Retail Ireland Summit 2017 took place this week at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin; I was fortunate enough to be asked along to deliver a keynote.
What do you get if you take one amazing brewery experience, a great agenda and then add an audience packed with some of the best retail minds in Ireland? Retail Ireland Summit 2017 of course!
Organised by Retail Ireland and Ibec the topic for discussion this year was ‘Exploring Experiential Retail’ – something which clearly resonated as witnessed by a packed room for this year’s conference.
And so it was that I found myself in Dublin at ‘The Home of Guinness’ otherwise known as the Guinness Storehouse this week, there at the invitation of Retail Ireland and Ibec.
And what an apt venue to choose to discuss experiential retail. The Guinness Storehouse attracts 1.6 million visitors a year from all around the world and is Ireland’s top tourist attraction.
No wonder for it has grown into an iconic destination and a ‘must see’ for everyone when in Dublin.
Retail Ireland is tireless in its efforts to help and support the Irish retail sector and how it can future proof itself against the rapidly changing retail environment.
As a forerunner to the conference, earlier this year it published ‘Shaping the Future of Irish Retail 2020’ a new and ambitious strategy for the sector.
Founded on four key pillars – Competitiveness, Confidence, Careers and Community – it is a blueprint for the Irish retail sector and the conference took its cues from that.
Clearly, from what we heard, the Irish economy is in rude health however the challenges facing retail are both sustained and enduring.
In my role as a retail analyst and IBM Futurist, I get to attend a lot of retail conferences and seminars. Never before has the subject of customer experience and the consumer featured so strongly.
Faced with the stiffest competition ever seen, retailers are having to reinvent themselves and in particular this means their literal shop window - their stores – are having to completely rethink their role and the value that they can offer.
No longer simply a place to visit to purchase goods off the shelf, stores must now become enjoyable destinations where we wish to spend time.
But make no mistake, the reward for getting it right is there to be had – engage, inspire and connect.
In the same week as Sears announced that it was shuttering all of its stores in Canada with the loss of 12,000 jobs, the Retail Ireland Summit provided plenty of insights into how retailers can attract and retain customers.
"Only by understanding your data can you deliver experiential retail to your customers"
Whether it means being smart with the investment in technology, embracing storytelling, understanding the value of data when it comes to delivering true personalisation or becoming a customer centric organisation from the inside out, there was plenty to digest and takeaway in terms of valuable practical advice for any retailer looking at the next stage of growth and development.
And what of all those bubbles?
After the conference we made our way to the Gravity Bar at the top of the Guinness Storehouse to savour a pint of the black stuff - each containing 30 million bubbles.
A great end to a great day.
Andrew Busby is a Keynote Speaker & Analyst, Founder & CEO of Retail Reflections and an IBM Futurist