This week we spent three days at the grandly titled World Retail Congress in Paris; a gathering of many of the great and good in retail from around the world. The congress was jam packed full of high calibre seminars on an array of topics.

We will be sharing all the insights and our observations later in the week and over the coming weeks, but here are our observations on the three key themes from the congress.

The event was billed to consider and discuss ‘retailing in a disrupted world’; the effect of digitisation on retailing. As we all know, the digital revolution has had a monumental effect on life today – and many speakers echoed this, citing it to be the biggest ever change in retailing. And that change is set to continue at a dramatic pace, with its effect increasingly far-reaching. For example, by the time we all have a mobile wallet’, carrying bank/credit cards and dozens of loyalty cards will seem a quaint old tradition.

Omni-channel can be best for both physical and online stores

There was also a great deal of debate around pure-play retailing versus omni-channel retailing. While there are plenty of pure-play retailers who see no need to seek a bricks-and-mortar presence, it seems there are just as many who see stores as the best customer acquisition channel for online, specifically more effective than when measured against Google advertising and SEO.

And certainly, when looking at it from the point of view of any current or historic bricks-and-mortar retailer, then omni-channel was the hot topic. Asda Executive People Director Hayley Tatum explained how, in their mission to master omni-channel retailing, Asda have just restructured to focus entirely around the customer; so that they are customer-centric rather than channel-centric. For example, they have just created the role of ‘Chief Customer Officer and their buyers now buy for both stores and online. Asda’s goal is for their colleagues to not see online as competing with stores.

Omni-channel should mean a seamless experience

Every seminar involving omni-channel also discussed how crucial it is to have a seamless experience across all channels. We couldn’t agree more, and not just operationally, but also how the brand is presented and communicated. Here at The Behaviours Agency, we live by understanding shoppers across their entire journey, from initial awareness through to advocacy. Our view is that understanding the shopper per se, enables us to best manage individual communications whatever their point on the journey. This along, with a strong brand vision and unifying creative idea, is essential, for seamless communications.

Watch this space for more hot topics from the World Retail Congress.