The World Economic Forum and Accenture have recently released a new report, 'Shaping the Future of Retail for Consumer Industries', which predicts that the retail and CPG (consumer packaged goods) industries will "change more in the next 10 years than it has in the past 40 years", driven by  "deep understanding of and connection to the empowered consumer, promptly incorporating disruptive technologies, embracing transformative business models in both the offline and online space, and establishing key capabilities".  (You can download the full report here: https://www.weforum.org/reports/shaping-the-future-of-retail-for-consumer-industries.)

In this comment on the report, Jamie Murray Wells of Google UK highlights four technologies that are predicted to have the most significant impact: 

  • the Internet of Things and consumer data, which will enable retailers to personalise the customer experience and operate more efficiently; 
  • Autonomous vehicles and drones, which are predicted to transform delivery processes and timescales;
  • Artificial intelligence, supporting data analysis and prediction of demand; and
  • robotics, which will streamline numerous physical processes in the supply chain.

He also points out that numerous challenges will need to be faced before this vision can be realised. 

My view is that the biggest of these challenges for most retail businesses will be what to invest in and when.  The opportunities these technologies present are no secret, but there is also a lot more development to be done - and a lot of people racing to create the next disruptive solution.  When should you dive in?  And what technology should you prioritise?  How will you know which solution will work best for you?

The answers to these questions will of course be different for each business.  On one end of the scale, those with significant resources may opt to commission a bespoke solution, tailored to their needs.  Alternatively, an early investment in an unfinished solution or a promising start-up could be a canny move, providing influence over the direction of development and (potentially) delivering first mover advantage if it turns out to be successful.  The more risk averse may prefer to wait until a range of more established solutions are available, enabling a more comprehensive assessment of the pros and cons of each.  

If you're a retailer, we'd love to know what you think and what you're facing - are you considering investing in a new technology or solution at the moment?  What are your priorities and concerns?