Recap: FuelDay for Retail

A new name, a handful of (inter)national top speakers and lots of inspiration. These were the main ingredients of Big Brother’s Fuelday for Retail. All these ingredients tickled the tastebuds of more than 250 participants.

Developments in the retail industry are progressing rapidly. What’s new today, will be old news tomorrow. So, it is essential to keep up; that is how author and Professor of Marketing Steven van Belleghem described it in a video message at the start of Big Brother’s conference at the Pathe conference centre in Ede. ‘Next to Apple Stores, the cashless formula of Amazon Go is the most lucrative retail concept in the world. So it is not that strange that Amazon is planning to rapidly expand this concept, possibly also within the petrol industry, reflects Van Belleghem. What he is saying is that retailers should embrace new technologies like cashless shopping systems. At Amazon Go, cameras and sensors will register when products are taken from the shop shelves or when they are placed back. Once the consumer has finished his shopping, he can just leave the store. Afterwards the company will then charge the purchase amount to the customer’s Amazon account.

It’s all about taking away obstacles; that is also the reflection of Frits Morrema, Manager Retail Marketing & Communication at Total Netherlands. His vision is at the basis of Total’s shop concept COSIE. During the Fuelday for Retail he shared information on the background of this concept. ‘Petrol stations are still often seen as expensive and not very cosy. We are changing this. COSIE stands for barista-quality coffee, fresh juices and surprising sandwiches in a modern, welcoming and pleasant ambiance- an ambiance in which one likes to stay. Where guests can meet up with colleagues, where they can stop for a break and where they can enjoy coffee of high quality, freshly made sandwiches and delicious snacks whilst travelling through.’ To the audience, Morrema emphasised that even though vision, mission and strategy are important, they do need to be accompanied by passion. ‘From management to the shop employees: everyone must be behind this 100% and really have to go for it. That is the only way you can achieve the goal, which is more guests, more satisfied guests and higher consumer spending.’

31 billion images

Reaching goals is also possible by making clever use of already existing means. And that is exactly the support that Big Brother provides, clarified Big Brother’s Managing Director Harold van der Velde during the Fuelday for Retail. ‘Each day, we record 31 billion images for our customers. This means that we have an enormous amount of information in our possession. By enriching these images with data such as car brand, car colour and license plate, not only will known ‘bilker’ petrol buyers be recognised quickly, it offers all kinds of new potential. For example, the ‘just start to fill’ concept in which automatic payment based on licence plates is possible as well as all kinds of tailor- made marketing promotions.’ All these data come together on the Big Brother platforms StoreWatch (retail) and PumpWatch  (petrol stations). ‘Both excelling in your customer services as well as special customer experiences have no longer become something ‘extra’, instead they are prerequisites. This calls for control and insight into the behaviour of customers and employees. We can facilitate this, with our platform among others.’ Recently these solutions have been totally updated, explains Van der Velde. ‘The technology is more advanced and a completely new interface has been developed. This way, the smart data-driven camera system does not only help the petrol stations industry to control and manage businesses, but it also helps to make them grow. ’

In the meantime, Big Brother’s Commercial Director Aart van Rooijen also takes to the stage and reinforces Van der Velde’s words. ‘It is our system’s goal to be able to predict abuse and fraud as well as claiming the damages from the person responsible. Furthermore our systems have to contribute to the fact that experiences of retail customers as well as petrol stations customers will be optimised and that they are unique and personal.’ What does this mean exactly? Van Rooijen: ‘For example we link camera images to shop transactions. Users will get insight down to the smallest details in HD-quality. By using this, you will be able to control, guard and manage your sales process in an excellent way.’ With PumpWatch and StoreWatch as the ‘eyes and brains’ behind the security, more and more different intelligent expansions will become possible. Van Rooijen: ‘Apart from taking care of optimum security you will also create higher efficiency, increased turnover and a better customer experience. And this is what it is all about for our customers, both now as well as in the future.’

Customer data: the basis of development

Customer data is also an important principle with regard to new developments at Shell, explained Dan Jeavons. He is General Manager Data Science at Shell, a department that has its main focus on developing smart software. A good example of this is the new loyalty programme Shell Go+, and in particular how it works. Through the savings programme Shell collects data and uses this among others for customer specific rewards. Jeavons, who is a sought-after speaker at international conferences mapped out to the conference participants an image of all the possibilities that these data will be able to open up at the oil company. He also emphasised the application of artificial intelligence (AI). According to Jeavons, AI assists Shell in their petrol station security and it also creates sustainable steps towards the future, e.g. with regard to development and new types of cleaner energy. For instance, Shell has been wondering how they can deal with energy in a more efficient and effective way as the company has set itself a goal to reduce their CO2 footprint by half around the year 2050. Jeavons’ team determines the direction of these developments through all kinds of projects, events and hackathons (meetings in which software, – and website developers and designers come together to work on a particular theme).

It was a unique insight into Shell’s ‘new’ world. An approach that Belgian trendwatcher Rik Vera can agree with. ‘By using data, retailers can get to know their customers and are able to develop specific concepts.’ However there are some conditions that need to be taken into account with the development of concepts, clarifies Vera. ‘Retailers spend about 90% of their time thinking about today, 10% of their time is focused on tomorrow and 0% is focused on what happens after tomorrow. If you are developing new things, you need to look further ahead than just today or tomorrow.’  With an appropriate light-hearted touch, Vera tells his story during the Fuelday for Retail. ‘Are you familiar with the beach chair model? ‘he asks the audience. Vera displays an image. ‘Look, these are all beach chairs that are rented out. After a while the entrepreneur decides to optimise the rentals. All chairs are given colours, are rented out not on a daily basis but on an hourly basis and the chairs become smaller and are put closer together so that more chairs will fit onto the beach. And then…then a tsunami comes. The sea recedes and at first the beach becomes bigger, all the more space to place even more chairs in. Which is exactly what the entrepreneur does. And then, all of a sudden the tsunami inundates everything. That tsunami is the disruptor that washes out the old economy in one wave.’ With this example Vera wants to say that it is the art to prepare your new business model at the time when your old one is still flourishing. ‘Develop, improve, test and make sure that if and when the tsunami reaches your beach, you are ready and flexible enough to jump the waves and ride them. ‘

So when does a retailer or petrol station owner know if he is in that danger zone? Vera: ’If the customer changes faster than you, things will turn sour. And also look at it with regard to time: if the customer feels that he or she is wasting precious time in your store, then that is not good.’ Vera suggests that entrepreneurs looking for change have to start by optimising customer experience. ‘In principle, the IPhone’s success is due to its interface, to the fact that you can operate everything quite simply with your fingers. So start by optimising your customer experience and then you can start thinking about adding smart technologies.‘ Vera also brings in Smombies, in other words Smartphone Zombies. Everything that matters to a consumer is in that thing. If we leave our purse at home by accident, we don’t even go back for it anymore, however if we leave our smartphone behind, we quickly go back home to collect it. When in a museum, we briefly look at a painting and then we turn around and take a selfie. Isn’t that quite unique ? And through our smartphone we are all connected to each other, through the different social networks. Make use of it, make use of the networks’ power.’

The future is now: artificial intelligence

In a timeframe of 45 minutes Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at Insider Trends, shared a cartload of new and innovative concepts that combine online and offline and embrace new technologies. One of the technological developments that is often applied in the United Kingdom is artificial intelligence (AI). For example, retailer Morrisons uses artificial intelligence for the supply of the almost 500 supermarkets. Through an algorithm developed on the basis of three years of sales data for each store combined with weather data, the British retailer can predict exactly which products are needed and in which place. Result: always the right product, in the right amounts, at the right place. The use of AI in supply management provides 80% customer loyalty as you always have the right products in stock. ‘And in case the system makes an error in estimating the supply level, it actually learns from its mistakes’, explains Trotter. The use of AI in combination with dynamic pricing has provided 5% more profit for Morrisons. Furthermore, those companies that are already using AI today, see a growth of more than 30%! According to many speakers, amongst others Big Brother’s Van Rooijen, AI’s impact will increase considerably in the years to come.’ There is great potential for things such as physical and digital security. AI uses data to learn, to recognise patterns and on that basis to analyse new situations and respond accordingly.’

Trotter also mentioned the German company Kochhaus, a concept introducing recipes in combination with the right products. How it works? Customers visiting the store can choose from a range of products, whereby the ingredients belonging to those products are neatly displayed, in exactly the right amounts. ‘A good 40% of all consumers driving home from work does not know what they will be having for dinner. This concept caters for those kinds of people, Kochhaus inspires and shopping is made easy there. According to Trotter this is a concept that would also work well for petrol stations. ‘I can picture it well. And another smart thing about this concept is that once they have gained the customers’ trust, they are referred to the online store where both recipes as well as groceries can be ordered and delivered at home. It’s all about convenience.‘ According to Trotter it is essential for the petrol stations industry to think out-of-the-box. ‘Be original, innovate.’ Trotter also says that data are essential in this. ‘Retailers, especially retailers that offer online services, increasingly know more about the customers. They know their preferences and can respond accordingly.’ For example, good retailers use the online information to determine what happens in the physical store with regard to product range, services and even location. ‘Nike for example does an excellent job in this. Through their App they collect their customer data and on that basis they know their preferences and can send personalised messages. And the beauty of this is, that 87% of the customers want to receive personal messages through the different channels he or she is shopping in. When you realise that only 53% of the retailers is actually doing this, then there is still a lot of work left to do. An advantage that petrol stations have, is that they are located in the best locations with a constant flow of people. Make use of this!’

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