Propeller’s panel at eCommerce Expo figures out what’s relevant in retail tech

Technologies such as chatbots, AI, VR/AR and visual search are changing the way customers research and interact with brands, but not all tech is equal. Some is landing with the consumer and improving the customer experience, while some is over-promising and not yet ready. Propeller invited four retail experts to discuss what tech innovations they should be investing in and why.

The panel, which took place at Ecommerce Expo’s  Customer and Personalisation Theatre, was chaired by Propeller’s Director of Content, Branwell Johnson, and featured Tara Lynch, Product Manager for Digital Channels at River Island, Neil Kuschel, CEO Europe of Global‑e, Dominique Bonnafoux, Strategy Director at FITCH and Louisa Nicholls, Senior Manager Trade Marketing for John Lewis & Partners.

Louisa explained how John Lewis & Partners is investing in tech: “Our mobile site and app glues our channels together, helping us engage with customers on a different level. We’ve installed ‘Kitchen Drawer’ on our John Lewis membership cards, which gives customers immediate access to in-store and online receipts. This tech adds value to consumers lives, and more tech like this can help in integrating online and offline channels.”

When it comes to investing in slick new technology that integrates online and offline experiences, Dominique said: “Think about how it can provide an added layer for the consumer. For example, shoppers enjoy an AR/VR experience in-store, so use this to supply additional product information or give shoppers a behind the scenes look at the brand by gamifying the experience and having fun.”

She also added that it was important that retailers do not try to implement too much tech all at once, instead focussing on testing tech and seeing what works and what lands with consumers.

Tara added that technology’s role for the future of bricks and mortar lay in helping to build a community with positive interactions and engagement. This would then attract younger demographics such as Gen Z, who are usually shopping online: “The store can help to create a powerful brand and aid the shopper journey. The store could remind you about something or even change your perception of a product.”

Neil stressed the importance of data in helping to build a seamless end-to-end experience for the consumer. Pointing to deliveries and high return-rates, he said: “First-time customers need the confidence that they can return easily. Data can help analyse what the right returns or delivery proposition is for individual markets, which, in turn, will maximise outbound conversions and profitability. It’s important to get the basics in place to maximise the chances of the customer returning.”

eCommerce Expo was co-located with TFM and Ad:Tech London at Olympia this year and Propeller helped promote the conferences and managed media relations.