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"Retail is a human business" and prioritising technology is dangerous, experts warn

By Alicia Reyes Sarmiento


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Retail |World Retail Congress 2023

A selection of robotic solutions from Humanizing Technologies Ph. Humanizing.com

It seems that the fact that physical shops will soon employ fewer humans was a futuristic idea, but with the advent of the internet and other technological innovations, this Matrix-worthy scenario is no more than the reality today.

But what does this mean for the average shopper, and for the retail sector?

Yesterday we discussed how retailers' profits are declining as the internet gains prominence in our lives, how retail must adopt a "Digital-First Retail approach” approach to survive this downturn, yet industry experts - who are gathered from yesterday and until tomorrow in Barcelona for the World Retail Congress 2023 - warn that "prioritising technology over customers" is dangerous.

"Retailers must take consumers into account when developing their digital strategy". This was the key conclusion of one of the talks held as part of this WRC featuring Stuart Machin (CEO of Marks & Spencer), Ying Xu (CEO of Wumart), Jennifer Foyle (President and Executive Creative Director of American Eagle & Aerie) and Marcella Warternberg (CEO of AWWG Group).

The speakers agreed that technology is an essential component of modern retail success, but also emphasised the need to assess whether the consumer is ready for it. "Retail is a human business," said Marcella Warternberg, who as AWWG spokesperson detailed that in their strategy, consumers are at the centre of all their decisions. "We have to determine, by age and region, how different consumers are using technology."

She invited the audience to reflect on "Who is your consumer? A question she herself answered with a decisive "if your consumer is 70 years old, you have to meet their needs and build a model for the consumer of the future."

Machin presented herself as "the person who is dealing with technology and making sure we don't move too fast for our customers", experience in this role backing her up by stating that you have to "find the right pace for the customer journey".

"What is the essence of your brand and how can digital technology meet the different needs of customers?" asks Jennifer Foyle, who, on her part, was not hesitant to share how in the retail sector technology must bring together "art, science and human contact."

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.ES and has been translated and edited into English by Veerle Versteeg.

World Retail Congress