Commerce in transformation: the impact of digital technologies

Ctecno Conference about retail. C Tecno Day Conference. The 4th Day Conference organised by CTecno focused on retail, purchase experiences and business transformation, together with the impact and opportunities provided by digital technologies.

When

01/02/2018

Applying technology to commerce as a means to innovate is extremely advantageous. This is especially so for having information at hand about the customers that enter the shop, whether in person or online, who are interested in what the establishment has to offer and want to make their purchases. It facilitates managing the shop and helps users when they need information. But technology is never an end in itself; and when it provides data they have to be analysed before decisions can be made, for which expertise is required in the form of professionals.

Focused on innovation in the world of retail, purchase experiences and business transformation, the 4th CTecno Day Conference provided an opportunity for participants – retailers and technologists – to pool their expertise, concerns and experiences.

In the round table entitled “Commerce and digital technologies: impact and opportunities for cities and the sector”, Guillem Vallejos, adviser on digital transformation and new technologies for commerce for the Department of Commerce of Barcelona City Council, highlighted the differences in the digital maturity levels found in Barcelona’s local commerce. You cannot compare the omni-channels of a small neighbourhood shop with those of an establishment whose power is based, for example, on a recognised brand and whose commercial initiatives have far-reaching effects.

Municipal support measures

“Analyses have to be made before any decisions can be taken”, Vallejos stated. Hence his insistence on adopting measures such as those being promoted by Barcelona City Council to boost digitisation: offering advice and expertise to professionals in commerce through its “Digitalitza’t” [Get Digitised] service, organising workshops and training courses under the “Open to the Future” programme, opening up funding channels with subsidies and introducing pilot tests for experimenting with technology, and fostering proposals for encouraging customer loyalty (for example, Viba cards).

From these perspectives, omni-channels – integrated strategy for managing and promoting shopping in person and online – are a requirement that the city’s shops have gradually been adopting, depending on their resources and expertise.

Self-reinvention and growth of services

Another need highlighted during the Day Conference came from Maria Segarra, director of Intueri Consulting: reinventing local commerce, while dealing with the possibility of immediacy in attending to customers.

In the reflection, she championed promoting education for responsible purchasing while emphasising the value that services will acquire when offered from shops in addition to their selling goods. This view was supported by Jose Luis Nueno, lecturer in marketing at IESE, and shared by Retail.cat in their short- and medium-term proposals for the future, which include recruiting new professional profiles for commerce for both management and public relations. During his talk at a previous round table, Pere Anglada, financial director at Grup Bon Preu, commented that: “More important than technology is who is behind it. It is the driver rather than the vehicle that is key”.

According to the December 2017 municipal Òmnibus survey, 69% of Barcelona residents had made a purchase online at some time, an 8.7% increase on December 2016. The overall digital maturity of shops stands at 30.43 points, meaning that the city’s commerce has a basic-level digital presence on the internet. More specifically, 27.5% of shops can be considered to have no digital presence on the internet, 32.1% have a basic presence, 19% have an extensive presence, 18.3% have an active presence, and only 3.1% can be considered as digital shops.

More influence from the millennial generation

Nueno gave a snapshot of global commerce, according to which, and confirmed by demographic data, the millennial generations, who lack the same purchasing power as the previous baby boomer generation, are steadily acquiring a more central role over a 10- to 12-year period, hence the need to focus on how to meet their needs and on how they act: “purchase experiences in shops are linked to the possibility of connecting to the establishment at any time (the connected shop)”.

In Nueno’s opinion, commerce must take certain factors into account, such as discounts, digitisation, convenience and new formats (more provision of services than sale of products).

Duties for commerce

The round table on commerce also dealt with the duties of the sector. Maria Segarra drew attention to the value of some features of Barcelona’s commerce model, where establishments in shopping hubs far from the city centre are capable of adapting to new consumer trends, such as providing “bio” products and prioritising recycling. She also highlighted the importance of interaction with customers and the consistency required in managing all the channels commerce acts in.

Joan Carles Calbet, director of Electro Calbet and Chair of Retail.cat, similarly championed the capacity and future of physical establishments, and the need for them to adapt and transform, while also calling for the tax-related regulation of both physical shops and online transactions.

Inma Rodríguez Ardura, Doctor in marketing from the Open University of Catalonia, stated that omni-channels are necessary but insufficient, highlighting that shops need to be redesigned to establish links with the community and stand out, and to invest in staff. Guillem Vallejos emphasised the use of technology to achieve competitive advantages for commerce through greater customer knowledge.

Jordi William Carnes, Chair of Technical Circle of Catalonia, officially concluded the 4th Conference with a declaration of principles: “We have the technology but we need to know how to breathe life into it. We are living in the first world of the first world and we need to make the most of this experience to be innovative and magnanimous”.