RBTE 2018: Pepper the Robot and retail’s adaptability challenge
RBTE 2018 came and went in a flash of exciting new technology, industry trend analysis, and the airing of some major challenges for the retail sector
From moments before RBTE 2018 got under way at London’s famous old Olympia venue on Wednesday 2 May, the mood had been set for the two-day event and Pepper the Robot was centre stage.
The BBC news cameras were inside the venue to report on what everyone was expecting to be a busy exhibition and conference showcasing ‘the future of retail’, and the reporter Ben Thompson was seen joyfully playing with SoftBank Technology’s iconic creation in a broadcast to millions of TV viewers at home.
Pepper went on to be one of the stars of the show, attracting interested passers-by – including representatives from some of the UK’s major supermarkets, restaurant chains, and property agents – as a variety of companies investigated how they might use robotics to enhance the customer experience.
We at Dedagroup Stealth are excited to be working with Softbank, providing the software behind the hardware which enables retailers to tailor the robot’s functionality to their specific customer base. Our engineers and expert technologists help devise Pepper’s interaction capability to match a retailer’s preferences, and there was widespread interest from the industry.
The opportunities when using Pepper at the retail point of sale are endless. Retailers might want to use the technology to access information about their customers’ previous purchases, or they could use the robot as a novel way of looking up inventory information. These capabilities are strengthen with "one single point of the true" granted by Stealth Retail inventory management.
The customers themselves might be encouraged to interact with Pepper personally, talking or using it to find items not currently stocked in store or to order items to be delivered to their homes. There are so many user cases for the robot in the store experience and at the point of sale that can help deliver compelling customer experiences if real-time retail management information is plugged into its system.
Adaptability above all else
But, of course, RBTE 2018 was not simply about one endearing robot. The expo provided a platform for hundreds of technology companies to showcase their wares, and inform visiting retailers about the systems, gadgets, and software that can help change their fortunes for the better – or help support ongoing success.
From the conference sessions I attended it was clear retailers are striving to find ways to be more adaptable to the increasingly fast-moving pace at which consumer behaviour changes and business requirements shift.
Spokespeople at companies ranging from grocery chain Co-op Food and clothing and lifestyle player Oliver Bonas, to fashion and furniture retailer Laura Ashley and footwear specialist Schuh all at least hinted at the need for agility in modern retailing during their respective presentations.
Ex-Amazon UK CEO and now ASOS chairman Brian McBride ran a session called “Evolve or Die”, and among some hard-hitting points raised was the prediction that retail could witness its own Kodak moment. A company that was leading its market some years ago no longer exists – and it was an inability to change quickly enough and to realign itself with new consumer behaviours – in this case, demand for digital cameras – that contributed to Kodak’s fall from grace.
McBride said “mediocre, me too” businesses will fall by the wayside, and he argued survival of the fittest in retail comes down to an organisation’s ability to easily adapt its proposition, or to build in flexibility to its internal systems and customer-facing platforms.
Technology to meet the demand
Whether it was in payments, e-commerce, marketing, or supply chain, there was plenty of choice at RBTE 2018 for retailers and brands looking for that all-important adaptability.
We have multiple arms to our business, and Dedagroup Stealth is Dedagroup’s company operating in the international market to support Fashion and Luxury Retail companies in their Information Technology needs. A goal that leverages on the fact that Dedagroup Stealth is already providing its ERP platform as the backbone to the operations of major luxury fashion brands across Italy. We are now pushing into markets outside our home territory, and we are confident that we offer the desired flexibility from a technology perspective to meet the needs of luxury fashion brands around the world.
It was a pleasure to be involved in the industry discussions, and to take a place on the exhibition floor at RBTE 2018 thanks to our stand partnership with Retail Pro. And if the event has taught us anything, it’s that retail organisations are starting to face up to the change required for their businesses to flourish – and more than ever they are seeking technology providers that can help them build in agility and adaptability.
And for all the shiny, interactive Pepper the Robot-style tech deployed in store, retailers need also to be introducing innovative, flexible tech behind the scenes to ensure front-end fun and games run efficiently and contribute to better customer experiences.