Retail Summit 2019: Customer Experience can be created only by people - technologies are just a welcomed enabler

More than a thousand of retailers and their suppliers used Retail Summit 2019 as a platform to discuss how to win in the today´s highly competitive market. They agreed that the key to success is to create a positive customer experience. Lot of attention was given to the latest technologies and to the experience from their implementation within the digital industry transformation. Summit participants nevertheless concluded that even the smartest technology cannot move us forward by itself – retail trade and the whole business around it will stay a „human-to-human“discipline. Winners will be those with the best relations to people – in front but also behind the “shop counter”.

This year of Retail Summit, held on Feb 4th to 6th, 2019 at Clarion Congress Hotel Prague, was a jubilee, the 25th one. Logically, the opening part was dedicated to developments of the market since the 1st Summit year. Marta Nováková, the minister of industry and commerce, stated in this context that within the discussed time frame the Czech retail trade managed to achieve developments which lasted three times longer in western markets. The industry is highly competitive now and is one of the biggest employers in the country. Looking back at the latest history was a good base for the discussion how to proceed. All key markets players took part in that, brick & mortar retailers, e-Commerce and their suppliers of goods, services and technologies included.

Getting ready: Retail Trends 2020+

The main plenary session of Retail Summit 2019 was opened by a program block targeted on the past and the future retail market trends. According to Karel Týra (Managing Director, Nielsen CZ/SK), today´s market situation is highly optimistic and the consumer confidence index over-reaches not just the national but also European record levels. Bryan Roberts (Global Insights Director, tcc global) added an another positive fact – Czechs show tighter relations to their places of shopping than average global customers. On the other hand, tcc global loyalty study proves that this relation is rather rational and transactional, and that the lowest prices play a significant role in it. Of course, the price will always stay important but the growth potential is somewhere else. Most of all, it is a case of creation of the emotional ties, helping consumers to solve their daily challenges and not forgetting to say thank-you-for-shopping-with-us in an appropriate way. The analysis also proves the strong impact of activities aiming at the core customers´ retention. It has been proven that such actions attract indirectly even the new customers. On the other hand, too much attention given to the acquisition of new clients might be contra-productive as it could disappoint the existing (so far loyal) customers.

The panel discussion of seven key Czech and Slovak retailers and experts signalized that many of development trends of the past are very robust and seem to continue also in the future. Still, we can expect an influence of some „black swans“ – important external shocks might reshape the future retail landscape significantly.

Based on the experience of other industries – for example horeca – the most critical shocks could come with the further governmental attempts to regulate the retail trade. Tomáš Prouza, president of SOCR ČR (Czech Confederation of Commerce and Tourism) accented this fact in his contribution. He warned that in Central Europe there are new free trade barriers launched and the governments try to beat out more money out of retailers to fix the state budgets. At the same time, the government does not give enough attention to key issues such as simplifying the conditions for business or the protection from noxious foodstuff. Christian Verschueren, General Director of European association EuroCommerce, supported this view and stated that the Czech government should recognize the role that retailers play in creating real benefits for all and should encourage the further dialogue between all players, rather than implement a heavy-handed regulation which benefits to no one.

Digital transformation of retail: here and now

The term “digital transformation” has been resonating at Retail Summit since several years. 2019 Summit proved clearly that it is not a buzzword anymoren- many successful companies already live it, even in our market conditions. Steven Van Belleghem, the author of the book Customers the day after tomorrow and the summit key note speaker stated we are entering the phase three of the digitalization process – into the world of automation, robots and AI. Advantages for customers related to that will be immense. Consumers will enjoy the offer of goods and services, tailored to their needs and wishes. Ralf Kleber (Vice-President for International Retailing, Amazon) presented the company that is already living this phase of digitalization in full. His presentation outlined how the largest global merchant works towards fulfilling the mission of Jeff Bezos to become the world´s leader at customer orientation. Technology plays a strong role in it but the base is the culture of innovating in the interest of customers.

Hana Součková (Managing Director, SAP Czech) focused on the customer trust. She highlighted that consumers will trust just to those companies handling their data correctly, protecting their privacy, and to those delivering a consistent experience and a flawless quality of products and services. In real life, this is often not the case – see for example the orders full of mistakes, logistics nightmare or data chaos. The latest technologies can change it and help to create an intelligent company, deserving the full customers´ trust.

Tomáš Vala (General Manager, SIKO koupelny) presented the example of an (own) company enjoying the trust of customers. The leading technologies are essential but it is not enough to monitor or analyze the customers– at the end, it is essential to fulfill the clients´ wishes. Customers usually do not benchmark the services with the direct competition, they tend to compare it with the best services in the market, often provided by other industries. The hiqh quality presentation on the webite is the must, one should also offer an in-person experience, or the possibility to touch the product with your own hands. Company processes and the show room design must align with the consumer segmentation and customer journeys. All this is then resulting in the total transformation of the company, strengthening of the e-Commerce role and, last but not least, the massive uplift of brick & mortar stores.

Human keeps the main role

Matt Simister (CEO Central Europe, Tesco) pointed out that another revolution just starts, even the more important one than the transition from centrally planned to market economy. The challenge of the next 25 years will be to unify all industry forces and to find jointly a complex approach towards sustainable production and consumption, enabling to limit the human impact on global ecosystem without refraining from a good quality of life. As stated by Tomáš Mráz (Sales Director, Plzeňský Prazdroj), today´s set-up of relations within the supply chain does not support the fast and efficient reaction to new challenges. The vision of a joint approach to sustainable business calls for a new, qualitatively higher form of cooperation between the market players.

Technologies can help us a lot but the key role stays with people. Retail and trading business will stay „human-to-human“ discipline.

Sudan Martin Jackson (REWE Digital), one of the managers of the digital transformation of this large international retail group, highlighted the necessity of creation the culture and environment, supporting the cooperation and the search for the creative, customer-oriented approaches. At the same time, the purpose of retail business and its focus on the quality for society, market and people should not be forgotten. Simple technology trend monitoring is thus not enough. One has to understand what consumers need and when and where they need it to be delivered. After understanding this need, we have to offer that – the strategy is important but the key to success is the implementation.

After all, we should not forget that there should be fun! Lukáš Vršecký (Managing Director, reminded all of the fact that a customer experience should be playful and full of joy. Customer understanding and active communication is very important but often not enough to create a really positive experience. Gamification can help a lot when it comes to customer engagement and fun. is a good example of that.

Basic data on Retail Summit 2019

About Retail Summit 2019
When: 4. – 6. 2. 2019
Where: Clarion Congress Hotel, Praha

More information: Barbora Krásná, Blue Events 

Media relations: Jan Patera, Blue Events 

Interest in partnering with Retail Summit 2020: Jiří Beneš, Blue Events

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