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The Big Trends From Retail Week Live 2018

This year’s Retail Week Live featured speakers from some of the UK’s largest retail companies. LEO Learning’s Account Director, Greg Watson, was there to soak up the atmosphere and find out about the key retail industry trends.

Retail Week Live 2018 is the largest gathering of retail leadership in the UK, with over 150 speakers. Each year, industry leaders share their insights on the hottest topics in the retail sector.

This is the second time I’ve been lucky enough to attend this two-day event, which was held at the InterContinental O2 in London.

Last year Brexit was understandably a big topic. In contrast, this year I heard just a smattering of Brexit chatter. Instead, Retail Week Live 2018 was mostly focused on three key areas:

  • Customer and brand experience
  • Talent development
  • Data

There were some fascinating sessions from major figures in the retail industry, with some major trends emerging across the two-day event.

Here are my key takeaways from Retail Week Live 2018.

Brand experience matters – a lot!

Brand experience was the major focus of many of the sessions. Retailers recognise that how people interact with and experience their brand is vitally important to their success.

This isn’t just about the general need to have ‘a strong brand’. Research has shown that the ability to generate positive brand experiences has a real impact on revenues.

A positive brand experience should also be omnichannel. Customers expect a positive experience in-store, while shopping online and through social media.

Invest in staff development to amplify your brand

If you’re serious about creating positive brand experiences for your customers, then developing in-store staff’s skills and knowledge is key.

Customers are now more informed than ever. Before they make a purchase they’re analysing, comparing and reviewing products online, and then visiting a store. Or they may come to a store to gather knowledge and then go home to make their purchase online.

This means staff need to have a very high level of product knowledge to offer more detailed advice and advanced levels of customer service.

Training staff on shop floors can often be a challenge. Time away from the shop floor is limited and facilities to train staff can be difficult in retail locations. There are ways around this, of course – microlearning and mobile learning can be effective ways to train staff in these circumstances.

Storytelling is still important

While storytelling has been a strong trend in retail advertising over the past few years, the ability to tell your brand story internally is now paramount.

Staff need to understand the heritage of a brand, as well as its key values. This knowledge and context is key to providing a positive shopping experience to customers. When staff can bring a brand alive, customers will listen.

An enjoyable learning experience can help create enthusiasm for a brand. We’ve seen this first-hand when we recently created a learning experience for Godiva that brought their brand to life in vivid detail.

Storytelling also has value in understanding customer experiences. One term mentioned by Steve Rowe, Marks and Spencer CEO (above), was ‘customer lifetime value’. This is the value of the future relationship your customer may have with you. For example, it could start with buying baby clothes and then continue over time into purchasing school clothes and womenswear too.

Explaining this relationship to staff can help transform new customers into life-long customers, to maximise the value of a single customer.

Developing the talent pipeline

Away from brand experience, the need to invest and nurture talent was another key trend at Retail Week Live 2018. With a reported 93,000 vacancies across the retail sector currently, the need to attract and retain staff is a major concern for retailers.

Pippa Wicks, Deputy Chief Executive of the Co-op Group, told attendees about their Academies Trust. The Co-op sponsor 12 academies, carefully working with them across the North of England to invest in future talent and improve the education and opportunities for young people – some of whom go on to do an apprenticeship with the Co-op.

The development of innovation hubs are another tactic that retailers are taking to attract millennial talent. Retailers such as John Lewis and Sainsbury’s have set up, what are essentially, internal startups. In these spaces, staff can work on experimental initiatives and projects, in a similar way to Silicon Valley giants such as Google and Facebook.

Lots of data…but how to measure it effectively?

This was one of the major headlines from Retail Week Live 2018. Retailers across the sector reported that they are ‘drowning in data’, and want to improve their ability to channel all of this data into measuring performance.

I had many interesting conversations regarding LEO Learning’s recent work on measuring the business impact of learning, and our expertise in helping organizations create learning ecosystems that harness data to deliver insights on learner performance and L&D investment.

Retail Week Live 2018

All in all, in a current environment of difficult retail situations, Retail Week Live 2018 was characterised by an overall exciting sense of optimism. It’s really great to know that the enthusiasm for products and customers is always a delightful experience for the retail industry.

All images courtesy of Greg Watson and Retail Week Live 2018.

To find out how LEO Learning creates transformative learning experiences for major retailers, speak to one of our experts today.

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