This week Manthan interviewed retail influencer, Miya Knights.

Miya is the Global Technology Research Director at Planet Retail, and has over 15 years’ experience as an analyst, journalist and editor specialising in enterprise technology use in retail.

We picked her brain on the demands faced by retailers and her much anticipated NRF 2016 Big !deas Presentation on Personalization.

MANTHAN: What do you see as the biggest challenges retailers are facing?

MIYA: The biggest challenges facing retailers today are the need to provide a clearly differentiated offering together with a convenient, consistent and channel-agnostic shopping experience efficiently and cost-effectively based on technology adoption, process re-engineering and empowering their people to deliver superior service and brand experience.

MANTHAN: There’s a lot of discussion on disruptive retail technologies. What is the biggest game-changing technology for retailers today?

MIYA: I don’t think they are any really “disruptive technologies” in retail. The influence of wireless, mobile technologies will continue to be profound – for its ability to add speed, efficiency, and context to more connected retail processes and shopping experiences. The innovative use of these technologies is what will fuel disruption.

MANTHAN: You’ll be speaking about whether personalization has become "emotionless" at NRF 2016. Is there any trend or incident that made you feel this needed to be addressed?

MIYA: A couple of trends lead me to think personalisation is a bit overplayed in retail.

I do not think that retailers are yet ready to deliver truly personalised experiences to individual consumers, although they are getting there with the help of technology. This has led to terms like “hyper-personalisation” and “omni-channel” that can distort expectations. 

But, technology is essential to delivering on these expectations: through the combination of mobile, with its capability to capture context and intent, together with developments in Big Data, analytics, Cloud computing, and IoT. They are essential to gaining the visibility, intelligence, and agility necessary to achieving true personalisation.

MANTHAN: How can analytics effectively help retailers harness the power of their big data?

MIYA: Analytics are essential to helping retailers make sense of all of the data they can and do collect from their own sales and operations, and those of their partners, as well as the shopping journeys, habits and preferences of their customers.

That’s not to mention external data about the weather, and macroeconomic factors that can affect sourcing, supply and demand. Analytics can be important tools for spotting trends, supporting more informed decision-making, and helping to better match and predict supply to a finer-grained understanding of demand.

MANTHAN: Can you name any retail brand who has recently and effectively used technology to innovate their business and how?

MIYA: I wouldn’t say any one retailer is acing their use of technology to support innovation and differentiation for their business. But in the area of mobile and payments, Walmart should be commended for its recent Walmart Pay mobile wallet launch. This complements its CurrentC membership and puts it ahead in terms of facilitating as many different mobile payment methods as possible. Combining Walmart Pay into its existing app and keeping it open to integration with other, third-party wallet providers, enables it to include digital receipts, gift cards, prescription refills and shopping lists etc., as well as to handle mixed payments, i.e. part gift voucher, part card transaction.

Starbucks is in a similar position, having invested heavily in its stored value payment app that also combines with its loyalty scheme – it was the largest independent US mobile payment processor last year. It also added order & pay functionality, so customers can place an order in advance of visiting the store and have it ready in time for their arrival. This leverages location-based technologies and concepts associated with the Internet of Things (IoT), which keeps it a step ahead of the competition in terms of superior, tech-enabled customer service.

Lastly, Waitrose is to be commended for the improvements made in summer last year to its myWaitrose loyalty scheme, with the introduction of Pick Your Own Offers, which complements its existing Waitrose Brand Match initiative, and demonstrates just what is possible when retailers start to bring true levels of personalisation and customer control to the shopping experience, in addition to more competitive pricing – especially at the scale and in the volumes necessary to sustain a top-tier grocery business.

Thank you Miya!