The Peak team at Retail Technology Show 2024 in London
Portrait of author Catherine Frame
Catherine Frame

Head of Commercial Product Marketing

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Five key takeaways from Retail Technology Show 2024

By Catherine Frame on April 30, 2024

Last week a handful of Peak’s team headed down to London to explore “the magic of retail” at the annual Retail Technology Show.

Held at the famous Olympia Exhibition Centre, the two-day summit is seen as the must-visit event for retail hospitality organizations looking for the right tools, solutions and advice on how to enhance customer experience, increase operational effectiveness and drive more sales.

When the team weren’t busy delivering demos at our booth and spreading the word about our new AI performance guarantee, we were out and about on the floor soaking up some of the best industry insights and hottest retail takes. We heard from a wide range of business leaders and sector experts, whilst also searching for the best swag and games that the show had to offer 👀

More on that later, but first, I’ve jotted down a few of the key takeaways and highlighted the main themes that were covered throughout this year’s expo 👇

The hottest topic? AI.

I mean, this was always going to be the case, right? From day one the increasingly-prevalent role of artificial intelligence (AI) in retail was the talk of the event, with queues for AI-related talks and presentations often stretching across the entirety of Olympia’s top floor. According to Kate Hardcastle MBE, the award-winning consumer insight expert who opened this year’s show, AI was “the most requested topic from the RTS advisory board” demonstrating how front-of-mind the technology is for retailers at the moment.

Some common threads on AI were focused around security and data transfer, however I did find that many of the discussions were very top-level; there were very few talks that offered practical advice on how to adopt AI in your business or the key use cases you should be getting started with.

Enhancing, not replacing

We’ve always held the belief at Peak that AI should be used by businesses to empower teams, not displace them, and it was great to see this theme carried forward by others at this year’s show. To quote Dex Hunter-Torricke, Head of Global Communications & Marketing at Google DeepMind, “AI tools can be transformative, however the human touch is just as critical — it’s a harmony.”

We heard from a few different attendees that all claimed they were looking to leverage AI as a way of saving time and resources — spending fewer hours with their heads buried in spreadsheets to drive more autonomy in their day-to-day roles and free up time for more creative thinking and larger, more complex tasks. In short, AI is being seen more and more as something that is there to protect teams whilst also protecting the business’ bottom line.

AI tools can be transformative, however the human touch is just as critical — it’s a harmony.

Dex Hunter-Torricke

Head of Global Communications & Marketing at Google DeepMind

What about generative AI?

While there was significant talk of generative AI and its capabilities in talks and presentations, there were very few software vendors who were pushing this as a solution. While there’s still unrivaled levels of buzz around generative AI since the explosion of tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney in recent years, it would appear businesses aren’t yet utilizing these capabilities in the most beneficial way. We had a number of positive conversations around our own generative AI offering, Co:Driver, further demonstrating its position as a unique offering in today’s market. More on that here 😎

Reimagining customer experience

In previous years, talk of enhancing the customer experience at these sorts of conferences usually revolved around martech tools and improving customer personalization. However, this year’s Retail Technology Show veered away from these traditional topics, instead focusing on ways of providing a better customer experience by enhancing more traditional back-office operations. There was a clear emphasis on optimizing pricing and ensuring product availability, with having the stock you need to avoid disappointing customers a key focus for many businesses. At the end of the day, customer experience starts in the warehouse — if the product isn’t available or priced correctly no amount of customer service will correct this.

A collage of pictures taken at Retail Technology Show 2024 in London

Embracing marginal gains

I personally noticed more of a shift towards celebrating smaller victories and incremental wins at this year’s show. While, in the past, some vendors may have focused on shouting about huge success stories and almost-unbelievable percentage gains, this year felt different — a more nuanced approach to retail success and a departure from big-bang metrics being front and center. From a price optimization perspective, for example, Philippe Debello, UK Data Science Director at Decathlon, said that “a pricing project is not a big bang — you need to concentrate on the small wins that amount to the big wins and celebrate these.”

Looking ahead

As the curtains fell on this year’s Retail Technology Show, one thing was clear: AI is continuing to shape the future of this ever-evolving industry. By embracing AI solutions and viewing them as a partner in progress, not a replacement, retailers can unlock new levels of efficiency and customer-centricity to deal with the ongoing volatility and uncertainty still clouding the sector. To quote Zaki Hassan, General Manager at Aptos Retail, “in today’s volatile world, there is an innate need to bring some form of predictability into your business” — and AI, of course, is crucial to providing that.

Thanks for having us, Retail Technology Show, it was a blast. I’ll sign off by showing what else we got up to at the Olympia as we caught up with a number of different retail vendors in search of free swag and some fun and games — check out our thread on X below! 👇

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