Scott Thompson previews Retail Business Technology Expo 2015, set to take place in London on 10-11 March

With the controversial Earls Court redevelopment scheme now a depressing inevitability (IMHO), a glut of retail technology-related shows have been forced to up sticks and move to either Olympia or ExCel London. In the case of Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE), it’s the former, or more specifically Olympia’s Grand Hall.

It left Earls Court on a high, however; there was an increase in attendance in 2014 with visitors up by over 20 per cent on the 2013 gathering. And positive notices from retailers, including Ian Lenton, application architect, New Look, who said: “RBTE has been useful, it’s been good to come and see it and good to see the amount of people that are here. As a business we’re growing, we’re growing internationally, we’re growing in the UK, we’re growing online as well, that’s where we’re growing as a business; so to be able to see all these things, see where the market’s going and how the innovations that are happening within the technology side of things helps us to grow our business as well.” 

The change of venue won’t be the only new development in 2015. There will also be a new event called Retail Design Expo, featuring every aspect of retail design, visual merchandising and branding; co-located with RBTE, it will occupy the West Hall, with its own entrance but allowing free crossover between the two halls.

Also making its debut is the International Retail Franchise Summit (IRFS), a one day programme (11 March) designed to provide strategic and practical solutions to help retailers succeed when expanding internationally via the franchising route. Speakers will include Sohail Shaikh, director of international development, Mothercare; Kevin Rusling, international director, Monsoon Accessorize; Gail Anscomb, director of international, The White Company; Louis de Bourgoing, international director, WHSmith; Helen Barnish, head of international development, Hamleys of London; Richard Aquilina, head of international franchising, Blue Inc; Lucy Haine, international territory controller - Asia, Debenhams; Alex Coombe, head of franchise, French Connection; Mike Brocklebank, head of franchise, Bathstore; Jon Knight, CEO, Al Khayyat Investment Group; Bijou Kurien - member of the strategic advisory board, L Capital - Asia. In summary, lots of people with international in their job titles.

Conference programme

RBTE recently revealed the first batch of speakers for its conference programme running alongside the exhibition. This is always an essential part of the two days for me, although let’s hope that the organisers have addressed the fact that the small conference theatres were standing room only last time around, as one eager audience member found to his cost when he went crashing through a makeshift wall.

John Roberts, CEO & founder, ao.com, Simon Belsham, managing director, grocery home shopping, Tesco.com, Catriona Marshall, CEO, Hobbycraft and Paul Coby, IT director, John Lewis have been announced as the keynote speakers. And key issues and challenges will be discussed by the likes of Therese Proctor, chief personnel officer, Tesco Bank; Alex Chruszcz, senior director of insight, pricing and data, Asda; Kevin O’Brien, IT director, Selfridges; Mike Durbridge, director of omnichannel, B&Q UK and Ireland; Robert Teagle, EMEA IT director, Starbucks; Michel Koch, e-commerce director, UK and international, Maplin Electronics; Richard Jenkins, head of RFID strategic development, Marks and Spencer; Sam Barton, head of user experience, Shop Direct Group; Peter Lewis, external initiatives manager and formerly Oyster development manager, Transport for London; Rebecca Glenapp, co-founder, Lux Fix; Annabel Kilner, head of UK, Made.com.

A range of topics will be covered, with streams including Omnichannel Retailing, Retail Leadership, HR & Skills Development, Technology, Innovation & Data, Marketing and the Customer, Retailer Payments Strategy and Payments in A Mobile World.

Shopping Everywhere

The Customer Experience Foundation will be demonstrating the latest trends in a new future of shopping exhibit. RBTE have asked futurologist and experience designer Morris Pentel to create the shopping experience of tomorrow from the latest products available today. The exhibit will demonstrate how technology innovations and the Internet of Things are changing the retail landscape; e.g. touching a wall to buy a product, watching the TV and tweeting and ordering pizza while chatting with friends through a video link and comparing your prices.

Rupesh Raikundalia (Customer Experience Foundation Board Member and the man responsible for making it all work on the day) says: “The exhibit, in one single space, will show retailers how quickly things are changing. It is not just how it changes the experience in the store; it takes your store wherever the customer is. It is “Shopping Everywhere” with friends and family (at home, at the store of your choice, or on a plane, or in a park), simply by telling the room what you want it to be using the latest projection and other tech; augmented reality examples from all over the world all controlled by the best phones tablets games consoles and other devices but also with voice commands and gestures.” 

Keep an eye out for...

If, after that lot, you’ve still got time to spare, you’ll probably want to drop by a few stands, check out some of the latest omnichannel technologies on display and, if you’re anything like me, nab some freebie pens, mousepads etc. Here’s our pick of the exhibiting companies...

PMC believes that there are two significant challenges for retailers in 2015 and that they have an innovative solution to address; Mobility: the ability to deliver a true mobile solution that enhances the customer experience across all the relevant user journeys, and Payments: providing a true omnichannel strategy to manage payments and returns consistently across all channels and regions.

At RBTE 2015 the company will be showcasing their Store Enabler solution which allows retailers to capitalise on the investment they have already made in web-based systems and use them to deliver an mPOS solution which has the flexibility to use any size Android or iOS device and the ability to use and change form factor at any time. Store Enabler also gives retailers the ability to scan, pay and print with a wide variety of industry leading hardware and payment providers. PMC will also be launching a new solution which addresses a multi-channel/payment problem that every retailer will want to crack. Intrigued? Then pay them a visit at stand number 728.

One iota (stand G32) returns to RBTE in 2015 for the Retail Design Expo event, showing retailers how the latest cloud-based in-store technology is driving sales and revolutionising the customer shopping experience. The company is a specialist in online, in-store and interactive solutions. It delivers a number of different technologies to help retailers embrace multi-channel solutions across channels that include mobile, tablet, native apps and in-store. One iota’s solutions range from iPads carried by sales assistants to in-store transactional kiosks and technology channels such as touch wall glass panels and interactive walls. Its cloud-based platform, MESH, is used by retailers including Littlewoods, Mamas & Papas, Superdry and JD Sports, and its in-store technology is now active in over 1,000 stores across the UK.

One iota attended RBTE two years ago and is now returning to partner with kiosk specialists, Evoke. This year’s show will see it showcase its purpose built Store of the Future, highlighting how the latest technology can be used to enhance the customer journey within the in-store environment.

Tap&Tag is a new contactless point of sale technology developed by Live Receipts (stand 412). “Tap&Tag couldn’t be simpler to install or easier to use,” says managing director Steve Slough. “You just plug it in and go with no need to alter any software, and it works with virtually any EPoS or till system that uses an external thermal printer. When making a purchase there is no need to give out your email address. You can simply tap your bank card or any NFC device on the Tap&Tag console to start the process. Anytime later once online registration is completed these and any future console receipts will be sent instantly from our cloud server to your phone or computer. Customers can then manage all their receipts and expenses online or via the easy to use app. If you want both paper and electronic receipts, just tap twice. It’s that simple.”

For retailers, the system also captures real-time transaction data, which can be analysed via their own online portal. And it has the facility to convert this information into tailored and customer specific incentives, email and app-based incentives.

ShopperTrak (stand 662) will demonstrate how retailers can use location-based analytics to gain critical insights to better understand the shopper journey and make actionable decisions – increasing traffic, dwell times, conversion and transaction size.

In a competitive, multi-channel environment where customers expect a rich experience from the laptop to the physical store, retailers are increasingly relying on accurate, actionable data. On the one hand, technology is making it easier than ever to make informed decisions and predictions. On the other, consumers are becoming more sophisticated. They are starting to grasp the benefits of allowing behavioural and personal data to be tracked in order to obtain a better service, more engagement and access to promotions. More than 1,000 of the world’s leading retail brands rely on ShopperTrak to calculate total sales opportunities and conversion rates, compare store performance, determine marketing campaign effectiveness and improve labour scheduling and customer engagement.

Shoplight (in partnership with SLE and on stand H63 at the Retail Design Expo) will be presenting their Retail Lighting Mini-Mall. This interactive scale model shopping centre displays a number of applications, from fashion to jewellery, car dealerships to supermarkets and will enable visitors to explore the psychology of retail lighting and how it can change perception of products and brands.

Cognitec Systems (stand 280) will be promoting their FaceVACS-VideoScan solution, which detects and extracts people’s faces in live video streams or video footage and uses anonymous facial analysis to count individuals, generate demographical information, track people movement in time and space, detect frequent visitors and crowds etc. For example, operators can receive an alarm if too many people gather in a specific area and measure waiting times to direct traffic. The analysis of traffic patterns and demographical statistics can provide businesses with precise visitor data to make interior design, advertising placement, staffing and other operational decisions. As the technology can analyse a face for gender, age and ethnicity as people approach a camera, it can trigger the display of a targeted message on a digital sign or other advertising/message devices.

On stand 444, Us (Unique Secure) will be focusing on its range of interchangeable, device independent mPOS solutions, which enable retailers to quickly deploy their staff onto the shopfloor to assist customers, improve their experiences and protect precious revenue streams. At the same time, they have the knowledge of a secure charging location for both their tablet and Bluetooth PED. With this in mind, Us are planning to demonstrate their patent pending next generation of mPOS solutions, which they say will transform the view of how payments are taken, both for the large Tier 1 retailers and also the smaller independent stores.

And last but not least, Retail Systems (stand 131) will also be in attendance, so feel free to drop by our stand. There will be a chance to meet members of our editorial and sales teams and we’ll also be handing out copies of the latest issues of the mag. It’s going to be a busy couple of days! We look forward to seeing many of you there.

Further information on the show at: http://www.retailbusinesstechnologyexpo.com