I spent the first part of this week at the (deep breath) “Rethink! Internet of Retail Minds Europe 2016” event in London, where we were giving a keynote speech on the importance of humans in digital strategies. We were hoping that our presentation “Don’t Forget the Humans” would be a refreshing palette cleanser amongst an onslaught of heavy tech presentations. We’d be the only ones with a story about a car boot sale and a way to demonstrate how to help your brand align your Internet of Things aspirations with your customer’s emotional needs.

Rethink Internet of Retail Minds presentation - don't forget the humans

What we found was that we were riding the wave of the zeitgeist of human-centered design, rather than ahead of that curve. The preceding case study, for example, was on BMWs work to re-centre their dealership experience on the customer. This actually supported our view and gave context to our ‘Emotional Journey Design’ strategy. In some ways, we couldn’t have planned it better.

Michele Fuhs (Head of Premium Retail Experience at BMW) gave a speech on Personalised Marketing, which was my pick of the event. He started with the blunt facts: “at least 50% of people do not like the current sales process” and “as much as 90% of people HATE haggling”. The killer was a simple quote from his own research where a customer admitted they enjoy looking at cars but wish the sales people would “just piss off”. In our presentation, we focused on the need to embrace naivety, not be scared of it and this example demonstrated how to do that. Only by looking at the clear facts and listening to their audience without prejudice about what dealers should do or what the rules of car retailing say, could BMW move forward.

Michele’s talk also laid out the scale of the organisational and cultural challenges that must happen in large businesses to re-centre to focus on the customer and made it clear that the only way to do this is to set a vision at the very top, then align all of your collective efforts to this grander purpose…and be prepared for it to take time!

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

For me, the other highlight was the well-organised roundtable discussions. Sponsor partners hosted tables in a speed-dating format, chairing discussions on current topics. These were a great opportunity to chat with peers from all areas without barriers and learn, learn, learn.

The guys from Adobe gave a great presentation, as usual, but I was struck by the amount of conversation around content and less chatter about Big Data. In fact, Pietr Kreft from Fashion House Group made his opinion clear in his panel session, that retailers aren’t “drowning in data” as the vendors of data translation products would like us to believe.

Was the event a success? Undoubtedly. Did it have much to do with the Internet of Things…not really, but the interesting technology on show and the great shared thinking made it an inspirational day.

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