With the rise and rise of online shopping can the high street survive? To answer this question and others on the future of retail I asked Julian Fisher, CEO of Retail platform Jisp for his expert views.
Julian has enjoyed a varied background in technology, payments and new media, and in 1994 he launched the UK’s first internet exhibition.
Since then his work has remained inexorably linked to the internet and improving sales, payment and issues with compliance together with information solutions for a wide and diverse group of blue-chip companies.
In this episode we discussed:
Welcome to the Practical Futurist Podcast, a bi weekly show all about the near term future with practical advice from a range of global experts to help you stay ahead of the curve. Every episode answers the question. What's the future ofthe with voices and opinions that need to be heard? Your host is international keynote speaker on Practical Futurist and You Grill. Welcome to Episode 12 of the Practical Futuris podcast. Today's guest is Julian Fisher, CEO of Retail Platform. Just Julian has enjoyed a varied background in technology payments and new media, and in 1994 he launched the U. K's first Internet exhibition. Since then, his workers remain linked to the Internet and improving sales, payment and issues with compliance, together with information solutions for a wide and diverse group of blue shit. Cos welcome, Julian. Thank you Now you told me earlier. Back in 94 at the U. K's first Internet exhibition, a BBC breakfast interview asked the question, What is this thing called the World Wide Web? What was your answer back then?
Well, back then, the answer was information. We didn't have many sites, as we do today. Many of the millions of sites have today providing retail products to buy and services. So back then it was it was mostly information on DH. It was people trying to connect through dial up to the Internet. So not really product purchasing. That was just beginning to start. It was more information.
I remember Dial. It will. In fact, in my presentations I play the dial up time, which is actually hard to find, and I let the audience just go. I remember that. In fact, I've been online since 1983 with dial up on bulletin boards. I was dialling up bulletin boards back in Adelaide. So I think we're probably both Internet veterans today. We're gonna be talking about the future of retail, something you're very passionate about, and we've got to bring the elephant in the room out. That elephant room, of course, is Amazon. They've been around for 20 years, and my keynote, I ask people for show of hands. Who uses an oven prime? I now actually say who doesn't use Amazon prime and few hands go up. It's a question for you. With Amazon so dominant, can the High Street be saved? Absolutely.
Even Jeff Jeff Bezos said that his company represents less than 1% which is quite extraordinary figure for worldwide sells global sales. But the the High Street has got something which the Internet doesn't, and that's the ability for you to try something on there and then on purchase it and take it away with you. So that advantage is something they're playing to a lot. Price is a major factor. We will understand that. But now it's becoming more to do with experiential. Actually, having Mohr to do, to see, to trial, to experience inside the store,
we'll talk about an imminent cause. That's probably one way we can bring people back into the store. Way are saying Major change disappear. House of Fraser, Deadman, Even John Lewis closing Down stores What could these companies have done differently? And for the ones left, what should they be doing now to prevent extinction?
Well, of course, the one of the main reasons for their problems was that they adapted to late. Everyone knows Storey off Blockbuster. Yes,
there's one left in Oregon is that way. Should all head there now. People are you know what actually sold mugs and stickers, but the thing is what you go there to rent us a VHS tape, and I don't think many people can actually play
it. Yeah, and the problem with VHS tapes is that over time the dust gets in, you have to get them maintained, so
it must be nostalgia than anything else. You can watch the latest movies on VHS. I Well, I did
try and find the tape off my interview on the BBC breakfast for the trade show, but found it. But I couldn't find a player on the high street with all these shops that are disappearing or have disappeared. They've basically got to adapt to the new market. They've gotta pull back on the phenomenal amount of shops that they own. People don't need as many. You don't need to have so many prime positions any longer. You could be out of the city and still enjoy phenomenal opportunities, phenomenal sales. So it's a case of adapting, looking, looking at your market, seeing what they're looking to buy, where they want to buy them on meeting those demands. Basically.
So one thing I saw in the UK happened that Sainsbury's actually bored Argos, and I think that was a really smart move because they now have on online business that that is quite lean. In fact, I heard the CEO of off the gross part talk, and he reckons they're able to compete in some areas with Amazon. Do you think that that was a good move for them and what others should be doing?
Yes, and absolutely. It was not considered by many to be a good move, especially after the failed attempt to buy into ASDA. But yes, it's been a very good move. It has taken people a little while to get used to the idea of being able to go into Sainsbury's on DH, effectively go into what is a different brand in the same store. But adapting changes, something that people will get used to eventually. So, yes, it was a good move on DH. It's a smart move
now. In department stores, we would be used to the think all concessions for those listening around the world. This is like in Selfridges, where you have the sofa. Just have the floor spice, but you have the makeup counter. You have the handbag counter that a stuff by people from those companies and I almost rent the space. Could we see a Sainsbury's? Because at the moment you walk in there, there's on our ghost. There's a Timpson Sze What I heard the CEO say Was there thinking about, you know, adaptive reuse? We don't need the full 400,000 square feet. Maybe we have a smaller presence for Sainsbury's. But you have other other people in the other tenants. Is Is that the mix you think you'll see in these existing sort of big box stores?
Yeah, you are seeing that whether Sainsbury's will do that is another matter. They typically have owned all of the businesses. That s o they have coffee shops. There are coffee shops. They do have concessions outside the store. So Timpson Sze couldn't get your keys cut. Could get your shoes cleaned and fixed. But actually yes. A lot of shops are actually looking at ways in which they can create more opportunities, create more reason for people to come into their store. So concessions is definitely on the cards. Of course, you've got to remember that this was very much What? Debenhams? Yes, Yes, not so well for them. But the reason for that is much more to do with the fact that they were too large to oversized without having a focus direction on DH. They were carrying a large amount of debt, so as a company they could not get over the debt at the same time as being able to grow the business. Which, of course, if you're a young, burgeoning company starting out, you don't usually have those problems. So you're actually able to move really quickly to the ever changing demands of the consumer.
So dead now is a good example. I don't think I've ever been to their website. Nor would I consider buying something through that Web site with a too late to the fold with an e commerce solution, whereas the others John Lewis and others have adapted under doing quite well.
Well, they did have a website. The issues run deeper that actually people weren't particularly keen to buy from Debenhams. There were much better offers, much better opportunities, product selection. Elsewhere they launched a new logo on. They were something that people in the same way as John Lewis, not so much, but they would enjoy the Debenhams adverts at Christmas. But unfortunately again the size of the store. It was just too much weight to carry on. But of course, when Mike Ashley kept on stepping up to demand more changes within the within the business, this focus their attention in the wrong ways. So
actually, remember John loss of one of my clients years ago on social media. I was dealing with the people getting their e commerce up and running. At the time, they said that their main flagship store was doing £400 million a year, and they wanted their online to do that. And Mohr, I think probably it's fair to say their online platform does more than any single store, and they almost treat that as a standalone store to get people in there. Do you think John Lewis has done a good job off their online strategy? Yeah,
they have now. They didn't beginning John Lewis have to be corrected, probably, but I think it was a buyer or buy dot com. They bought into a business, so they were experimenting, which is something that they've always done, and they certainly do. Now they're a very innovative creative company. They focus much more on delivering quality of service, never knowing his old promise. Yeah, but you wouldn't necessary thing to go to John Lewis for the cheapest product, but you would definitely go there for the for the quality, the variety and for the service. So they have done extremely, extremely well, and everyone in the retail entry do look to John Lewis. Now Tio actually get a temperature gauge as to how well the market's doing. So many of the retail magazines on my magazines will report sales off John Lewis every week, going up going down so we can see the mood of the consumer in terms of how how much they are heading to the High Street to buy in their source. That
brings me to interesting point looking at my own retail experience. Recently, I wanted to buy a new four K television, so I went to Peter Jones, which is near where I live. I saw the television how it might look on the on the wall size, the number of inputs and outputs. I asked a man about that. The different options, I think, went home board on Amazon, probably actually for the same price. That's what we call showrooming now in Australia. They've been instances where I think in a camera shop, the proprietor said. Look, if you want to look at the camera, give me a $400 deposit and you get it back if you buy the camera. But I don't wanna have to get it out and show. You know you can go and buy it on Amazon. So your ceiling are you saying showrooming? Becoming a big deal?
Showrooming has been around for quite some time now. It's been made obviously easier for the consumer to to use their mobile phones when they're in the stores. When she identified the product. For many years we've had our clients say that is being quite cheeky of customers who actually asked for help to actually find the product on their mobile phones.
Wow t buy somewhere else.
But actually, the idea today is that the consumer is looking for information. They've been looking for information since our show back in 94 but they're looking for information to actually satisfying need, which is to buy a product or to get more information on a product. So the idea really for the High Street retail is to actually meet the demands
then provide that in from, well, there, there, while they're there on actually connect with that customer. Find out what it is that they are looking for and, if it is possible to meet them with the price on, actually find a way to to connect with that customer and say, Well, actually, we can give you this right now, 10% off, 15% off. If the retailer knows their margins, well, then they'll know where they can go to in terms of price. Now, appreciate this sounds easier to say than actually do, but that's where obviously services like our own with just this is exactly what we do. We give the retailer the ability to meet those demands in real time. But for the consumer, they're going to be doing this, whether the retailer likes it or not. And in fact, when again, we've asked managers and supervisors and staff, you know, Do you do this to you show room? Yes, of course, things on I do as well. I mean, I'm guilty as the next person. You'll go into a bit of research. You'll go online, do a bit of research. If the product is comfortably cheaper and you're not looking to buy it right now, you will get it from an online supplier. It's human nature.
Couple of further examples, thinking into my in retail experience back to John Lewis. I was actually in there needed to Typhon event that night. I didn't have a tiger's on the futures I own few ties on. I found one that I liked, and I want to know what the price was because there's no price on it. So the John Lewis assistant literally pulled out his store, iPhone scanned. It told me what the price was and that there were three in stock, and I thought that meant in immediate need. The other thing is, and I'd love your feedback on this. The whole Apple experience. I look for someone in a blue shirt that has a device with, um, I don't go to a cash point or a till and they meet. My needs now is getting busy. I know there's a there's a tricky kind of hover if you want someone to help you an apple store, but they seem to have pioneered this, you know it's mobile payments basically, you go and find someone and I get the thing out. The apple experience I haven't seen replicated elsewhere is that businesses unique or it doesn't work another environment
again. Unfortunate. This is what we do. So we are advocating with retailers. Teo, actually get rid of their pay desk. Okay. If you imagine you come into the store, you're looking at products. If you're interested, you pick up a product. You walk into an area where selling a stopped effectively the pay desk is where you selling a stops You? Yes, I know there's a few products, sometimes there. But really, what we're doing is we're saying you use the technology like just to actually provide the information, the exchange of information, for example, like John Lewis. How many we have in stock If we dad in start
up mode of inspiration when I'm in, I have a buying signal. I want this now. Can you thought fulfil my name? As you say, you can use technology in the storey of
a client. Yeah, so? So what we do is the member of staff will have the phone or a tablet there responding Tio by request by the customer. They come to the customer, they are able to continue the shopping experience helping the customer. So this is what Apple have done. They help the customers. So we helped the customer with our application, bringing together two people. This is really important. It's the human element. So we are a technology company. But very important is that we continue to develop the relationship between the customer and the retailer. That's what retail. How's your retail is all about is that Connexion with an individual the worst performing stores are the ones where they've pulled back on staff. They've got no one on the shop floor. Customers are having to find the products themselves. Then there's no one around to help. So we're saying, If you get rid of peih desk and you put your stuff on the shop floor and then you connect with them through the application, so they've got all the information they can, they can do what's called endless are they can cheque to see if there's products available in other stores. If I want to buy the product, I can have it shipped to me or I can have it delivered to the store or I can come back later that day. These are the processes. These are the solutions that were were saying to the High Street. They're available to you right now, and they could help you save your store. Quite literally.
I imagine that your job was made easier by the whole apple thing. You say you want one of you want the apple experience? Well, this is what you can have. It just made the technology. Then you need to train people, as you say, to come back from the cash desks and be wandering the floor. I keep picking on John Lewis Partnership at Waitrose. I've been in the UK now 13 years. I remember I went to to find something that my wife had given me to find on a picture. And the person dropped what they were doing walked me across the store so I could find it. And I didn't know why they did it until I worked out that they are partners in the business, literally. And so if I stay there and by that they get, you know, a benefit like exactly it's all about
customer service. And this is getting back to what you've been saying about Amazon? Jeff Bezos has done incredibly well. He's He's made the company focused on the customer. That's the number one priority. So we're saying the same thing. Focus on the customer, get the information to the customer, help them. Whether they're looking to purchase, stay with them. You can actually complete the transaction immediately where they are. So what we found is by it by working with the customer with the technology, the sales go up. They actually spend more money because actually, I'm being helped on being looked after on DH. I can then see what other products you have on DH. Who knows more about the products in the shop than the staff? Not me. I don't know about your products. The staff know about the products. The technology then helps the staff connect all the other information we need.
I was reading on your website an article where you talk about retail tainment. What is it and why might it be important to get people back into stores?
Yes, it sze just retail and entertainment. Most together. It's about this requirement for the retail entry in the High Street in particular, to find more ways to encourage people to come into the store to be entertained, to get an experience, an experiential experiences. They're calling it a CZ well, so you'll see this in places like Prime Mark, the new H M V shop that's also opening in Birmingham, called the Vault. Same thing where they're actually trying to bring more entertainment into the experience. Now you may end up not buying anything, but you probably will, because it's kind of like when you think about the shopping centre, what is the shopping centre where they're putting on entertainment? They're putting on food. They're putting on places for you to sit, to rest, to park your car. So they're making it an experience that you're coming to a hole venue full of different things. The store is now replicating. That s so they're now saying you can come into our store, you can get your hair cut, you can tow a band, you can try the product, they're even. You suggested you can take away the product, have a play with it, see if it works and then bring it back. If it doesn't so they're giving you every opportunity to buy products
and again, Apple have been doing this for today at Apple, where you go in there and I suppose they're rational. Is once I bought the iPhone, the iPad, the Apple watch. There's nothing else for me to buy until the next time they release a new upgrade. I've gotta have a reason to come back, and I've actually did die. Didn't I phone photography course around Covent Garden to take better iPhone photos? It was completely free, but I now I'm hooked on the apple product because my name, my name was met. I need to know how to use it better. So my friends think of a great photographer, and when you think about what the apples are doing and what Westfield doing to bring the people in, it's just common sense. But I think maybe the high street tough today is locked in the high street of old, and they don't understand that it's got to be an experience that they brought into. They may not buy on that first trip. I'll come, but if they come back the second time, you want to make it easier for them to buy something.
Yeah, I mean, you do for yourself that when someone is helpful, you will always go back and talk to that person. If you find someone is Noel for your tend to stay away. So if you managed to find a store that's helpful to you, that's actually giving you something, even something for free you'll go back or you'll recommend it to some. Of course, on, Of course, during the time that you're being helped, your defences are actually lower on DH, you are thinking about maybe yes,
buy that because this person's been really helpful. Andi, I want to reward the shop so you're actually giving yourself reasons why you're going to buy the product. So interestingly, many stores could, in some instances more than double the transaction value. And that's what we've seen with our customers. They get the information that helped them there with them for the whole process. So they're not just saying the products over there, and then you gotta find the paid us. Then they're the staying with the customer, that helping them through the whole process, that adding products to the basket the customers and paying for it themselves where they're standing. Yeah, no need to queue. The product is bag. It's a personal service and then I'm out the door. What an experience. I'm gonna come
back. Yeah, I know you did a lot of work in the hospitality space, and with the rise of delivery, APS I've seen it's impacting the industry in a variety of ways. Summer relishing introduces the my local 24 hour restaurant, so they're doing £2000 a night extra because of the delivery services and some roping dark kitchens or delivery only sites. But if the dining out experience back to retail is being eroded by these delivery services, can we get people back into sit down restaurants?
Yes, we can. And the reason is is in fact, very similar to the cinema industry, which I used to work in a swell. So obviously with the growing equipment of the new fantastic equipment and flat screen TVs and great sound systems. And of course, you got a great sofa and you get you Mike away for your popcorn. Yeah, why would you want to go to the cinema? So the cinema fought back with greater choices off films, fantastic seats. You might say that their prices particularly brilliant. But you know, they've done as much as they can to create a welcoming experience, because, of course, you can now watch everything and there's so many opportunities to stay at home. So with the food and hospitality industries, it's very much the same thing. They want the business. So whether the kitchen serves up the food and you come and collect it or it's delivered to your home or whether you sit in the restaurant itself to some degree doesn't really matter because it's business. They're taking money. And, yes, it is a changing environment that we're now seeing kitchens that probably don't have anywhere for you to eat because they're just basically cooking the food for your takeaway. Yeah, door.
The dark kitchen. I think what deliverer and others have done is actually dumped containers, which I fitted out with a full kitchen and so you can't have a meal there. But it means that this high end restaurant that would never open a store there has a delivery note that they can actually do as the motorbike deliveries from
you. So I welcome it. I thinkit's giving the customer Mohr opportunity to experience some great foods from different food that they may not on DH. If it's a delivery service, it might actually even be a little bit cheaper than having to go and sit down. Of course, what it will lower is that is the consumption of alcohol. So if you're buying alcohol for your meal in the restaurant, you wont be with a takeaway service. But people are still going out there, still sitting down there, still reasons TB away from the home be away from the kids on again. It comes down to the restaurant's ability to serve a great experience as well as great food.
Yeah, obviously you're in the thick of it in terms of technology in this retail hospitality space. But what are the latest innovations you're seeing in these industries?
Well, a lot of aye, aye. There is, um, augmented reality as well. But actually A I is that silent piece of technology that is working in the background that's creating great connexions, understanding better my needs. Some people are saying, Well, of course, it's a little bit like Big Brother. You know, I'm not aware of what's going on, but things are being presented to me and I'm like, Wow, you know, I was only talking about the other day. How do they know? But there are There are reasons for this information being found out. So it's up to the the information Commissioner's office to actually protect us to make sure that companies are doing the right thing with the data. But companies like ours are using information to create a better experience, a great, better connexions to give the customer more of what it is that they're looking for Andre wanting it. They wanted that. But at the same time, what they want is to know what's happening. So retail, like some of the other industries, are stepping up to the information declaration so that you know why this information is being asked. You're being given the opportunity not to have to give it so. A. I is one thing. You are also seeing companies create opportunities to show you the products on large screens in the stores. There are ways like our technology, where you can tap on a product or on a sticker on the information is immediately in your phone on again in similar to waste again Amazon Amazon, Go. We provide a solution where you can walk into a store tap on a stick. Her taking the product on walk out on the product is purchased instantly as you leave the store. So we're giving the convenience back to the consumer on. We're creating new opportunities for retail to be able to provide that extra level of convenience. The customers
so brings me to my future. If you What will the High Street look like in five or 10 years? It sounds like with a aye there. And with the technology you've mentioned, there won't be any tills. Well, we just be going in and going out and not stealing things. But I still would be feeling very uncomfortable walking in and not actually paying for it. And this I knew that it had actually registered all the things I had Is that the future fictional shopping? Yes. Oh, definitely freaking the shopping. Autonomous shopping is another way they describe it. The reality is
that to start with, we we will be a little uncomfortable on DH. Some people, you know, saying well that when I've had this service, I want to show my phone, say, Look, I've bought all in the days when we first stopped having bags available was free of charge, and people walking out of grocery stores with with a trolley full of food because they didn't want to buy a bag on security in the old days would be no stopping it, because if you did have a bag, you start like, but we do change. We do get used to the change. As for the High Street, it won't
look a lot different really physically and a frontage and use a door in a window and it will
be the same. It's slow to change. They'll be certainly fewer pay desks for certain cash will still be around, even though there's a lot less demand. But chances are that that the government has, as many governments around the world have done what will force retail and other industries to accept cash, so it will still be around for a while. What you will see is more people going into stores and shopping with their Mobil's and in the store, and actually people will will actually be communicating with working with the with the retailer with their mobile phone and the reason I might have a tablet or their own mobile phone, so that's what you'll see. But the physical appearance of stores will not change.
You don't think there'll be more of a mix that you might walk past a store, that he's actually a gross Aah supermarket, a coffee shop, a bookshop I pick up for Emma's on You don't think there'll be a mix in those physical units or, Yeah,
there'll be some stores that will have that. There's been discussions and calls for retailers to get together, try and create collection points so that they can fight again, fight back and they have their own. So
there's a decline electoral thing. Exactly. There's all
kinds of opportunities, but But I think when we think of what does the High Street looked like, it will still look the same. It's just the services inside will just be a little different.
And from what you said, there'll be enabled by technology some that will be able to see and some that we went to see exactly. So as this is the Practical Futures podcast, I've got to ask you for three practical tips you could give their listeners for things they could do next. week. If they are retailers or even if they're consumers, what can they be doing to get ready for this new digital world?
Okay, well, the first in common with what we do is a company. Look to your staff. Look to people. Talk to customers. Talk to your staff. They are members of the public to. So, as I said, you know, when I shop, I'm like any other shopper. So my habits, the way I shopped, the things I look at, the way I go around looking for products and buying products is something that everyone else is doing. So so we're no different. Talk to you. Talk to your staff. Talk to customers. Second is be bold and innovative. Be prepared to fail fast. This is important. If you don't create opportunities to innovate and find new opportunities on DH, then learn to give up on those opportunities if they don't work. In other words, don't keep going just because you started. If it doesn't work, fail, move on, do something different. The companies that have stayed the same status quo, they're the ones that were either are not seeing today on the High street or were they are the ones that are struggling. So keep moving, keep innovating. And the third is really make your customers the focus. You've got to make your customers the number one priority in everything you do. So again, going back to our dear friend Jeff Bezos. He decided long ago that the most important person, the most important part of his business was the customer. I appreciate that. Many would say, Well, that should be your staff. But in terms of for the business, he was thinking Mohr off his customers that their the focus on DH. Of course, we, Khun see that that has been a very successful mentor for him.
Absolutely. And I think everyone looks Ramos on. They fear them. But they also think of done amazing things, Julian. How come people find out more about you and your work?
Thank you. Well, we we are like the most were available on the web, so www dot just
that's j I S p sinless, but with a j.
Yeah, exactly. So just dot com on We have plenty of videos and white papers on DH research and showing exactly how we've done the work we've done. Who we work with? Yeah, It's a very exciting time
for us, Julian. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you. Thank you for listening to the Practical Futurist podcast. You confined all of our previous shows at Futurist Stott London on DH. If you like what you've heard on the show, please consider subscribing via your favourite podcast app. So you never miss an episode. You can find out more about Andrew and how he helps corporate Navigator disruptive digital world with keynote speeches on DH see sweet workshops at Futurist starred London until next time. This has Bean, the practical Futurist podcast.