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Mishcon partner chairs Revo panel on technologies transforming retail

Posted on 15 October 2019

Susan Freeman, a Partner in the Real Estate department at Mishcon de Reya, recently chaired a retail-focused panel discussion entitled 'What can technology do for you?', which was recorded live at Revo Liverpool 2019.

The session on 18 September explored how technology can connect people, drive footfall and bring new uses to vacant units. Panellists comprised:

  • Hector Minto, Microsoft
  • Linda Chandler, author of Digital High Street and Director of Hyper Local Cities
  • Herculano Rodrigues, Associate Director, Javelin
  • Dr Jackie Mulligan, ShopAppy
  • Sam Jackman, Shared Access  

Revo: Can technology enrich retail & customer experience?

What Technology Can Do For You
 

Susan Freeman
Good afternoon, I am Susan Freeman and as you can probably see from the holding slide, I am a lawyer but I am also vice chair of the British Property Federation Technology and Innovation Working Group, so I am delighted to be chairing this panel and it’s, it’s such an exciting and pivotal time for retail technology. On the one hand we have the backdrop of store closures and general doom and gloom and I think in the press this morning you probably saw that three quarters of retail landlords are talking about repurposing their retail but on the other hand we have a positive explosion of new retail technology that can drive efficiencies, can improve the customer experience and it has become clear that it is not just about online retail but even the online brands have worked out that they need bricks and mortar to actually drive that customer experience. So we are here to take a look at how technology is changing the retail work, world, we are also looking at whether the retail property sector is grasping the opportunities or whether it is lagging behind in relation to other sectors. Um we are also going to talk about which technologies we think are here to stay and um you know it could be gaming culture, facial recognition which has caused quite a lot of controversy recently or are we going to end up with robots in our shops like you see in Japan. That’s not really taken off here yet. Um but there is definitely a growing trend for technology that really encourages and enables human interaction. So what does all this mean for retail property? So we have this fantastic panel, they are each driving innovation and change in their own and I am going to ask them each to introduce themselves and then we are going to talk about some of these issues and um hopefully we will have a bit of time at the end for audience questions. So Jackie…

 

Jackie Mulligan
So I am Jackie Mulligan and I like to refer to myself as a bit of a shop local vigilante and I am the CEO and Founder of ShopAppy which is trying to fight back for our high streets and bricks and mortar businesses.

 

Linda Chandler
Great thanks. My name is Linda Chandler and I work with Hyperlocal Cities. Um so I am a smart cities advisor and I also work with Tech London Advocates co-chairing their proptech working group and there is two things I am really interested in in the kind of in light of the retail space; one is about working local and actually how about casual co-working and bringing that to the high street and also around the idea of the digital high street and actually how there is a gap between locality and actually all this digital technology that we have. So how do we bring that together and at Tech London Advocates we are having a theme around a campaign about how to bring together the digital high street.

 

Herculano Rodriguez
Hi, my name is Herculano Rodriguez. I work for Javelin Group. Javelin Group were acquired by Accenture Strategy about almost four years ago and me and my team what we actually do we work with retailers and landlords to support them through the changes that are going on, whether that be changes in technology, changes in business models or actually changes in operating model and how they go forward to go through the changes in the retail sector, um that’s where we work with our clients.

 

Susan Freeman
Thank you, Sam...

 

Sam Jackman
Hi and I am Sam Jackman. I work for a company called Shared Access and we are all about investing in mobile communication inside large venues. So shopping centres, large football stadiums, anywhere where lots of people congregate and where 4G and in the future 5G is necessary, that’s where we get involved, we spend our money investing so the landlords don’t have to.

 

Susan Freeman
Thank you. So retail property technology is an incredibly broad subject and we’ve only got a limited time so shall we um kick off thinking a little bit about what technology we think is here to stay and what is actually going to be binned.  So Herculano, just starting with you, what… are you seeing any trends in the way customers are using technology in the retail space?

 

Herculano Rodriguez
If I sort of start off with the question that digital and technology is here to stay immediately. The fact that we don’t think about or consumers don’t think about online or offline anymore, they just genuinely believe in having a presence and that can be in digital or physical form as well. Um you can talk about the hype curve about what technologies are coming, so you autonomous vehicles or AI but in reality the actual used cases for some of these technologies is still in its early stage so what I do think from a consumers perspective its more the fact that digital is really important so I would go back to there is a new app called ‘tik tok’ – just by a show of hands who has heard of tik tok?  A smattering, so I see maybe 15% of people.  Tik tok has 663 million users and only 36% of those users come from the APAC region and they have only been around for about 14 months.  Obviously they have gone through iterations as a business since 2012 but really as a platform they’ve only been around for about 18 months and they have got to that almost a billion users, you know, in a phenomenal amount of time.

 

Susan Freeman
Do you want to tell the audience who don’t know, what they actually do?

 

Herculano Rodriguez
Oh I have no idea what Tik Tok is, I am not old enough for Tik Tok. No Tik Tok is basically an app which is a 14 second video so if you think of Snapchat, it’s an evolution of Snapchat where basically you start with Facebook, your parents go on Facebook, no one wants to go on Facebook anymore so the kids go on Instagram. So the kids are on Instagram, parents start to go on Instagram, well they don’t want to go there anymore so then they go to Snapchat. Now Snapchat is starting to get really popular with sort of the mid-20’s so the teenagers want something else and Tik Tok has filled that gap, it’s basically an app which is a 14 second video which allows you to post something and it disappears and um that’s basically it. I have no idea how it works but I just know that people love it. Absolutely love it. There is over about 300 million downloads in the last 8 months and there is continuous usage so for me, going back to what technology is driving people, I think it it’s about the fact that digital itself, it’s not about AI or this IOT device which is going to change retail, it’s about being connected and using technology to enable the experience around that.

 

Susan Freeman
And obviously you’ve mentioned Tik Tok, are there any other brands or platforms that are coming through that you think really stand out?

 

Herculano Rodriguez
I mean there is a ton, I could talk about. For me, I think the platforms Amazon, Alibaba are quite interesting to see how they are evolving as a platform business and I think we are seeing now retailers and not just, you know, not just the big guys but actually I met two start-up retailers, retailers are using marketplace technology to get to market and to get to user bases that have not been there before so if I think about one brand which is really getting to grips with understanding how technology can work with a consumer mind-set, I think about Nikey. Nikey has more than just an application that helps you to buy personal shoes which I don’t go on there because I buy a lot of crap shoes and it’s really bad because it’s very addictive but what Nikey have done is that they have integrated the experience of going to the store to design your own shoes.They have also integrated the community element of the fact that I can be part of the Nike club and run anywhere in the world. So I can go to New York and join a Nike running club so what they are connecting is actually going down creative community behind just trainers basically. So for me, one of the brands that I find really fascinating in terms of going along the value chain of what they are as a sneaker company to what they are as a purpose, their brand, I always think of Nikey.

 

Susan Freeman
That’s interesting and are there lessons that the retail property community can learn from bands like Nikey? I don’t know whether Jackie or…?

 

Jackie Mulligan
Obviously its community isn’t it? That example is, is classic, it’s about connecting with communities but the interesting thing around technology is that with every new platform, every new way of communicating to the customer, most do not disappear so you end up with an increasing spectrum and an increasing number of channels to communicate to the customer which is fantastic unless you are a small sole trader trying to navigate it and I think that’s where we also need aggregators, where we need to simplify things and I think that the technology is going at such a pace that there is a state of future shock that people are in and a high street that is lagging behind and whilst some brands are able to accelerate, they’ve got massive funds behind them, most of our town centres have small businesses that can’t, can’t possibly compete with that kind of you know, acceleration but what they can do is start to operate as place because place and town centres are the natural place of communities. We are not product human beings, we are social human beings who interact in places so our places need to stop lagging behind and actually help connect the consumer with places and aggregate those small businesses.

 

Susan Freeman
And the word customised actually stood out Herculano because I think that’s whether you are talking about a big international brand or you are talking about um small high streets, one is talking about customer experience and actually feeling that they are getting some sort of personal treatment. So Linda you are working with various partners to bring technology to the high street. Do you want to talk a little bit about what, what you are doing and whether you are actually seeing an acceleration of change in um real estate?


Linda Chandler
Yeah, I think I’d echo what Herculano said about I think platforms are definitely here to stay and in terms of being able to connect people. So um some of the people that we are working with as Tech London Advocates are folks like Work Club. So WorkClub for example is about how do you bring the working experience to the under utilised spaces in the day so again it is connecting people that are looking for places to work locally with under utilised restaurants within the day and other spaces so it is providing that kind of overlay. And similarly there is a company called StreetDots who do the same thing in terms of outdoor spaces and matching those with independent food retailers. And those platforms can actually provide a really dynamic and vibrant feel to a place so you know there is an ever changing proposition and actually people are enjoying locally and kind of buying more locally as well so I think platforms are definitely part of the future and also I think in terms of geo location and again we’ve talked about you know, physical and digital and you know you don’t want marketing pushed at you or you don’t want to get things when you are not in the space to consume it, you know, you always forget about the email offer that you might have you know, if you are there and in a space it is going to be much better in terms of kind of nudging somebody to do something if they are in that locality so I think on that kind of geo location is definitely an important part of the offer.

 

Susan Freeman
Okay, so and it’s all about connecting people and experiences and the like which brings me to, to Sam because obviously what you do is all about creating connectivity. So why is it, why is it so important?

 

Sam Jackman
Well in a way it is the least interesting part of what everyone is talking about because all of these platforms sit on top of the connectivity platform because as you’ve been saying, we all have these different persona’s, we all have these different people, we are online versus offline and trying to complete that sale. If you don’t have connectivity in a venue it is very difficult to get someone to make the sale. You have to go to a physical location, you have to do a physical thing. If you can combine that and if you can say we have the ability to bring you in to complete the sale you can do anything you want, anywhere you want. A lot of locations are talking about having virtual concessions now which means actually as long as I have got the ability to give you the product, I can make the sale to you anywhere I want because I do it on this level of connectivity. So it is a way of changing the model effectively for retailers.

 

Susan Freeman
And we all talk about connectivity and you know, how important it is wherever you are that you are able to get your wifi and you know for obvious reasons but do people actually understand the difference between wifi and 5G do think?

 

Sam Jackman
5G is a buzz word at the moment. It is not here, it will be a while before it is in its true form but if you look at what 4G can already do the download speeds are pretty good. If you are trying to push content, again the download, the upload speeds are pretty good. So the ability to have that fundamental basic layer that allows you to do other things on top, it gives you that flexibility. I think you are right, most people only know things when there is a problem so the spinning wheel of death, they are trying to make their purchase or they are moving from one access point to another and they don’t realise why something is not working. So for us that’s why mobile like your Vodafone’s, your O2’s, your EE’s and 3’s, having that sort of level of connectivity is the powerful one. If you are in a static location wifi is perfect because you are sitting down, you are not moving, you are able to spend a bit of time with it. When you are moving around a location or if you are a retailer or a high street and you are trying to move people from one place to another, to have the dexterity of mobile connectivity is just a lot more powerful. 5G is a long way away.

 

Susan Freeman
That’s great. So shall we have a chat about the, the fact that this landscape of retail technology is changing very, very fast and as a sector retail property is always beating itself up you know as not keeping up with other sectors and that’s um what, that’s what we are told but what I’d actually like to discuss a little bit is whether you know, it’s real or whether it’s perceived. So Herculano I am going to start with you. I mean is it real or perceived and have other sectors been more successful in utilising the best of technology?

 

Herculano Rodriguez
So I think it is a really interesting question but I am going to take a pass. I am going to ask the audience and then I will come back to my answer which is do we think that retail, sorry retail technology that property companies are ahead of the game put your hand up?  Anyone who believes that. [Laughter] In line with retails? Anyone put your hand up. Who thinks that they are behind retailers and behind consumers? That’s the bulk of people. So the short answer is that basically. I think there is, the reality is technology is really expensive to deploy at scale and retailers struggle to do this because they have a whole set of legacy systems and I think retail property struggles to do this because they have a whole set of different ways of looking at an investment. Your typical investment cycle for a property is 5 to 10 years. Retailers maybe 3 to 5 years. Technology comes to deploy an ERP software solution is going to take 2 or 3 years so by the time you’ve installed it, it is too late. So I think the challenge lies not with the technology itself, it’s trying to decide which technology is going to be right at the right time. But on that same front I actually think consumers are completely changing as well so technology is changing but consumers are completely different. I mean I found out this morning that there is a virtual influencers who has over 323 thousand followers and it is basically created by some guy in his bedroom in Germany, a German guy and he has got 300 thousand followers and they basically, they did an advert for Calvin Klein where she posted this virtual, literally like a, like a – I don’t know how to describe it – it’s basically like what are those… avatar, it’s an avatar right and she posted something about Calvin Klein, about a new watch and she got 10,000 likes for Calvin Klein. It’s a machine that’s posting this so I think consumers are also changing as well and I think we need to take that into consideration. So if you are looking at a tech strategy if is not just about what technology is going to work for my business, it is what technology is going to be sufficient in 5 to 10 years’ time based on the way consumers are changing and it is very difficult to predict that.

 

Susan Freeman
And you don’t always get it right and I think you know, perhaps the property sector is not a sector that will take a risk, it doesn’t necessarily want to invest in trying something in case it doesn’t work and you know sometimes with innovation you’ve got to try um…

 

Herculano Rodriguez
The thing is like most property companies when they do an investment it is like ‘I am going to build this building, I am going to have a 5 year RI or 6%, 8%, 10% whatever it is’ and that is a pretty steady investment. With innovation you have got to invest in like ten or fifteen different things and only one of those will probably get ten X and the rest won’t work and that is a real different mentality of saying ‘okay well I am going to accept that this isn’t going to work’ and that’s I think where property companies struggle and you know, retailers struggle with this as well. It is not as if the retailers invest in all this technology.  We’ve seen from John Lewis latest results part of it is obviously consumers, the other part is investments and technology as well so I don’t think retailers are very far ahead on property companies, I just think they are a little bit ahead.

 

Susan Freeman
Okay um and Jackie, any thoughts?

 

Jackie Mulligan
So in terms of the whole tech outlook and the predictions I used to do a lot of research in future trends and one of the big challenges I think and it is quite a frustrating one for me is that we seem to following a very linear narrative that is being dictated to us by a couple of tech bros that I am sure that we can trust in California and you know, I am sure they are brilliant and lovely and I trust them implicitly with all my data um but they, they are tech giants who are setting what they think the future is and what’s really frustrating to me is, everyone in this room has a role in shaping alternatives. Um you know, the biggest opportunity I think for places to compete is extinction rebellion. It is the environmental issue. Now nobody could have predicted that.  We look at behaviours of kids and assume that they will continue to behave like that but my research in future trends was completely opposite. It is not linear, the future isn’t linear and I am not having a future that is dictated by tech giants. I will have a future that I want for my kids, my place, my area, my community and I think that a lot of it is about rather than trying to constantly react and respond and blame others, take a different tactic. So in ShopAppy we say well everything… we are being told that shopping is about product and price. I think that is a future dictated by men because I certainly know that as a girl, I grew up with my mum and shopping was a social thing. And it is a social thing, it's where friendships are made so we have to stop thinking that retail is all about product and price. We have to stop the tech giant mantra of that and we have to start shaping an alternative future which is about people and place and lets have that one go.

 

Susan Freeman
Well I am with you, I would say shopping is my favourite leisure activity so…

 

Jackie Mulligan
Yeah, it isn’t just a transaction.

 

Susan Freeman
…but you know, it needs to be interesting and you need to be surprised and you need to see things that…

 

Jack Mulligan
But you don’t have to be surprised all the time. I think that today I heard loads and loads of presentations and I don’t want to walk down my high street and suddenly have someone throwing fireworks and dressed as a ballerina. I don’t need public artworks to stimulate me when I am going round a town centre. What I want is also my shops and my businesses to still be there and that is only going to work if they are also competing as a digital place collaboratively.

 

Susan Freeman
So…

 

Jackie Mulligan
Sorry I get on my high horse.

 

Susan Freeman
…so with ShopAppy you have to try and level the playing field so that the small independent retailers can in some way compete with the big giants who have got obviously far more money to, to throw at it. So how do you do that?

 

Jackie Mulligan
It is with great difficult because most of the problems in retail are self-inflicted, people have lagged behind but then there has been a massive lack of investment in retail. I used to work in European funding and if you got a grant you were told, well the grant is for B to B businesses, not B to C. As if B to C doesn’t feel B to B. We weren’t allowed to support retail so no wonder it has lagged. So we have decades of under investment in high streets and just at the point where we could actually re-energise them, digitise them, make them work together, what we have is everybody talking about shrinking retail. I think most people live in towns because they are vibrant economic hubs and we want our aspiration and identity connecting so in terms of small businesses they are looking at the onslaught of VR, holograms, augmented reality and they are saying ‘this looks like an enemy’ because it is so far ahead of where we are. So how I built the platform ShopAppy was we have to take people in small steps because you know, get the small step first, get people to actually just go online, websites still exist, that’s a good thing to get on and now maybe we will start with social media and now maybe we will start with other things but take it in small steps. Don’t expect a revolution on your high street otherwise you will literally dislocate what makes it brilliant in the first place.

 

Herculano Rodriguez
I do want to add something to that though and I love ShopAppy and I think it is a fantastic platform. I also think though that unfortunately the retail in a lot of the high streets just became a little bit too similar right, so there wasn’t enough differentiation, there wasn’t the butcher, the baker, you know the candle stick maker, there wasn’t none of those things that made the high street really great and then the high streets became a little bit generic, apologies if I am speaking out of turn but I do think…

 

Jackie Mulligan
Totally.

 

Herculano Rodriguez
…that there does need to be an evolution of the space in the high street before…

 

Jackie Mulligan
We have Clone Town and now we are about to have Clone Town 2.0. Hey everyone I am going here and there is Amazon clicks and mortar. I am going to another town, here’s Amazon clicks and mortar. Clone Town 2.0 is just round the corner. Learn from our mistakes. The ingenuity, the entrepreneurship, the enterprise is in people’s living rooms because they are not in high street retail, they are not in markets because they are scared to take the risk. It is easier for me to sell my products to China, America and it is harder for me to sell it to my local neighbours. So that’s… we need to really work on this hyperlocal platform but I agree with you, Clone Town is absolutely not what we want but when you see all the online retailers now looking at the high street thinking ‘yeah now’s the time to come in’, I do not want to walk down my high street and it look the same as everywhere else.

 

Susan Freeman
And it’s, I mean just looking at that, just looking at Alibaba and what they have done and sort of invested sort of a million pounds or whatever it is in all these Mom and Pop stores so that they are now you know, they’ve got all the technology and everything and they can… I mean is that going to happen here that you get a you know, big tech company coming in and you know, actually turning these little independent shops into you know, part of their empires. It’s possible. But let’s move on. Um Linda we’ve talked a little bit about you know whether mobile phones actually are the future and the fact that you know, you go anywhere and everybody is just looking at their mobile the whole time, looking at apps and that’s not terribly sociable actually if ones is trying to make you know, the high street more sociable and more of a community having everybody lost in their you know, phone is not going to do it. But you made a point that actually you think it might not be apps that there is going to be a different way forward and do you want to talk a little bit about that?

 

Linda Chandler
Yeah, I do think we are somewhat stuck in this mobility paradigm that we have that we have at the moment which is of the decade so you know, the technologies around um apps, geo location you know, they are all now well embedded into our lives and so we have become used to you know, the heads down experience and wandering round our towns but we are actually entering into the kind of the 2020’s and all the technologies that will become of age in that decade are already here. We are already seeing Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, we are already seeing you know the importance of data and mining that data but actually how do we combine those into a future and an experience that we want I think. Um so I think the mobile phones will go actually. I think it will become a much more embedded experience, wearables will come, there will be much more subtle ways I think to interact with the technology. One of the projects I've been involved in over the years was with Microsoft and Guide Dogs and it was all about actually how you get a way finding experience in a town centre and it is actually a heads up experience so it is using 3D spatial audio to overlay what’s in your environment so the phone goes in the pocket and you can interact with your environment in a very natural way. I think more of these technologies will come to the fore as we move into this kind of era of autonomy. Um I think the important thing is that we need to focus on the user experience. So you know if I am, you know, wandering in my town I want things to be pertinent to me and I always think there is this huge disconnect about you know, me living in my global eco system on my phone, and we all live in them and we all have our different providers, um, and actually wandering down the high street. I am completely anonymous in my local high street in St Albans even though I am very active online, so how do we bring these things together and I think in the future I think we will, at the moment we are choosing our phone eco system and largely living in that although we do go to other tech bros in different circumstances, but I think perhaps in the future there will be more of a choice in terms of we might chose say a digital assistant of choice and that will be the one that we think is very pertinent to our privacy.

 

Susan Freeman
So Alexa will come shopping with us?

 

Linda Chandler
Alexa or a Cortana, you know pick your digital assistance of choice. But I think that could be a way of offering a much more curated and personal experience that you might chose to disclose things, as long as your privacy is preserved, and almost have this kind of force field going out with you interacting and bringing relevant things so it’s, it’s a bit more of an uninterrupted flow and I know some people will think that that is their worst nightmare but other people might think that actually it saves time, it’s more convenient.

 

Jackie Mulligan
Yeah so could I… I’ll argue with that just for a minute because one of the things with my mad thought of walking down the road with Alexa actually fills my heart with concrete. I think there is a thing that we need as humans which is serendipity. I don’t hardly know anybody in Revo and I could bump into someone interesting. The problem with tech and I use data and ShopAppy and it’s great and you target, marvellous but actually we do need to question at some point the ethics of what we are doing and the importance of serendipity, the importance of chance encounter, the importance of not profiling to the nth degree. I know Amazon can remind us about birthdays, it’s very nice of them and tell us about other people that like products like us, that’s great but actually there is something we need to do which is discoverability and so I do, I agree with you, way finding and all that, there was a great app I saw with where it actually triggered your trainers to find where you are going. As a person who gets lost in any town centre, I thought that is absolutely marvellous, I won’t look like an idiot going around the town centre, if my trainers are buzzing and I am going left or right but I do think we need to be very careful because data is one thing but we are humans with free will and we are not algorithms and there is a great danger if we look at the Cambridge Analytica or whatever of actually really impacting on someone’s life if we are not careful.

 

Susan Freeman
I was going to say Jackie, just take it slightly different, your digital assistant could help you with the serendipity because your digital assistant could say ‘oh there’s Sarah, you went to school with her’.

 

Jackie Mulligan
No, an assistant can’t be serendipity. The assistant is a chance encounter, the assistant will be using data that oh it knows Jackie likes red so it will direct me there but hey maybe one day I fancy wearing blue and green but my digital assistant will have the AI programmed into it of what my previous choices were particularly. So I don’t think you can have AI…

 

Susan Freeman
Okay alright well look…

 

Herculano Rodriguez
There is one platform which is quite interesting because it does, using data, provide serendipity and I actually agree with you, I think there is a huge issue with the company I am going to mention, I think they totally often escape themselves from responsibility when it comes to weaponisation of information but Instagram is a really good platform for serendipity. They use all that data that I use and all the pictures that I like to send me a bunch of items that I may or may not purchase and the way they are moving into social commerce, by 2022 they are going to be like the fourth biggest like general merchandise retailer in the world if they get the platform right and if they get the experience right so I do agree with you, I think there is a certain line that needs to be crossed but we are really getting serendipity at the moment through things and platforms like Instagram.

 

Jackie Mulligan
But your likes on Instagram are economic acts.

 

Herculano Rodriguez
Oh no I get that and that’s why I like everything because I just want to basically get advertising to pay a lot, it’s fine. I agree with you and I do think that I have, I have deactivated my Facebook account, I have issues with Facebook as a business but in terms of where they are going and how they… social commerce is going to change that serendipitous moment, social commerce has the ability to do that which is why on platforms like Tik Tok, Snapchat, Instagram are going to be really big important players in the retail eco system in 3 to 5 years, if not sooner.

 

Susan Freeman
So it’s going to be a question of whether you know, how it’s used, it could either be good or it could be bad so we’ve got to sort of keep, keep an eye on that.

 

Herculano Rodriguez
Well the good things is I met two interesting entrepreneurs just last week, they were a 25 and a 27 year old, two ladies who are phenomenally bright and one of them has started a company called Wardrobe Workshop and the other one’s called Natural Ex Lab and what they do is they are bringing sustainable brands for fashion and homewares and they are bringing it to consumers on Instagram. Their platform is Instagram, they have a small market place website and then a pop up on Upper Street and yes the halo effect is already good because they have got loads of social commerce but actually that was a platform that is the big bad tech bro helping this independent start-up which is a market place  come to the market where they wouldn’t have been able to do that before. So I am just trying to provide the sort of devil’s advocate which is they are bad but there is some interesting platforms that can drive…

 

Jackie Mulligan
I think, no there is, it’s empowering people. I think we just have to consider the ethics. A lot of the time we start to look at data and get very excited about it, loads of panels, very excited about data but just look what GDPR did. You know, you start to put all your eggs in the basket of this is brilliant because this platform has given me all this data and then the legislation comes and slaps you in the face or young people grow up and think ‘you know what, I just want to wander round and not be seen. I’ll be doing my private browsing, I don’t want to share what I am doing, I don’t want something to be dictating that to me’.  So there could be those customer choices in the future and I just, I worry that we are kind of following a line without even just pausing for a moment about the ethical dimensions of the decisions we are making.

 

Herculano Rodriguez
Yeah.

 

Susan Freeman
But I think we actually, we do think about it, it’s just how to control it and you know, before you know it you know, something is there, millions of people are using it and you know it’s probably too… the horse has bolted but let’s talk a little bit about data. So, online retailing in particular offers endless data on customers and I think sometimes that people don’t even think about the data, you know, they get terribly upset about facial recognition cameras but they are giving away data you know every time they get involved in something um online and I think Linda you made the comment that you know you are on the high street, you feel you can be anonymous.  Um that probably won’t last much longer but that’s you know, I think people feel that way but Sam, bringing you back in, I mean what sort of digital infrastructure um do we actually need to make sure that all this data is being channelled in the right way?

 

Sam Jackman
Well in terms of the basic infrastructure it is all about investment and I think if we go back to one of the earlier points in terms of what do we need to do to bring the high street into the same arena as other areas like online shopping, it is about making the infrastructure investment today that can be scaled up in the future for 5G and for whatever else you need because as you said Herculano, it is a long-term infrastructure spent. It is not something you can just suddenly we need it for next year, we can you know, spend a billion on each high street and do whatever we need to do.  It takes a long time to scope, to fund it and to actually get all of the mobile operators excited about being in those locations because it is a bit chicken and egg.  If there is no one there, mobile operators of businesses, they will sit there and say ‘well why would I bother investing in putting my presence there?’ but then that doesn’t help people who do want to go to the high street and link it to the online presence and do whatever else they want to do. So really the crucial thing is getting landlords and retailers to demand that there is mobile connectivity in every single location because once you have that, the debate that we are having now you can then land on either side of it.  If you don’t have the connectivity you can only go anonymous because you won’t be able to know who’s walking around who’s doing what.  So from a mobile point of view that’s the key, getting the infrastructure investment in as soon as possible.

 

Herculano Rodriguez
Can I ask you a question? Who owns that data?

 

Sam Jackman
The data is owned ultimately by the mobile operators in this case.

 

Herculano Rodriguez
Okay.

 

Sam Jackman
What then the platforms who the use the mobile operators networks like Instagram or whoever else chose to do with their data, that’s up to those guys.  But yeah, so shared access, we just facilitate, we invest, the operators can then be there and then anyone else whether it’s the shop, whether it’s Instagram, they can chose to do what they are allowed.

 

Susan Freeman
So should it be a collaborative approach? You’ve got the landlords, you’ve got the people that live in the…

 

Sam Jackman
Absolutely.

 

Susan Freeman
…town, Local Authority, bids, everybody just saying we need this.

 

Sam Jackman
Oh yeah.

 

Susan Freeman
So Linda, the opportunities around data, is there an issue with property companies still being nervous about sharing data because we hear a lot, that’s you know, we have to be able to analyse and share data but you know I generally find that people are a little nervous, they feel they’ve got some sort of IP in the data and they don’t want to share it with their competitors. What are you seeing around that?

 

Linda Chandler
Yeah I think this has been a big debate in the whole kind of smart cities concept actually and especially the idea about open data, closed data and how you monetise that. I think there are a number of different ways to think about it. Um the bottom line is that you know, um most people need, yeah everyone needs everyone else’s data to kind of make sense of it and we are all holding it, a piece of the puzzle and nobody really wants to let go if you like. Sometimes I think we are thinking about data in the wrong way. We tend to think about the haystacks of data rather than the needles of immediate need if you see what I mean. So I often think about this in terms of you know, online I can say the haystack of every product that the retailer wants to offer me but actually at this point in time I am only interested in the red dress that I’ve posted on there, that I’ve liked on Instagram or I’ve you know put on Pinterest or something and so sometimes I think we get hung up on the big data problem and the enormity of the data that we need to share rather than actually I might only want to share that and then somebody can see that that’s what I am interested in and can actually come to me with ‘oh do you know what, there’s a red dress like you know, just in the shop you are walking past’. So sometimes I think we think about the haystack of data rather than the needle and the other point about data is the monetisation of it.  The Open Data Movement is, is very laudable but people are nervous because they are nervous about you know, they just want to share low hanging fruit, they don’t want to share the really good stuff and it is often in the really good stuff that the value is there. So, I think we’ve got to really work out how we can monetise these and I think it has to be kind of quite privacy preserving as well. But there are technologies that are coming along nowadays that can really kind of you know, give the traceability of data and the monetisation and kind of the pay back on that so I think it’s about thinking smartly um about how we combine this data and how actually somebody gets a downstream payment where their data has been used and monetised and they are getting the added value of that.

 

Susan Freeman
It almost feels as if it is like this data wild west and you know that actually it needs sort of a little bit of thought about the ethics and future regulations. So Herculano, I don’t know if you have any thoughts on how we should improve we deal with our, with our data and anti-trust implications?

 

Herculano Rodriguez
I really like Linda, I mean I don’t want to go into anti-trust too much, I got on a massive rant about how I think the weaponisation of information has changed society and will continue to change the world and I think we need to going back to Jackie’s point, we have regulation and cause, why don’t we have regulation on how these social media platforms actually change people’s mind sets right.  We have a huge increase in social, you know teen depression and this is brought on things, not social media is not the only thing, but anyway, I don’t want to go on that massive rant. What I do want to say actually is Linda’s point around actually understanding and identifying the problem is actually a good way to start with that and I come from a background where we used to work, or I used to work with CPG or FMCG companies, the likes of PepsiCo or Procter and Gamble and they would partner with Asda or Tesco and every year they would start off and say okay, over the next 12 months this is the marketing spend I am going to do and this is how I am going to do this gondola, this is the events I am going to do over there and this is how I am going to run this campaign and what is interesting, that process is called the joint business planning process and what I would be really be interested to see and I don’t think it is going to happen with all landlords and retailers but I would like to see somewhere in the near future where a landlord and a retailer have a conversation and say ‘look this is what we aim to do over the next 6 months, this is the problems we aim to solve for our consumers, this is how we are going to engage them, this is the experience we are going to give them, what data can we use to drive this experience even better?’  And have like a joint business planning process for using the data together and I think there is a lack of, for obvious reasons because it is all about well who is going to pay more rent and there is that tension that needs to be there, but if you take it back to Linda’s point, well what’s the problem you are trying to solve and you are trying to solve consumers coming in and spending and spending more and coming more and have a great time, I think that JBB process is something where, I know I have been speaking to a few landlords and they are looking at well it might not work for someone like Zaro who has 500 stores, but it may work with a digital native brand who has 5 stores and they will be interested in how does that business planning process work and actually become a little bit more collaborative.

 

Susan Freeman
So you said, in relation to say a shopping centre where you’ve got the, you’ve got um obviously the landlord, you’ve got the retailers all interested in getting the customers in, making the experience good, do they not talk to each other about how the strategy for doing that and how to drive foot fall?

 

Herculano Rodriguez
Well to a certain extent the marketing budget is set 12 months, we are going to have three fashion shows, we are going to have a Christmas tree and we are going to have these couple of events but that’s not forward planning using different data.  That’s basically like well we are going to have this event please make sure you post it on Twitter or post on Facebook social media.

 

Susan Freeman
Okay.

 

Herculano Rodriguez
I genuinely think actually it’s around sharing that data to drive better experiences.  We are still not… we are miles away from that. Absolutely miles away from that.

 

Susan Freeman
Okay that’s interesting.

 

Jackie Mulligan
It also goes to the decision making power of local managers with data.  One of the biggest problems we even encountered on Shop Appy is yeah we are four independents, we are actually supporting local businesses and the chains, the bigger stores will probably have lots of data but their local managers are not empowered to make decisions at a local level which would help them and it is to me completely ludicrous and there is also an issue around if you look at the way a lot of the smaller businesses operate, they know their customers.  When you talk about needles in haystacks, they know the needles, they contact the customers and say ‘I’ve got something in’ and there is a lot we could learn from those businesses but at every conference I go to that is to do with place there is never an independent retailer, hardly ever an independent retailer present speaking, talking about their world but I think there is a lot we could learn from them.

 

Herculano Rodriguez
Yeah.

 

Susan Freeman
That’s a very good point actually.  So Herculano you have used the word phigital which I thought was quite…

 

Herculano Rodriguez
Oh know I’ve got a call out for that sorry.

 

Susan Freeman
No I think it’s great. So you know, how physical and digital merge, so is it… do you think it’s a trend and, and what’s driving it or do you disown the word?

 

Herculano Rodriguez
I would totally disown that word.  It is just a terrible word.  But basically it’s not… we are speaking to retailers now and it is about commerce, it’s not about online, offline, it’s not even about omnichannel. Omnichannel is yes it is supposed to be about Omnichannel but it’s about commerce right so we speak to retailers in a way which is, they don’t always define exactly which channel is going to get more marketing, I just think if you think about it as commerce overall, whether it’s the buzz word digital or halo effect or whatever the buzz words are of the day, it doesn’t make a difference.  I think where we will be in 10 years’ time, we are predicted to have like 40% of ecommerce  spend but in reality 90% of that is already touching digital anyway so there has got to be an awareness that there is always going to be a digital layer to physical environments and to physical experiences as well and I promise never to use the word phigital again.

 

Susan Freeman
No I… well it stood out. The other one is harmonised retail with a ‘z’ if you are American.  I am, I mean, I'm fascinated by the fact that a lot of the online retail brands who everybody assumed would just stay online and you know take all the retail business away from bricks and mortar are now actually coming offline so you have got some very interesting brands, I don’t know if it is mainly the American brands but they are now moving into bricks and mortar so you can see that actually to enhance the customer experience people are now accepting that actually you do need that community, you do need you know, that personal thing. I mean Jackie are you noticing in your high streets that people are now realising that actually well they thought they were going to buy everything on Amazon, they are not, they have now come back.

 

Jackie Mulligan
Well we encourage them, ShopAppy is a mission to get people to join the dots and to join the dots of where they spend changes where they live and how they shop changes the planet. That’s kind of the mantra of ShopAppy. So yeah the online and off line you know, everybody is online so it’s ridiculous even saying it but the clicks and bricks I’ll say now because I can’t say clicks and mortar, clicks and bricks is the, it does influence footfall.  The problem is if you read any newspaper right now you’d think ‘oh my God there’s nothing in my high street’. You’d never go down there- it is doom and gloom. But the reality is, it is Debenhams, it isn’t another 70 other shops that are in your high street, but the problem is you don’t know those shops are there so I think where the online influences people we get the customer’s saying to us ‘I didn’t know that shop existed’ and the shop would have been there for 30 years. And so it is, we are going past looking at our phones, taking our kids, rushing past not looking at what is right on our doorstep and I think that’s where we have to make it easier for people to shop in their local neighbourhoods. It can’t be easier to shop in a warehouse in Coventry when I live in Yorkshire, it should be easy to shop where I live, that’s it. So I think online has a big role to play in that but we have to be sensitive to the fact that we are talking about very small businesses generally and it is trying to create that aggregator is going to take time and we have to together set ourselves a target that isn’t about just responding to the tech giant. It is about saying well actually we prefer this future so how are we going to shape that.

 

Susan Freeman
Okay. Now does anybody in the audient want… aw, Okay. Do we have a microphone?

 

Herculano Rodriguez
That wasn’t planted.

Audience member: Mary Wallace, IBM Retail Market
I probably don’t need a microphone but there you go. Jackie just in response to what you were – sorry I am Mary Wallace, IBM Retail Market – in response to what you were just saying about how do I know that that shop has been there 30 years and it is something that I think Sam and Linda were saying, so Sam you said when we said who owns the data and the telco essentially over the data and Linda you were talking about the monetisation of data and it just struck me that neither the retailer or shopkeeper as we used to call them, or the customer have anything to do with the data that they have just transferred probably not even knowingly to those bodies and I wondered as I came here this morning, how would the butcher in Fazakerley or Walton or you know, County Road in Kirby, which are all independent shops and they were all open and those streets were busy, how would they feel about what was just said and how do we change that picture, Jackie, so that they actually do have a stake both the shopkeeper and customer.

 

Jackie Mulligan
In getting access to the data, that was so long Mary I was kind of absorbed and then I kind of lost it. 

 

Susan Freeman
Can you repeat the question?

 

Jackie Mulligan
Can you just say the bit the shop, what’s the shop actually know about the data or what should the shopkeeper know about the data?

 

Mary Wallace, IBM Retail Market
The shopkeeper and the customer do not have a stake in the data…

 

Jackie Mulligan
Ah yeah.

 

Mary Wallace, IBM Retail Market
…that has just been transferred from them to somebody else and yet they were the people who created that data.

 

Jackie Mulligan
Well I think it’s not just about the business, I think as consumers we have a role to play. I find it deeply immoral to be honest that things that we are giving away and we really aren’t aware of it. I find that, that is going to be I think a big bump that we are going to hit very soon around how people using their data and I think collaboratively yeah we could do with data in terms of for instance on platforms what people are looking for in our locality might help the butcher know that actually 50% of my population has just become vegan so I’d better get some vegan chops in you know. Might actually inform them about what product and they haven’t got that data at an aggregated level, that is a concern so you know, I just think as customers, retailers and people dealing with data um we have to just be sensitive, not only on is it right what we are doing but also what are the implications longer term for an individual business and an individual by us treating them like data pieces.

 

Linda Chandler
Yeah I think it is interesting from the consumer point of view because as a technologist it is always easier for the technologist for it to be very black and white - I share all my data, I share none of my data. Whereas actually in reality it depends, it depends what mood I am in, it depends whether I am going to get something free for doing that transaction, so there are all these kind of shades of grey in the middle that we are confused about ourselves half the time actually and it is just not obvious I think but yeah.

 

Jackie Mulligan
Paying me for my data is fine, I really like the idea of the customer being in control and if you want my data buy it off me and I will tell you about you know, anything you want, if you are going to buy it from me but you are stealing it from me. That’s what it feels like.

 

Susan Freeman
Okay. Any other thoughts on that one?

 

Sam Jackman
Well just from an operators point of view, the interesting thing is with GDPR the operators are losing more and more access to the data themselves so in a way, without defending them too much, the operators are really just facilitating the ability for them to do anything they want to do so it is then a question of between the platform and the consumer or the shopkeeper, whoever it is, to work out what that structure is. Without the network there is only one way to communicate with that shopkeeper and that’s to go to that shop and then you have the question of how do I know about it and all of those points um but yeah.

 

Jackie Mulligan
It’s a conundrum.

 

Susan Freeman
Okay.  Howard?

 

Audience member: Howard Morgan, Real Service
Howard Morgan, Real Service.The Government is putting out and City or Towns are applying to get millions of pounds to improve their high street. Would be better spending that million pounds on technology or on benches for people to sit on to socialise?

 

Susan Freeman
That’s a good question. Anybody want to answer before Jackie answers that one?

 

Sam Jackman
Well from a connectivity point of view there are a lot of opportunities out there already that don’t require Government money it’s, having worked with Councils in the past, it’s difficult to understand there is a lot of different barriers because of the way Councils have evolved over time and who owns what and I think if there was a way of using that money to sort of unify the community to then say okay this is everything we’ve got, these are all the assets, these are all the locations you could use, you could not easily or cheaply but you could create the networks that you would then need to do whatever else these guys are going to tell you next.

 

Susan Freeman
Okay. Herculano?

 

Herculano Rodriguez
I am just going to go for probably an easy answer and it depends on the town right?  Because some towns need investment in infrastructure um in terms of technology but I would question that as a first starting point. I actually think you need to invest firstly in understanding your town, understand your consumers, understand your occupiers, understand the other stakeholders within that town and then make the call whether it is technology, whether it is benches. I just think that the trouble is that there is not enough understanding of your local stakeholder engagement before people are putting these grants in to get the information. I know that is kind of an easy answer because it is not really an answer but I think that’s, for me, what’s lacking in a lot of grants that are going in.  There isn’t an understanding of why should we do this in the first place.

 

Susan Freeman
Linda?

 

Linda Chandler
Yeah, it is kind of what is the problem we are trying to solve really in these centres. And it is probably a bit of both. I think the, I would never advocate just spending you know, technology for technology’s sake, I think it is really about understanding you know, the end to end problem and what are the different facets of it and also it is about the collaboration and I feel that sometimes with technology it is a bit of a bright shiny object and we don’t think about how the community is going to engage with that technology. For example, on the high street there are all these kind of hoardings now that are very digital you know, kind of like the BT inlinks, the pulses and again you know, they can actually be quite multi-functional in terms of they can have air quality monitors, they can actually be display boards. But really when I see them in town centres they are just used as advertising and I think there is so much more the community could do with that but it is a platform and the community needs to understand it’s a platform and have access to that platform. You could do all kinds of things with it but I just don’t think that we invest in that eco system around the technology and getting people to understand what they’ve bought and how to engage with it.

 

Susan Freeman
And it gets back to who is going to galvanise the community to actually maximise the opportunity.

 

Linda Chandler
Yeah.

 

Susan Freeman
I mean is it the Local Authority, is it the bid because people you know, they might feel strongly but it is sort of quite difficult to get them all together to achieve that.

 

Linda Chandler
It is yeah, yeah.

 

Jackie Mulligan
I think with the, I mean one of the challenges I think with high street fund is that we might end up with lots of towns looking very similar, adopting the same model. All that thing worked in Altringham, let’s all have a street food market or worse, gentrification and excluding people. So I think there is a big issue and it is bigger than tech but I am also not a big fan of committees. If I am honest I think that we need leadership actually. We need decisions and we need innovation and we need risk taking and we need new ideas and that doesn’t necessarily come from a bunch of people sitting in a room giving their best suggestion about hanging baskets [laughter] so you know, sorry to say it but the most innovative things that have happened in towns have usually been some maverick who has just gone for it and we need more of them and less focus groups.

 

Susan Freeman
Okay, very good. So before I wrap up because I think we are out of, we are out of time, anybody, I mean what new technology are you most, that’s coming down the line, are you most excited about? Sam?

 

Sam Jackman
Well for me it is 5G. It will take a while but the download speeds, the latency improvements, the things that the community will then be able to do with this will be incredible.  It is just going to take a bit of time and a lot of money unfortunately. So those two things are going to delay it but when it is here it will be pretty impressive.

 

Susan Freeman
Okay, Herculano?

 

Herculano Rodriguez
I am always going to be of the opinion that not one technology is going to save anything right and I think it is the combination of technologies that can drive interesting experiences. So the three technologies that I am really looking forward to actually getting some proper use cases is a bit of data and analytics, collection and proper data analytics, um through systems like IOT and then AI. Again we are not seeing many use cases at the moment but combine those three technologies together in the next 5 maybe 10 years and I think we will see some very interesting experiences for consumers.

 

Susan Freeman
Okay.

 

Herculano Rodriguez
And of course, self-driving cars- so that I don’t have to worry about driving anymore, that would be amazing.

 

Jackie Mulligan
We don’t have to worry about you driving.

 

Herculano Rodriguez
The worlds a better place.

 

Susan Freeman
Linda?

 

Linda Chandler
So I am going to go quite techy here so I am going to say micro services actually because I think at the moment as I said, we are stuck in this paradigm of apps again to solve it but we have to know that the app is there if you like so I think it is much more about this platform of things that are available and can be available from anyone, from the independent retail and how we aggregate those and how actually we discover those through technology.

 

Susan Freeman
Okay, Jackie?

 

Jackie Mulligan
I am not that excited about technology.

 

Susan Freeman
Good for you. I think you are on the wrong panel.

 

Jackie Mulligan
I am excited about ShopAppy obviously but I am more excited about what’s going to happen in terms of human behaviour and a growing number of people that are getting more concerned about places and planet. I think it’s great that more people than ever are caring about their places and I think anything, any technology that puts humans at the centre of it is what I will get excited about.

 

Susan Freeman
Okay thank you. I don’t think I am even going to attempt to summarise the ground that we have, that we have actually covered in the last hour so you know everything from serendipity to GDPR and focus on user experience, the tech bros in Silicon Valley, it’s been, it’s been great so I just want to say thank you very much to the panel, it’s been a great conversation.  Thank you.

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