store is no longer a store

10 things I learned at the Paris Retail Week

I attended the Paris Retail Week in Paris(!) recently. This 4th edition is fast becoming the French equivalent of NRF annual big show in NYC. Below are key trends I spotted, along with pictures I snapped during the event. Enjoy and reach out to me directly if you have questions!

  1. The store is not a store anymore, it is an experience: every keynote and every presentation made it clear the “retail armageddon” will not happen if retailers convert their stores into a center of “experience” – whatever that means. In my definition, “store experience” is a marketing concept made possible by the combination of digital technologies, specifically: showrooming + webrooming + smart advice using AI + customer service + social networks (instagram) + omni-channel + mobility + electronic payment + etc.
  2. In the future store experience, technology is hidden: there are still “in your face” store technologies, solutions that are very visible and meant to have the customer interact with it to get some benefit – such as kiosks, virtual reality (Decathlon has shown VR experiments that failed to convince me), smart augmented reality mirrors by jd.com (see video) and self-checkout solutions. Innovative startups take a different approach. Digital signage DynamicScreen uses RFID tags on wine bottles to personalize the content of in-store displays providing customers a true unique and seamless experience for customers: pick up a bottle and get information displayed instantly, no mobile phone, no scanning a barcode. Transparent. The trend is thus to make technology invisible to the customer, like Amazon GO stores that eliminate cash registers (vs. self checkout of today), to leverage technology so that the customer doesn’t see it or to eliminate actions. Arca Computing uses mobile app + beacons to inform users of promotions from nearby stores. Similarly, electronic labels of Pricer eliminate pricing errors and provide additional information about products and can even help customers (or eCommerce pickers) locate the products fast on shelves.
  3. Automation let humans focus on experience/service/advice: Qopius robots scan product on store shelves to determine which are in stock or missing, where they are located and if their price is right – see the video to get an idea how it works. Product recalls require a level of automation that does not exist today but Zest HACCP provides a solution for food traceability (and they are in trial with Intermarché so this is real – no need for blockchain in this solution AFAIK). Density offers a solution to scan security camera and identify shopper behaviour.
  4. Data for Personalization & Prediction is everywhere: personalized loyalty programs from Aquitem is growing into big data analytics as a natural extension of its traditional activities, dolist launches new campaign managers, oncrawl provides advanced SEO solutions, brainify puts eCommerce analytics on steroids, affilae simplifies creation of network of affiliates, Dolist marketing automation keeps improving the customer data capture, analysis and prediction, or Atypicom to bring online traffic or Fidme to centralize all fidelity cards in one place. GDPR regulation was on everyone’s lip, still trying to figure out what it means, with event a booth of law firm Haas avocats promoting their expertise on GDPR and digital implications of this new regulation. Integration of systems remains essential for the proper flow of data – we may even say that integration has become the main issue. Solutions of ApiRunRun to centrally manage product  catalogs then connect to eCommerce solutions (prestashop, shopify, Magento and others) should take the lead in coming years.
  5. Back to basics – Omni-channel blends eCommerce and physical commerce into “commerce”: there is no difference between online shopping and in store shopping because of all the omni-channel solutions (the show tried to promote the term “phygital stores” for the new concept, not sure it will catch). I bought a baguette at Au bon Marché, scanned the package with my phone neos “scan & go” mobile app and paid using the stored credit card – no register, no checkout. I just left like a thief – this was a transformative experience, felt a bit like magic. Of course, click-n-collect solutions are everywhere on the show floor as France is leader in the supermarket online grocery field with volumes that require dedicated solutions. Even the good old scales and POS feel more like eCommerce solutions than traditional store devices – further blurring the line between digital and physical commerce. Place2Swap proposes a new twist on 2nd hand reuse model as a marketplace for brands to sell already used items that can have as second life (base don the book “Le Retail face aux nouveaux modes de consommation“).
  6. Digital transformation of French local stores is in full swing: small stores remain challenged by digital transformation, as evidenced by the number of kiosks presenting eCommerce and digital marketing solutions, including bziiit,  webperfect, DynamAdsMediaffiliation, MyMarketCompanyTargetweb. Even our own Quebec-based shopify (market challenger to France’s leader prestashop). Marketplaces are trending with Bordeaux Tasso that provides small local stores with a one-stop solution that merges online marketplace with delivery services, thus addressing the most pressing concerns of smaller retailers: how to get online traffic and deliver products quickly at a low price.
  7. Giant retail chains cooperate with startups on innovation: Carrefour online retail giant cdiscount has created thewarehouse, an incubator where startups spend 6 months to demonstrate how their innovations in logistics can be deployed full scale by showing their  in a 3000 sq.m. “test” warehouse. picom in Paris has created the new shopping experience to pair startups with established retailers. Supermarket giant Intermarché has setup a internal “lab” to experiment with disruptive new technologies.
  8. France is turning into a country of technology startups: since the creation of La French Tech in 2015, the French government has organized funding to legitimize startups in a country that has traditionally been risk-averse. With retail as a strategic focus, it boosts the visibility of french startups in France but also worldwide with presence at CES in Vegas and NRF in NYC. This has led to creation of local hubs of innovation throughout France, in particular Club Commerce Connecté of Digital Aquitaine is promoting very dynamic group of Bordeaux startups (there is more than wine in the region). This was a true revelation for me to see startups of all kinds being promoted on a national and international stage with such level. As an example, the delegation of startups by FrenchTech at CES2018 was the second largest (next to that of US!) with 700+ startups. You’ve got to look at France for innovation in that context.
  9. China is not a low cost production center but true retail innovator: with booths from jd.com and Huawei, chinese presence at the show was small but very striking (I had similar impression at CES 2018 last January). In the past, Chinese companies highlighted their capability to manufacture products at low cost. Today, they highlight innovative retail solutions that are deployed in China, including epayment, logistics, omnichannel, etc.. Troubles with Trump in the USA may mean even more presence of China in the coming years…
  10. English domination: the use of English everywhere in France is annoying and a bit troubling, although understandable if local startups want to become global players. Nevertheless, for us french-speaking Quebecers, it feels a bit weird as we sometimes feel more “french” in France. On that note, listen to the amazing video “Le québécois pour les nuls” for 7 minutes of pure joy about the french language in Quebec and France.
Farid Mheir
farid@mheir.com