It was a pleasure to travel to Baden (not far from Zurich) to present at the E-nnovation Week (https://e-nnovationweek.com/) event. Congratulations to Carlo Terreni and his team for putting on an impressive multitrack, multiday conference and expo.
I took as my theme the growing role of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in multichannel retail… what is it, what are the main elements and how can we use it. I focused on AI in image-recognition and looked at examples from shelf-edge scanners to custom tailoring; checkout-free stores to product search.
If you’d like a copy of the presentation or to discuss further then do let me know.
I was invited to address the EU’s Joint Research Centre team as part of their series on Megatrends. I took as my theme the changes in consumerism and how they would affect not only retailers and consumption in the short term, but also the relationships between state, services, brands and commerce. It was a stimulating opportunity to take the last four years of IREU Top500 research, the ongoing changes and disruptions in our industry and place these in the context of social and scientific policy-making.
The JRC’s base is in Ispra, high in the mountains, on the site of a former nuclear research centre… The setting is very ‘James Bond’ – massive security (a well-dressed, very serious nuclear police force!) and then a campus that blends the look of a modern high school with a moonbase. I was expecting solid concrete blast doors but – although the reactor is still in use for research – the environment was serious rather than max security.
The welcome was exceptional and I was treated to a tour of the information centre where you could see not only the major workstream of the EU policymakers, but also the contributing science to assess and support those goals. It is a multidisciplinary and multinational place.
After my presentation I spent a couple of hours in the electric vehicle testing unit, seeing how electric cars are tested, safety is assured and the impact on the national grids are calculated. Not only is each vehicle charger tested for how it (alone and in concert) can affect the grid, but how the grid’s flux and stress will affect each one. I’ve attached a photo of one of the test rooms that checks for electro-magnetic emissions during charging, rest, load…
It was a fascinating day where I was met with enthusiasm, patience (as things were explained to me) and a clear passion for their role – ensuring that decision-making and policy are based on the very best evidential and practical base.
It was my pleasure to open the Ometria Lifecycle conference with a keynote on ‘Connecting with the Connected Customer’ – one of my persistent themes, focused on how retailers and brands can connect effectively and profitably with demanding consumers. Taking insights from the IREU Top500 I looked at 6 challenges that retailers need to overcome in order to succeed.
Congratulations to Ometria on a full house, great organisation and an a fantastic vibe to the day. Looking forward to our upcoming collaboration on White Papers and continuing this thread of conversation.
ShopTalk had their first European ‘outing’ in Copenhagen in October, with a three-day event that gathered some 2.500 delegates for three days of networking, meetings, keynotes and presentations. The IR team was there for the whole event and we were busy from dawn until (nearly the next) dawn catching up with retailers and innovative vendors from Europe and the US.
I gave a speech on the final day with six lessons from the IREU Top500 ranking of Europe’s multichannel retailers, brands and ecommerce pureplays.
Thanks to Brand Quarterly for publishing my article on the challenge of ‘silos’ in retail. Charged with being simultaneously agile/flexible and stable/optimised, organisational silos were an answer to the latter, yet create a barrier to the former. In this article I discuss the balance that retail leaders must strike in order to benefit from flexibility as well as efficiency.
The key to jobs in the future is not college but compassion | Aeon Essays – Twin argument of ‘caring/emotional’ work in the future and the fact that never-ending education is not a solution. Example being an overqualified doctor working 80 hours a week, but lacking empathy… when AI can diagnose more effectively where is the new value?”The US economists W Norton Grubb and Marvin Lazerson call the belief in more schooling as the solution to every labour problem the ‘education gospel’. As Grubb argued in a 2005 talk, having more education tends to help individuals find better work, but that doesn’t make schooling a good overall economic strategy. In fact, he said, 30 to 40 per cent of workers in developed countries already have more education than their jobs demand.”
Opinion | The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence – “Service jobs of love” and ‘strength negate strength’. The impact of AI will concentrate power in the hands of the us and china, and leave only ’emotional’ and interface jobs.
Note too the characterisation of current AI as ‘spreadsheets on steroids’ – main point being that solutions are domain- and purpose-specific at present, not overarching ‘intelligence’.
I’ve just had an editorial published in the Raconteur supplement in The Times, in which I argue the role of ‘carbon-based life-forms’ over and above robots. This piece was a counterpoint to the ‘store staff have no future’ debate that’s frankly ignoring the point: as retail becomes increasingly about stories and experience, it takes wonderful staff (not just wonderful robots) to bring this to life…