Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Bricks and mortar to bricks and clicks - the future of retail innovation

We've all read about the apparent demise of high-street retail, most of it put down to the massive move to online purchases. Shopping centres report a drop in footfall of 3.5% in September, compared to last year. House of Fraser and Debenhams are in real trouble. It seems that bricks and mortar retail is in desperate need of innovation.

Whilst in New York last week, I bought a mini camera tripod from Amazon. Nothing special in that. However the way I did it was very different. Amazon are experimenting with channels that supplement their pure online offering. The store in Spring Street, Soho that I made my purchase in is their first 4Star location. Every item on the shelves is rated by customers as more than 4*, new or 'trending'. Shelf edge prices are updated dynamically to match online. The place was heaving with customers. I suspect that the store will also stimulate additional online sales.

Other store formats are also being trialled. In Seattle, their 'Amazon Go' store allows Amazon Prime customers to register on entry, select their items and simply walk out with them. No sales assistant interaction, no cash desk. Purchases are simply billed to their Prime account. The way they do this is through a combination of camera tracking, RFid tags and other tech. The Prime store may just be an experiment (they trialled it for a while with Amazon staff only), but all credit for trying.

Having worked in retail for many years, this is these are the biggest innovations I have seen in a long time. A perfect example of bricks and mortar turning into bricks and clicks.

This could be seen in two ways. Either Amazon are going to swallow even more of the high street by parking their tanks there, or existing retailers are going to see this type of melded retail offering as their future. Amazon have been pioneers and innovators without peers - and this proves it.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Chatbots & Digital Assistants: Shaping the future of work. (Sponsored event for Children In Need), 13 Nov 2018

Way back in 1966, the natural language processing program, ELIZA, played the role of a digital psychologist. This early chatbot was capable of "listening" to you as you shared your life story, delivering mostly coherent, yet vague canned responses to whatever you typed in.

Chatbots have come a long way since then. Many in the current generation are equipped with artificial intelligence (AI), making them more powerful than ever. And today, chatbots are used by organisations to listen to and respond to requests, find the answers to commonly asked questions, or even help us order a pizza.

Meanwhile, using our smart devices we can ask intelligent assistants, such as Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, to set up events in our calendars, dictate emails, play from millions of songs, turn off the lights, and more. And the more we talk to them, the better intelligent assistants get at understanding and serving us, thanks to AI.

Chatbot technology is becoming commonplace in our homes, on our phones and even in our vehicles – but what about in the workplace? This dedicated breakfast briefing will explore the contemporary world of chatbots and digital assistants and their increasing utility for automating routine tasks. Can they be relied upon to do some of the knowledge management 'heavy lifting', and if so, what will the future workplace look like?

This event would be of particular interest to and benefit the following roles and functions:
  • HR
  • Customer Support
  • Community Managers
  • CIO's
  • Innovators
  • Knowledge Managers
  • Legal/Paralegal
The key learning points from this event will be:
  • Understanding the current and emerging role of chatbots in the workplace
  • Identifying the skills, resources and costs of developing a chatbot
  • Seeing/interacting with NRF's latest chatbot
  • Plenary discussion about how chatbots may shape the future of work
A hot & cold buffet breakfast will be available during the briefing.

Full details can be found on this event page:
Roundtable: Chatbots & Digital Assistants: Shaping the future of work. (Sponsored event for Children In Need)'

Tickets for this special event are £32, available from Workplace Week, with all proceeds donated to BBC's Children In Need charity.