Hi Reader,

Today marks a special day for me.... it's the podcast's 5th birthday.

What started as an experiment has provided plenty of transformative moments for me. From scaling up my consultancy services, to coaching, to keynote speaking, to hosting events and to writing my upcoming book. But my main aim continues to be about helping you transform better. Helping you to understand the evolving retail market and how you can change too.

So I'd really love to hear from you - what would you want to hear more of on the podcast? How would you like me to transform from here? How can I help you to transform better? Hit reply to this email and let me know.

Oh, and look out for next week's episode looking back at the golden nuggets from the last year of the show.

Retail transformation news headlines

👷‍♂️ Walmart are investing $9b into upgrading and modernising stores over the next 2 years. The programme focuses on 1,400 of their US estate, that's approximately 30% of outlets. The store refurbishments include improved layouts, expansion of grocery collection points and new digital touchpoints. Additionally, customers will also benefit from proposition changes like expanded product ranges and categories and ordering big and bulky items to home. This week, they're reopening the first 117 stores, representing a $500m investment.

📷 Amazon announced an AI image generator that can drop product photos into realistic settings instantly. This represents a huge shift in creating content and imagery to help inspire customers. It's initially aimed for advertisers but could quickly transition to become a standard seller tool. However, it could also raise questions about trustworthiness, especially as 3D models and AI imagery becomes more realistic, suggesting that user-generated content (UGC) could also play a role to demonstrate authenticity.

📢 In the UK, Amazon's media network has placed as the third largest digital advertisement channel, following a large quarter-to-quarter improvement. Research by Juni showed that Meta is in pole position (with 60.3% of the market), followed by Google (26.6%), Amazon (6.1%), TikTok (3.2%) and Microsoft (1.5%), Snapchat (1%) with others accounting for just 1.3% of the market. The research also suggested that ad spend from ecommerce retailers has jumped 67% year on year. It's an interesting data point about retail media networks' current performance levels - aka lots of opportunity for growth, especially when you realise that digital ads are expanding as a market. However, it also shows the huge volatility, with 4.4% of the total market swinging to Amazon in a single quarter.... and it could just as easily swing away next quarter as marketers and brands experiment with what is or is not delivering best value.

✂️ Alibaba are planning for a major price war on the upcoming Singles Day with severe warnings to brands who are not willing to support the event. It's been reported that they have been telling sellers to offer the an exclusive "best price of the year" or risk losing traffic and support relative to those companies that are willing to offer a bargain. This very heavy-handed approach is a danger for marketplace sellers who must collaborate with the retailer or marketplace provider, but is also similar to the tough retail wholesale negotiatons with the risk of being delisted and pulled from planograms and shelves, especialy in the grocery category. It demonstrates the importance to be resilient across different channels and could trigger future trends around marketplace selection.

🛒 Carrefour are set to deploy 2,400 smart carts across 2 stores and are looking to expand the trial further. This is reported to be the largest deployment of the new technology. The trolleys include a digital touch screen, cameras, vision system and the entire cart doubles as a large weighing scale. The vision system can recognise products put into the trolley whilst the scales help with loose produce and minimise the risk of shrink through unrecognised items or weights. Whilst the overall number seems impressive, the number of stores is less so - a good reminder of the scale of retail technology deployments which are needed for the industry.

📚 WHSmith are launching a book buy-back service, offering gift cards in exchange. However, it's not suggested that they will start to sell used books, but instead they will feed the existing supply chain of second-hand books. Books are perhaps the category with the most history in resale or recommerce with established companies that exclusively sell used books. However, it's important to secure a supply of 'new' stock whilst also clearing the old books that nobody wants. WHSmiths and their large store network are a good resource for this supply so it sounds like a win-win opportunity which will help bring customers into store too. Sports retailer Decathlon are also launching a buy-back service, starting with own-brand bikes, in exchange for store credit.

Waitrose seem to be pulling back on their refill ambitions. They were one of the market leaders in offering refillable groceries at scale, but they've recently decided to leave the Refill Coalition, following in the footsteps of Morrisons and M&S. Meanwhile, Aldi have just launched their first trial store offering refillable groceries. Refill offers a good opportunity to reduce waste but comes with major changes to the operating model in stores and the supply chain.

💰 There have also been plenty of acquisition stories this week. Head on over to my post on LinkedIn for a digest of these, featuring Frasers Group/Wiggle, Shein/Missguided, Tesco/Paperchase, ASIS/Topshop, Wilko/The Range and CDS Superstores!

🎄 And finally, 'tis the season.... for Christmas ads. The flagship marketing campaigns have started launching, with Asda and Argos making their announcements now that Halloween is finished.

New podcast episode: Omnichannel vs unified commerce - #262

In the dynamic world of retail, “omnichannel” has stood as a consistent goal, an "ever trend". However, recently, the spotlight has been shifting to “unified commerce”. So the question arises: has omnichannel truly had its day? Dive into this intriguing podcast episode where I dissect the essence of both concepts, backed by industry insights and the formidable intelligence of AI. From the semantics of buzzwords to real-world applications, let’s embark on a journey to determine if these terms are mere labels or integral to the retail evolution. And discover which approach comes out on top.

Take a listen to episode 262 of the Retail Transformation Show podcast and discover:

  • Understand the shift from omnichannel to unified commerce and the distinctions and similarities between the two, supported by insights by industry experts.
  • Discover the necessity of adaptability in retail, preparing for unknown future channels and consumer trends.
  • Recognise the three importance elements to help focus on unified commerce and delivering a customer-centric operating model.

Check out these recent episodes too:

#261: Uncovering the path to retail profitability

#260: Unlocking retail simplification

#259: How AR is redefining the shopping experience

Thanks for reading and 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

Read more from Oliver Banks of OB&Co