Oliver Banks of OB&Co

Retail Transformation Briefing – 17th January

Published about 1 month ago • 5 min read

Hi Reader,

Every retailer and brand have to deal with the same type of systems. Systems to handle stock and orders, to manage people, to gather customer data, to collate financials and many other use cases. Whilst there are some category or product-specific elements, broadly, the needs across all retailers are very similar.

So, why haven't we got this sorted yet? Are there no technical solutions on the market to be able to handle and process this data effectively?

Why do so many companies still struggle to manage, update and deploy new systems?

Often, the "system" has nothing to do with it. That's not to say there are never technical glitches, but often, the challenge stems from aspects like requirements, clarity, scope, and alignment. In my experience, these are usually people-based challenges and the solutions are always people-based.

You see, the greatest challenges with transformation come not from what we're doing, but how we're doing it.

If you're facing challenges and need help driving change, let's talk about how OB&Co's hands-on support, advisory or coaching services can help you transform how you transform.

Oh - and read on further down the briefing for a related fact about my upcoming book which might surprise you.

Retail transformation news headlines

⚡ UK supermarket Sainsbury's has launched an EV charging service and business unit. EV units are being fitted at stores to allow customers to complete ultra-fast charging while doing quick top-up shops. Electricity is from 100% renewable energy sources. Chargers are in 23 stores so far and they plan to deploy more units every week. As more consumers switch to EV vehicles, classic fuel forecourts at supermarkets will see demand drop. Additionally, providing trustworthy and accessible EV charging points is an opportunity to win customers - who I suspect would be more likely to be more likely to buy larger baskets of groceries and other services too. Essentially, EV points become a new channel and proposition to attract and retain customers.

🚨 Morrisons are using portable CCTV devices to prevent theft in alcohol aisles. The "Safer Pod" is a device originally designed for warehouses and features 4 cameras to get a 360 degree view of the location plus onboard alarm sirens. Customers have been quick to reject the new unit with references to the lack of staffing across the store.

💡 Instacart are blending retail media with Google Shopping ads. The partnership allows CPG brands to be able to use Instacart data to be able to better target search engine ads. This in a very interesting integration which will help tailor brand and product awareness to the right customers at the right time.

🧾 Sam's Club will trial a new AI and vision system to automatically verify if customers have paid for the items in their carts. The new technology replaces the need to have associates at the store exit checking customer receipts. They hope to be ready to deploy the technology to nearly 600 sites this year. Receipt checking or scanning has become widely commonplace in response to increasing shrink impact, but this affects the vast majority of honest customers in a negative way.

👡 Shoe retailer, Office, are allowing colleagues to quickly check stock levels for specific sizes before checking the backroom. They've been working with Red Ant to reduce friction in the shopping experience. Stock records are also shared between stores, so if a particular size is out of stock, it's easy to check inventory in nearby stores or warehouses too. This is a big modernisation delivered by accessing fairly standard data. Whilst it provides a transformative effect for colleagues and customers alike, it's important for companies like Office to already be thinking about what's next and how to further remove the friction and use this data even more effectively.

👀 Netto have opened Europe's largest autonomous supermarket in Germany. The 800sqm discount store is powered by Trigo and features a range of checkout options. Customers can start shopping immediately without having to check in or register. They're tracked by cameras around the shop and then get to choose whether to use a fast and frictionless checkout, a self-service checkout or a regular checkout. This marks a technical milestone for the tech, based on the store size, but also the speed of getting automated receipts before leaving the store. This will build confidence with consumers and I would imagine that more customers will start to opt to frictionless shopping.

⚖️ Shein have launched an international design competition whilst Uniqlo accuse them of copying design and infringing intellectual property. Shein X launched in 2021 and up to now has been for designers in Europe but in 2024, it's expanded to the entire world. Over the first 3 years, this competition has resulted in 41,000 new products going on sale! The competition is linked to their design incubator programme and there are cash prizes on offer for 10 designers in total. On a separate but ironically close news story, Uniqlo is also claiming that Shein have copied one of their designs and is demanding they immediately stop sales and pay compensation for brand damage.

💆 And finally, Asda have launched the world's first spa in a supermarket. Customers can get a range of massages in-store whilst getting ready for the big weekly shop perhaps! But this doesn't herald the start of a new trend! This is a stand-alone pop-up experience to promote their new range of healthy foods during the health-focused period at the start of the year. Proceeds will be donated to charity.

New podcast episode: Blending labour savings and service levels - #273

Dive into the critical balancing act that modern retailers face: achieving labour cost savings while preserving the invaluable human touch in customer experiences. Explore the evolving roles of store staff, the dynamic interplay between automation and personal service, and strategies for streamlining retail processes without losing the essence of human interaction. Tune in and let's explore how to balance the urgent need for cost savings whilst preserving the engaging, human-centric elements in your retail operating model.

Take a listen to episode 273 of the Retail Transformation Show podcast and you'll hear

  • How the role of colleagues and associates is evolving.
  • Understand the interplay between automation and maintaining human service.
  • Discover ideas and tips to simplify processes while preserving the human touch.
  • Why a deep understanding of the operating model is crucial.

Also check out these recent episodes too:

​#272: Retail trends and themes for 2024​

​#271: Taking the driver’s seat in 2024​

​#270: Retail wrapped​

Driving Retail Transformation: Book spotlight

The rise in technology, data and systems provokes one thought which has been uttered countless times.... digital transformation.

However, you may or may not know that I'm not a fan of this term and those two words appear together only ONE time in the entire book. This is a short extract from the very start of the book...

"You may be surprised to discover that digital transformation is a term that I’m allergic to. In fact, I promise that this is the only time you’ll see those words together in this book. We live in a digital world now. Very nearly everything has a digital element to it. However, the danger with this term is that it encourages us to think exclusively about IT and digital technologies, and in turn, become very focused on technical solutions. Even if technology is a big part of your solution, it’s not everything. This term puts blinkers on us and those around us, and we are likely to miss or underestimate critical elements such as people and process."

Whilst the term digital transformation (eek, that's now 3 times in one email) is just two words, it's the bias and emotions that these conjure up that present the challenge. We're surrounded by written and spoken words all day. And these words can help or hinder our own thinking, our brand, our perception and how others think.

To quote the enigmatic communication expert, Phil M Jones, where a small switch makes a big difference.

"Change your words. Change your world."

So, what words do you need to rethink and reconsider?

Driving Retail Transformation: How to navigate disruption and change is out on 5th March and available for pre-order now in all good bookstores.

If you enjoyed this Retail Transformation Briefing, why not forward it onto a colleague and they can subscribe too.

Keep transforming better,


Oliver Banks of OB&Co

Oliver helps retailers to change and transform their operating models. He's the host of the Retail Transformation Show podcast and founder of the RetailTransformation.Live virtual event

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