailer

"We know very little information about our consumers. We have validated Wi-Fi, but the information we have is transactional and functional. We need to start to understand what drives consumers so we can move to a predictive relationship rather than the transactional and functional relationship we have now."

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As for the 'future of retail' AI and Chatbots are certainly on the radar, particularly when it comes to customer service. "It will be partly automated and partly personal," she explained. "We need to find that balance between the human and digital experience, consumers do increasingly expect both, but we need to enhance the experience rather than frustrate the consumer."

Next up we heard from our 'disruptive technology' speaker, Daniel Murray, Co-founder and CMO at 'tinder for fashion' app Grabble, and native commerce platform for brands, Mobula. His presentation covered how mobile has disrupted retail, and how he thinks it will continue to do so, especially when it comes to native apps versus mobile web.

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Our final keynote speaker of the day was Rafael Orta, Director of Online Business Services at Tesco and former VP of Global Marketing Operations at eBay. Data and personalisation was the focus of his talk, sharing insights from Tesco's approach. Going head to head with Amazon is not a strategy, for Tesco, or one that he would recommend for others, but rather looking at where data, technology and creativity intersect is key.

Rounding off the day we hosted a panel discussion, featuring speakers from Google Retail, Lyst, Topman and Qubit. Panelist Gareth Rees-John, Global Digital Director at Topman, shared his perspective on digital transformation, stating that the “biggest barrier is a legacy mindset” (Marketing Week, April 2017). Ruth Ballett, Industry Manager at Google Retail also made a particularly pertinent point about understanding intent as the key to delivering great customer experiences.

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That's all for now, except to say a big thanks to everyone who came along, and all our wonderful speakers. If you didn't make it down then never fear, we'll be releasing more great content from the event soon. Check out the twitter feed, download the report, watch the presentations, and subscribe to the blog below to be the first to receive updates!




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