The future of retail with Hello Soda

It’s been a few weeks since we held our panel discussion around The Future of Retail. We had an incredible line up of panelists, including Hannah Anderson, Director of Social & Creative at Media Chain and Founder of The Pud Store, Frances Bishop. A huge thank you to all eight panelists for joining us and making the event as fantastic as it was!

Here’s what we took away from the event.

Is the high street dead?

“It’s absolutely not!”, answered Frances Bishop. Frances’s business is solely bricks and mortar, with no transactional website, and believes that retail needs to go back to basics in offering a personalised customer experience for the high street to survive.

Frances’s well-looked after, inspired staff, personable social media presence and imaginative store ideas have created a brand where the stores have almost become ‘community hubs’. With Fran’s third store opening imminently, it’s a brand that’s proving successful in today’s tough retail landscape.

Putting the scale of the high street’s demise into perspective, Tom Downing, Director of Innovation at creative studio Loaf, explained that there are 280,000 stores in the UK and just 2% closed down last year. There’s no doubt that high street retailers have struggles, but when a few big retailers have gone under it has created headlines and grabbed the attention of consumers.

All our panelists were in agreement that the high street is still very much alive, but that changes are needed in order to compete with the growing popularity of e-commerce.

How does the high street compete with Amazon?

Competing with the simplicity and convenience of Amazon is no easy task, but the panel pointed to three areas that retailers should focus on – community, social media and creative use of the available data.

Nikki Samuels, founder of children’s toy supplier Sambro, followed on from Fran’s ‘community hub’ angle and gave the example of how cycling retailers have coffee shops inside where fellow buyers, browsers and general cyclists can meet – providing something more than just placing an order. Nikki also spoke about the growing influence of YouTube, and YouTubers themselves, on various markets and how retailers need to engage in this area to reach a wider audience.

In the second panel, Hannah Anderson, the co-founder of Media Chain, spoke of the great benefit of social media in opening up a two-way conversation and gaining insights through analysing consumer habits. Modern day consumers want and value the ability to connect with their brands, so if a company is not making use of all the social media channels then they really are missing out.

The point of using available data on company’s customers was explored in detail by the second group of panelists.

The use of data

Rory Burns, Director of Growth at TickX, explained how the models that analyse data are constantly evolving and becoming ever more intelligent, with the data more readily available, and are allowing companies to create much more personalised marketing strategies. This data is largely gained through social media, and Hannah Anderson stated how companies not making use of all the most popular social media channels are missing out on huge amounts of useful data – as well as the ability to create a two-way stream of conversation that consumers are looking for nowadays.

Matt Bird, Founder of online clothing brand We Are Gntlmen, rounded off the discussion around data by explaining how we now live in a personalised world, and if you are not fully listening to your customers and keeping up-to-date with consumer trends, then you will struggle down the line.

Overall the event was an excellent occasion and the knowledge shared around the room provided fantastic insight and ideas on the future trends of retail. We’d like to give another big thank you to our panelists and everyone that attended for making such an interesting morning.

If you’d like to hear more about our personalisation solutions, please get in touch today.

The full recording of the event is available on Hello Soda’s Facebook page, be sure to check it out here.

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