This post is part of our new Retail Influencer series where we interview the world's leading retail experts to get their take on the state of the industry, the top trends to watch for, and what the future holds.
1. How has the retail industry evolved in the past 5 years?
AB: Out of all recognition in so many different ways. From online to stores to supply chain to customer experience the retail landscape is very different now. As an example, 5 years ago we weren't discussing how best to use AI, AR or VR in retail and the idea of drone deliveries would have been pure fantasy. All that has changed and the message now is that if AI isn't part of your strategy then prepare to take a trip down to your nearest Jobcentre.
2. What are the top retail technology trends you're seeing?
AB: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is by far the most important technology for decades. IBM's Watson is a great example and is a complete gamechanger and will revolutionise how we go shopping, how we experience retail brands, how they interact with us and how they will deliver unique personalised experiences.
✅ But it's not just the adoption of one technology in isolation, it is the blending of technologies to provide real value which is the key.
Examples such as facial recognition and AI or automation with AI in the supply chain.
3. How will blockchain change the retail industry?
AB: Blockchain is emerging as a real opportunity for people to transact on a peer to peer level in complete trusted environments. This will see the end of estate agents and in retail will threaten marketplaces such as eBay.
4. What's the future of retail?
AB: Bright! In future, we will have predictive retail where goods which we need are delivered to us before we've even thought about that need. It is rapidly becoming an ‘anything, anywhere' economy where we will expect to order pretty much anything from anywhere just by thinking about that order and getting it delivered whenever, wherever we require.
Stores will still exist as shopping is a very social activity and as human beings, we are social creatures. We also value multi-sensory experiences however, there will be less stores but those which survive will be far better. Many won't carry any inventory as there'll be no need as, for example, clothes will be tried on virtually.
Online and physical will become one and the growth of online as we know it today will continue to slow until it reaches a natural point of pivot with store sales.
We should also be prepared to lose a number of well known brands which have failed to keep up with consumer demand, crippled by the cost of rent and rates on an overly large store estate and internal structures and cultures which are no longer fit for purpose in the on-demand/gig economy era in which we now find ourselves. They will be replaced by ever more innovative young brands, run by millennials who truly understand the needs of their customers and how to deliver an exciting, inspiring experience.
About Andrew Busby
In a retail career spanning nearly 20 years, Andrew held senior positions at Kingfisher and Superdrug before pursuing a business development career, working with retailers such as Arcadia, Debenhams, John Lewis and Argos to deliver transformational IT software and services solutions.
Now a retail writer & analyst, Andrew is one of the most influential figures in retail – ranked by Vend at number 11 in their list of the top 100 retail influencers.
He is the Founder & CEO of Retail Reflections, a retail analyst practice. In this capacity, Andrew is in demand as a writer and speaker.
In addition to writing his own retail blog he is a columnist and an Advisory Board member for Retail Week and a contributor to Retail Technology magazine. Andrew is also an IBM Futurist, writing and speaking about retail & technology for IBM as part of their influencer programme.
Andrew is also the founder of The Retail Advisory Board, an invitation only Board level retail forum whose members meet to discuss the retail issues of the day in a relaxed, informal & above all, confidential environment.