Lunch pic“How do you keep adapting to the huge demands of the 2019 consumer?”  This is just one of the topics discussed last week when Software AG’s Innovation Tour stopped in London where I hosted a thought leadership lunch for some of our most valued retail customers.

I have long believed that discussing perspectives on industry trends and changes with customers provides valuable input for Software AG’s Industry Solutions in order to drive even more customer-centric solutions.  Consequently, I was absolutely delighted to be joined by Tesco, John Lewis & Partners, Office Depot, Sainsbury’s and Walgreens Boots Alliance - all of whom shared their perspectives on the state of the industry, the responses they are seeing, what works and what doesn’t work. 

Sitting adjacent to a 1958 Fiat 500 in Tozi Restaurant and Bar in London’s Victoria, the setting inspired a free-flow of thinking. Of course, governed by the “Chatham House Rule,” the discussion was varied and open with topics around how to differentiate from competition covered in detail. 

Many participants were aware of recent environmental-focused protests that had taken place in London and this created a great discussion about how environmental concerns were something that needed to be considered.  Who is the most environmentally friendly retailer?  We were not clear on that, but we were clear that our perspectives were driven primarily by consumer perception.

We know that “little nudges” can help improve things, so providing consumers with the necessary information when making a purchase could well reduce any environmental impact a retailer has.  Providing information for something like the carbon footprint of next-day versus two-day delivery is one thing, but providing consumers with a highly detailed perspective in terms of the total carbon footprint along the entire supply chain would likely present a much larger challenge.

Generation Z provides a huge challenge for retailers – there was agreement on this and how the habits and expectations of those born after 1995 are migrating into the older generations.  What is not discussed as often is the impact of Generation Z on the workforce.  Given that retailers rely heavily on directly consumer-facing staff to run their business, while reducing overall labor costs, the ability to leverage technology that can augment and accelerate the multi-skilling of these individuals made for a fascinating discussion.

The demands upon technology, as well as the overall impact it is having on the whole change process, was also discussed.  Given this was part of Software AG’s Innovation Tour, the subject of how best to innovate with technology was touched upon.  One thing hit me after the lunch – when it comes to digital transformation, technology is very much like the petroleum product in a vehicle’s engine – not only is it the fuel driving the need to digitally transform, but it also provides the lubrication that helps the transformation engine to run smoothly.

Thanks to all our participants for an active, lively and informative discussion.

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