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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Fira Barcelona looks at the future of retail at first-ever RBEWC

The inaugural event was graced by more than 200 speakers from over 100 companies.

Brands and retailers all over the world are undergoing a transformation that is changing not only how companies sell their products and services but also how consumers go through their buying experience. Highlighting the digital shift happening in the global retail landscape, data from i-SCOOP revealed that 90% of people use their smartphones in stores while shopping mainly to compare prices, look up product information, and check reviews online.

But retailers and brands are now going beyond just providing information and opening up online purchase options to their customers in their quest for full digitalization by utilising various innovative technologies, including artificial intelligence, virtual assistants, and augmented reality, amongst others, to provide a whole new retail experience for its clients. And for participants and delegates at the inaugural Retail & Brand Experience World Congress held in Barcelona last May, there’s only one way to go for the sector—and that is digital.

“In this first edition, we have been able to see the great interest in the transformation that brands and businesses must face at a key moment of change in the digital environment and in the way customers buy and consume,” said Alba Batiste, director of the Retail & Brand Experience World Congress.

This focus on digitalisation in the retail sector is largely based on the changing needs of consumers and the embeddedness of technology in the way people live their lives, particularly in purchasing commodities. For instance, the International Data Corporation presented an outlook, noting that at least 55% of all organisations globally will go digital or have some digital component in their operations by 2020, which will transform markets and industries with the appearance of new concepts both in business and technology.

This tenet is what gathered more than 200 speakers from different companies and 5,500 visitors around the world at the event in Barcelona. During the three-day event, 120 sessions were held around six themes: customer experience; omnichannel and digital; real estate sector; retail technologies; personalisation; and new models and trends. Delegates and speakers also talked about the eight sectors in the retail industry that are undergoing heavy digital transformation, including fashion, mass consumption, department stores and shopping centres, beauty products, electronics, online shopping, furniture, and banking.

Some of the speakers were executives from world-leading companies like Ikea, Purina Petcare, British Airways, Google, Carrefour, Hoff, Mvideo, Renova, Value Retail, Levi’s, Via Emilia, El Corte Ingles, Casa Ametller, and Muji.

Startup companies, which employ innovative technologies in their efforts to digitalise were also recognised during the Retail & Brand Experience World Congress in Barcelona last May. Oyper won in the disruptive technology category with their intelligent shopping assistant, whilst Aura Vision was recognised for a digital initiative utilising a camera that detects the busiest areas of stores and the age range of their visitors. These technologies have helped the two companies improve their customer relations by providing an omnipresent and omniscient entity to assist customers in their shopping, whilst being able to better target their human resources to address the immediate needs of their target market in their physical stores.

Meanwhile, Localoo won the best digital brand award with an application that makes it possible to manage and enhance the web visibility and the location of stores in the global positioning system or GPS, allowing companies and brands to have more accurate visibility and exposure whilst helping consumers find these stores and brands using their mobile phones.

The second edition of the Retail & Brand Experience World Congress will take place on 19 to 21 May 2020 at Fira de Barcelona, and it's expected to attract hundreds of brands and retailers and thousands of visitors and participants.

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