The role of start-ups and innovation in the retail industry were discussed on 31 August in a digital session dedicated to French digital innovators as part of the build-up to MAPIC 2021.
This online event also provided a unique and exclusive opportunity to showcase innovation in the retail industry and new ideas, which will once again from an important part of MAPIC 2021, which takes place in Cannes, France from 30 November to 2 December this year, after being held digitally alongside LeisurUp in 2020.
Speakers included Adrien Serres, a phygital expert for Improveeze; Alya Yacoubi, head Of Zaion Lab, Zaion; Domitille Esnard-Domerego, CEO, Key Infuser; and Dorota Smaggia, chief revenue officer, Itinsell, while the debate was introduced by moderator Cecile Delettre, partnership – communication, Business France and summarised by Thomas Vial, French startup international accelerator – head of department, Business France.
Alya Yacoubi, head Of Zaion Lab, Zaion, encapsulated the conversation as she described the change in how digital innovation is applied and in particular how phygital strategies, AI and machine-learning is influencing the retail sector. She contended that technology can enhance customer service and experience but only if it is applied intelligently and can be adapted to improve the service provided to consumers.
“In the past e-commerce was seen as a transaction,” said Yacoubi. “Today people are having an interaction and that’s why as customers we have high expectations, with a personalised and convenient customer journey.”
She introduced some of the progress being made in “conversational AI” to handle calls and to detect and analyse the emotions of the customer during the interaction, in order to move forwards in a way that works for the caller.
“Emotional AI is one of the big trends, the idea of customising the journey and analysing the behaviour of the customer is very present today,” she explained of the way the technology is being developed for innovation in the retail industry. “Often people are calling to make a complaint and today we are able to recognise what type of emotion is being expressed and if we recognise that a person is not happy, we can transfer that call to a person quickly.”
Digital innovation in the retail industry
It was a theme also introduced by Domitille Esnard-Domerego, CEO of Key Infuser, in terms of the role of robots in the customer-facing elements of retail rather than the back-of-house where their use has been common, in warehouses for example.
“On the front-end of retail, the customer is in front of you and robotics can provide a very fine-tuned service,” she said. “Robots will always succeed with personalisation.”
She also pointed out that technology can be a great help in the current times in terms of improving contactless retail transactions and interactions, “because we know that we have to live with COVID.”
Dorota Smaggia, chief revenue officer, Itinsell, introduced the evolution of logistics by pointing out that 165 billion parcels are packed and delivered each year in the US, while even in France this market size has reached 1 billion parcels annually.
Her company, Initsell, combines on one single platform all the logistics elements, “simplifying and enabling each store to be a warehouse,” she said, as she analysed the major challenges for the industry. “Data is the number one trend. Sustainability is a huge, huge challenge. I would also say, last mile delivery. But probably the most important element for success is an excellent client/customer relationship.”
Phygital strategies for start-up retail
Adrien Serres, phygital expert at Improveeze, also discussed the way that digital and physical locations are increasingly being brought together in order to service customers and to enrich or simplify the shopping experience.
“Phygital commerce means you can show and sell all your e-commerce products in store with your digital tools,” he said. Introducing PusheezeWall – a press button system designed to bring digital into the store.
“The phygital revolution is happening all around the world. First of all, there are a lot of DNVBs, a lot of shop-in-shop sites and finally smaller shops,” he said of three opportunities to let digital enhance the physical retail experience.
Thomas Vial, French startup international accelerator – head of department,
Business France, brought the session to a close when he reflected that “We have to take account of the new trends to synchronise” as retail looks for new approaches, partly in response to the pandemic.
“With the COVID crisis we are experiencing a new way. Digitalisation is international,” said Vial. “It’s not the first revolution we have had in the retail sector. Our experience provides a way to challenge this revolution.”
The most attractive start-ups energising the retail industry is available on-demand and is part of MAPIC’s overall theme for 2021, People and Places: A New Chapter, which will bring together MAPIC, LeisurUp and The Happetite. It is part of a series of digital events, which will provide valuable insight on a range of topics and trends.
MAPIC, LeisurUp and The Happetite will be held together at the Palais des Festivals, Cannes, France from 30 November to 2 December.