Watch: Why “Data is king” and why we need to “rewire our brains” about the future of retail

5th October 2023 | Jack Oliver

The use of data and technology to underpin, not just large retailers, but smaller independent retailers’ strategies, is more important now than ever.

Speaking to Completely Retail News executive editor Lisa Pilkington, at the recent Completely Retail Marketplace event, Lucy Stainton, commercial director at Local Data Company, said it was often the larger operators who were maybe more data-hungry. “We’ve seen such a shift in terms of the types of projects we’re working on with the types of brands – maybe they’re more in their infancy – but they’re coming at it off the bat really wanting to embed data into their strategy.”

Stainton said that prior to the Pandemic, there was still “a lot of gut feeling involved” in terms of how retailer’s shaped their brand and what their store strategy looked like.

Fellow panellist Olaide Oboh, executive director of Socius, agreed, declaring “Data is king!”

Oboh explained: “Understanding your customers, and actually people who aren’t coming to you is so important. Hyper-local data is so powerful now and its determining where you spend your advertising, where you locate your stores, and where you focus your experiential experiences on.”

Another trend Oboh noted was the shift towards greater awareness of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) and humanitarian elements, and understanding what is important for customers.

She said: “You’ve got some brands that already do it well and are very well established, Patagonia, for example, who know it well and do it well. But actually you’re seeing smaller, niche brands who are saying; ‘this is really important for our customer, and if its important for our customer, it’s got to be important for us’.”

The pair also discussed whether shifts in the retail and leisure markets will require a step-change in attitudes, or whether this will come naturally:

“One of my frustrations is the noise around retail is always ‘retail is dead’”, Oboh said, citing the collapse of retailers such as Wilko as a reason why people subscribe to what she labelled a “false narrative”.

She added: “I think we’ve got to rewire our brains that retail isn’t dead and online retail doesn’t kill the high street. There’s this perception that it does and actually they serve different purposes. The consumer has a choice.

“We’ve got to re-write that narrative: the high street isn’t dead, the high street is evolving.”

Stainton concurred, adding that LDC is “constantly having to dodge” the ‘death of the high street’ narrative.

She added: “I don’t think it’s constructive. I also don’t think it’s necessarily true at all […], ultimately everything does naturally evolve.

Ultimately, she said, the high street and physical retail “is here to stay. It’s been proven time and time again.”

Watch the full ‘Shaping Tomorrow’s Landscape’ session above.


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