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FUTR Europe – Key Takeaways and Highlights

By Zoe Perl April 25, 2019

Last week, Team Appointedd was in London for the FUTR Europe Conference, one of the highlights of the retail calendar. FUTR Europe reminded us that the retail industry is not only facing a scary revolution, but great opportunity.  Team Appointedd heard from the retailers who are agile enough to embrace change and use technology to not just survive, but thrive in today’s digital era.

We’ve highlighted the strong themes that continue to be recurring time and time again. Coming directly from the mouths of the directors and game-changers in retail – Mamas & Papas, Harrods, Heals & Sons Ltd, Jack Wills, just to name a few! – you’ll discover the key themes that Appointedd took away from FUTR Europe.

  • Adapt or die – connect with technology and use it in a way that your customers benefit
  • Create experiences – Customers don’t want to share what they buy, but how they buy it
  • Connect with your customers – be wherever your customers “hang out”, there is no lazy way to create meaningful engagement
  • Omnichannel – create a customer journey that spans across multiple devices, locations and times
  • Direct-to-consumer – Understand what means a lot to your customers right now, this will give you a connection with your consumers which traditional marketing can’t do

FUTR Europe Day 1 Highlights

You learn a lot when you’re in a room with some of the world’s best known retailers. As they look to transform their existing business models and adapt to the demands of today’s customer, Team Appointedd was onsite to understand what retailers are thinking about, what technology they are looking to invest in and ultimately, what are they doing to change the tide?

Here’s what we learnt on Day 1 of FUTR Europe:

Embrace the threat

Business leaders from retailers Jack Wills, Mamas & Papas, Lynk & Co and Adobe identified their biggest opportunities and threats they as they face the changing face of today’s consumer and high street.

Swim upstream

“The only thing that has changed in the car industry in the last 120 years is the car”
Alain Visser, CEO, Lynk & Co.

As retailers face an “adapt or die” era, Alain Visser shared how Lynk & Co has innovated while operating in one of the oldest industries in the world. Visser quotes “30% of US customers prefer to go to a dentist then a car dealer” … so instead of creating another car dealer, Lynk & Co was born as a mobility brand, meeting the convenience of their customers and how they want to “move”.

“It’s always difficult to go against the flow, but I like it”
Alain Visser, CEO, Lynk & Co.

Focus on what you can control

Suzanne Harlow, CEO of Jack Wills followed with frank pragmatism.

“You need to focus on what you can control: that includes product, service, digital and store proposition. Put a contingency plan in place, bring your customers to front of mind and increase their importance.”
Suzanne Harlow, CEO, Jack Wills

For Jack Wills, that has meant a focus on quality in the product, and it Suzanne was refreshingly honest about the work the brand has done to bring this up to standard. But customer was front and centre, and a theme that ran through the panel was around putting the customer at the heart of everything and creating experiences.

“Are you connected with your customer?”
Suzanne Harlow, CEO, Jack Wills

Experience is everything

Introduced as “the UK’s premium British nursery brand” – Appointedd customer Mamas & Papas was represented by Chris Greenwood, CIO.

“What’s imperative to [Mamas&Papas] is that we provide great service as well as products”
Chris Greenwood, CIO, Mamas & Papas

Chris’s message was simple – give your customers a reason to choose you over your competitors.

“It needs to be about creating an experience rather than just selling products”
Chris Greenwood, CIO, Mamas & Papas

At Appointedd, we love powering Mamas & Papas to do just that – our booking tools are utilised to book Parent to Be events as well as Personal Shopping experiences, giving the brand the perfect chance to properly engage with their customers in a meaningful way.

Get moving

Susanne Given from Made.com discussed the difference between 2nd gen ecomm retail and the consumer of today – millenials and Gen Z who are digital natives, demanding better from the high street.  

Given advises retailers to empower their consumers with choice and flexibility.

The most important thing in your store are the people, they are your influencers. Have a vision for them that is better than what they have today” -Susanne Given, Chairman Push Doctor Ltd, Made.com

Suzanne posed some impactful questions for retailers:

  • What do you need to deliver a great consumer experience?
  • What technology do you need to deliver it?
  • What’s stopping you?

FUTR Europe Day 2 Highlights

A big focus of day 2 at FUTR was the importance of a sustainability mindset. From materials to supply chain, consumers are making a decision on not only the products, but the values that sit behind it.

Alongside the expectation around sustainable products and practices, millennials demand a omnichannel approach where they can consume a retailers messaging, products and services anywhere, anytime, on any device.

Here’s what we learnt on Day 2 of FUTR Europe:

Embrace omnichannel

Retailers are quick to offer solutions to keep up with trending demands, but if they’re not providing a journey that is seamless and can span across multiple devices, locations and times then it’s not good enough.

Max Admoni from Riskified delivered a compelling talk, discussing the opportunities of omnichannel eCommerce and how to use technology to blur the boundaries between online and brick-and-mortar stores.

His top tips to retailers included:

  • Embrace omnichannel, it’s what your customers expect
  • Cross-channel communication is key
  • New flow = new challengers. Understand these challengers before you go ahead
  • Omnichannel will backfire if it compromises the customer experience
  • Your goal: let your customers start/stop/continue and complete their shopping experience anywhere, at anytime.

The advantages of omnichannel customer experiences particularly stood out for Team Appointedd as our online booking tools have delivered similar results for Westfield London – which you can read about here.

Connect with tech

Did you know, in 2011 there were 150 marketing platforms. Today there are 7040.

Choosing which technology to use to lead your eCommerce change can be challenging. David Kohn, Customer and eCommerce Director from Heals and Son Ltd shared the top three things he considers when choosing new tech:

  1. Product visualisation. There is more and more evidence that people are driven by images more than words. Seeing and feeling in different environments is so important to consumers.
  2. Personalisation is the be all and end all but [Heals and Son Ltd] have taken a slightly different viewpoint. Bring people back into an e-commerce experience by providing a touchpoint between online and real, in-person experiences.
  3. Journey mapping. Capture where your customers are in the journey and serve them with relevant content that makes them move to the next step.

“When considering new tech, ask yourself – does this generally add a benefit that customers gain? Is this going to help your customers get to your website, negotiate the website better or deal with it better once they’ve bought something?”
David Kohn, Customer and eCommerce Director, Heal and Son Ltd

Kate Mitchell, Head of eCommerce at Steinhoff followed with her number one goal of tech and eCommerce – “connecting sales teams, the website and stores”. Kate said when choosing tech, she needs all three teams to be working together to deliver the same, high-level experience.

“Omnichannel is the only way to get this right and technology is the only thing that supports this process”
Kate Mitchell, Head of eCommerce, Steinhoff

Kate’s approach to choosing new tech is:

  • Does it up the customer experience?
  • Can my teams use it?
  • Does it help us achieve our 3-year objective?
  • Can I implement it with ease?

Direct to consumer

Direct-to-consumer is currently a huge buzz in retail, and while some big retail brands are doing it successfully it can be super tough for small, independent retailers.

“What means a lot to your consumers right now? Understanding this gives you a connection you can have with your consumers which traditional marketing can’t do”
Julie Jones, GLD Brands

Customer acquisition is not cheap and not easy to build. So, how do you make sure your customer service is at a level to retain your customers?

“The use of data is imperative”
Yasha Estraikh, Associate Partner, Piper Private Equity

When it comes to your customers, don’t just look at customer acquisition but retention and lifetime value. Customer service is key, it’s not enough to just acquire customers anymore, it’s about personalised service and retaining them.

A great example of customer retention was shown by florist, Bloom & Wild this Mother’s Day, who gave their customers an option to opt out of marketing if they find this time of year hard.

Sustainability

How can you be a part of a future that looks responsible and sustainable? A question asked by multiple international retailers today.

Michael Beutler, Director of Sustainability Operations from Kering is successfully delivering sustainability but shared the challenge that comes with working with fastest growing generation – millennials. “They are absorbing the sustainability messaging more than any other audience” so your sustainability messages need to be targeted on platforms where millennial’s digitally hang out.

“How can retailers – in 20 years from now – be providing the same quality of materials?”
Michael Beutler, Director of Sustainability Operations, Kering

Michael posed some advice for anyone working towards sustainability:

  • Be well informed
  • When you’re working with other luxury businesses, keep it simple.
  • Tailor your message about sustainability and make it relevant to your audience.

“Whether you’re trying to sell it to a retailer or direct-to-consumer, your messaging will change. You need to be well informed and upfront. They will ask questions, so have the information and data to back it up”
Michael Beutler, Director of Sustainability Operations, Kering

Our final thoughts

It was amazing to see the strong themes recurring time and time again, from the mouths of very different retailers, with varied brand positioning and purpose. For us, the message we heard loud and clear is that it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…

  • It’s all about creating experiences – consumers don’t just want to buy stuff, they want an experience…
  • When retailers connect with their customers, it has to be where the customer already is, and in the manner that they want to be engaged in – there’s no lazy way to create real engagement…
  • And then it’s all about using technology to truly understand the customer. Once these insights have been gained, use them to hone and improve the customer experience. Taking us back to point one…

Not only was this great as it was easy to understand, but also because Appointedd is empowering retailers with every step of this equation. We felt pretty happy with that realisation!

All in all, FUTR Europe was one of the most informative, and fun events we’ve been to in a long time. The speakers were top class and the networking was great. It was fantastic to chat with potential new customers (who were super excited about Appointedd’s online booking tools and how they can deliver fantastic omnichannel engagement for retailers), but also wonderful to see one of our favourite customers, Mamas & Papas, onstage and get to catch up with CIO Chris Greenwood about how his team are loving using our technology.

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