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Retail Summit 2022 gave a new energy to retail business and encouraged meaningful changes

More than a thousand key players of the retail market met in person this week at Retail Summit 2022 in Prague Congress Centre. Over the course of three days, more than 70 local and foreign speakers presented their views on meaningful future, most notably expressed by humanity, sustainability and efficiency. More than 50 partners of the summit, led by Plzeňský Prazdroj, Salesforce, U&Sluno and Mastercard, presented their products and services directly at the centre.

Customers want to shop taking health and the environment into account. More and more of them are willing to pay extra for it, despite fears of rising prices. This was confirmed by several experts at this year's Retail Summit. What was once a rather marginal trend is now becoming a mainstream and an inspiration to all players operating within the new retail ecosystem. At the same time, retailers and manufacturers are caring about meaningful future and reducing their carbon footprint and other environmental impacts.

If we accept the current time full of threats as a positive opportunity, we can contribute to a better future by better shopping. "The way we have lived is unsustainable in the long run and postponing solutions will cost us more and more money. At the same time, companies are beginning to realize that if they do not behave responsibly, regulations will come," said Tomáš Prouza, President of the Confederation of Commerce and Tourism of the Czech Republic, which together with Blue Events is the organizer of the Retail Summit. Environmental concerns will completely exceed the economic and social ones in the horizon of 5 to 10  years, as pointed out by Raúl García-Rodríguez, the risk management expert at Deloitte. According to him, the prerequisite for sustainability is the acceleration of innovations. One of them is for instance the carbon footprint calculator presented at the conference by the Swedish company Doconomy, which is already used by five thousand companies around the world to limit emissions, but also for transparent communication of the problem.

Due to the recent pandemic, customers' interest in health is becoming more pronounced in shopping. Up to half of customers are dealing with the dramatic problems of their own or someone else in the family (obesity, pressure, cholesterol). They would also appreciate the color symbolism indicating the nutritional value of food (NutriScore). Lidl wants to reduce the content of added sugar in food by 20% by 2025, while they have already reduced sugar in 130 products in the assortment of the Czech production. According to Romana Duníková from NielsenIQ, for 66% of Czechs, healthy means mainly fresh. More than a quarter are inclined to the trend of flexitarianism, i.e. limiting meat consumption. The shift to the plant-based food is not a short-term trend, but a change in the diet of the whole society, which will not concern just vegetarians. Bosses Martin Jahoda from Emco and Michiel Kernkamp from Nestlé agreed on this.

Both health and sustainability can motivate people to change. "Every shopping decision has a choice for sustainability," confirms Michal Farník, Managing Director of Lidl. According to Hana Říhová from GfK, half of Czechs feel that we are not doing enough to protect the environment, especially as for packaging and the natural origin of products. At the same time however only one third are willing to give up plastic bags in the store. Retailers  and manufacturers must necessarily play a role here. It is similar with the trend of organic food. After it has been given more space in stores, 77% of customers buy at least some of the organic food and drinks now. The shift to health can also contribute to completely new trends, such as the concept of a bar with molecular hydrogen shown for the first time at the Retail Summit and presented by Aleš Valenta from H2 Global Group.

In addition to quality, freshness and good price, retailers can also build on relationships with customers. New technologies can help a lot in this, as shown by several presentations at Retail Summit 2022. However, the human approach is most important, too. A pleasant environment,  willingness to give advice, help or a smile works often better than an offer of another loyalty card. In humanity, a "brick-and-mortar" store can still have the upper hand over the Internet. Anyway the two become closer and more intertwined. "In the age of data, people thirst for experiences, dreams, choices, and not necessarily for greater efficiency," said Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, keynote speaker at the conference and a professor at the Oxford Internet Institute. On the other hand, e-commerce has its model of operation proven and has no reason for a  fundamentall change. Indeed, over the past two years, grocery and drugstore online sales have grown by 130% (according to NielsenIQ data), and Rohlík.cz services, for example, are already used by a quarter of households in major cities.

We can expect more and more innovation in brick-and-mortar stores, digital technologies will perform many more tasks in stores and warehouses. For example, COOP opened its fully self-service store this year, where customers can shop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even without the assistance of staff. Alza enters the  brick-and-mortar  world through its self-service boxes, the number of which will be at least doubled in the next three years.  Dr. Max relies on making people feel and oriented in stores, which is achieved thanks to a perfect overview of the sales area layout in the Quant system. Thanky to ir Dr.Max manages to reduce up to 30% of oversupply by exposing the optimal amount of products while increasing sales volume. With the help of Adastra, Lego and Plzeňský Prazdroj monitor the movement of customers on the sales floor.  And how to speed up the sorting of parcels and the dispatch of shipments to customers was demonstrated by U&Sluno sorting robots directly in the foyer of the congress center. Autonomous robots can replace up to 70% of human labor in warehouses, while not only saving labor costs, but also increasing operational safety.

Almost half of Czechs use mobile applications when buying, whether directly from one retail chain or applications bringing together information from different chains. This is only a step to a new generation of loyalty programs building on gamification and personalization, as presented by Enrico Bazzi of Jakala. At the same time, he however reminded that most people appreciate mainly simple experiences. Nino Bergfeld of Salesforce also recalled experience from past when people didn't need a loyalty card to come back to stores and feel welcome. The reward for the customer was that the salesman remembered them and took care of them, not that he gave them a sticker. According to him, loyalty programs must continue to evolve and, thanks to new technologies, once again offer a personal and exclusive experience. A revolution in building customer relationship can be expected from the proliferation of blockchain and tokens, which some apparel companies already started to experiment with.

The rich three-day Retail Summit program also offered eight parallel discussion sessions on topics such as effective marketing, resilient supply chain, online and offline connections, business with a purpose, the attractiveness of brick-and-mortar store, meaningful sustainability, and customer experience in the non-food world.

Basic data on Retail Summit 2022 

Contact: Jan Patera, Blue Events
jan.patera@blueevents.eu

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