With so much happening, so quickly, in the world of retail we thought it was high time to delve deeper into the seismic changes affecting our industry, what they really mean for bricks and mortar retailers and how they can be leveraged to improve the future of retail, both for brands and customers. So, in October we held our first ‘Retail Indaba’, staged in Amsterdam, which met with a very positive response from some of the world’s leading retail brands.
Based on a Zulu word, literally describing a gathering for discussion, our ‘Indaba’ was designed to provide an opportunity for brand owners to put some tough questions to both rpa:group and its partners. To this end we selected an expert panel that included a retail psychologist, our own head of design James Breaks and a technology specialist, all under the watchfull eye of Matthew Valentine, the Editor of Retail Design World, who acted as Chairman.
Our overall aim for the Indaba was to stimulate discussion that could be taken back to boardrooms to inform strategies that would drive positive real life applications. It soon became clear that attendees were grappling with some big issues, ranging from ‘omnichannel’ to AI, and that for some these represented untold opportunities whilst for others they represented challenges that must be met head on. We were delighted not only with the willingness of attendees to share experiences and talk frankly about their business challenges, but also with the challenging questions this led to such as, ”How do we ACTUALLY make fundamental changes within big business?” I think we all agreed that change now typifies retail. In the last ten years the humble high street store, still the preferred destination for 85% of shoppers, has gone through more changes than in the past one hundred.
Now a union of online and bricks and mortar, the once simple store is now an immersive brand theatre, incorporating a glorious cocktail of showrooming, digital entertainment and ‘sharable’ experiences. To deal with this change however requires not just a new mind set from retailers but also a new skill set, one that goes far beyond the old transactional paradigm. There was a general feeling from attendees that the Indaba broke new ground for them and that working collaboratively with our expert panel provided the strategy and insight to help them come to terms with some of the tricky issues that can affect all aspects of their brand identity.
“Knowing the unknowns” has become a constituent part of 21st Century problem solving and our Indaba addressed plenty of unknowns presented by the audience. For many attendees, it signposted a way to investigate complex areas such as brand development, retail design and store function. Above all the event illustrated how a team of experts, all from different disciplines, can address retail challenges in real time, delivering insight and strategy into how brands can interface with their customers.
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