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In this male-dominated world, women are carving out a place for themselves in the retail sector. Paris Retail Week is throwing the spotlight on five influential women in retail who will be giving talks during the event. These visionary women reveal their perception of tomorrow’s retail world between agility, artificial intelligence, omnichannel, big data and data security.

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Despite the digitalisation of retail, the physical stores space remains important. If we take a leap forward in time, I believe this will remain so, though the role of the store as such might change. Maybe even more than it ever had before. In today’s retail landscape, there seem to be two huge challenges for retailers: a digitalising world, and an economic crisis that has changed the mindset of the consumer. Retailers will have to adapt to this digital disruption and to the ‘new consumer’ in order to stay attractive to them. So, what role can we attribute to the store in this changing world? If we look at all the places we can buy stuff today, it no longer remains solely to physical store spaces and online stores. You can buy stuff on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, etc. Communication channels have become buying channels. The opposite, though, is also true: buying channels are becoming communication channels. This is also what the latest concept of communicating with the consumer, called omni-channel, entails (as a next step following on single channel, multi-channel and cross-channel). Omni-channel starts with the consumer, his/her behaviour and need for information. The biggest challenge of omni-channel is probably getting the right information or product, on the right time, via the right channel (or multiple channels) to a specific consumer.

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As the birthplace of retail trends, Paris is a leading capital city for international chains and brands. New York meanwhile presents itself as the world’s retail lab.

Why do French retailers choose New York to test their projects? Why is French Expertise such a big hit across the Atlantic? Do these two cities, both symbols of retail, really complement each other? 

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Candidates must emphasise their Soft Skills, rather than their technical knowledge, if they have their sights set on a position in the constantly-evolving Digital sector. Digital jobs require candidates to be able to adapt, to learn quickly, to demonstrate a cooperative spirit and to continuously reinvent themselves to keep pace with the fast-moving Digital sector.

What are Soft Skills? Unmeasurable, unlike technical skills, they are the human qualities which make up the personality of each individual.

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During recent years consumer behavior has changed, as well as the consumer himself. Evolutions in technology and society cause the rules of the game to change at an increasing pace.

I extracted three relatively new shop-phenomenons consumers today appreciate:

First, consumers are much more aware, and want to be more aware, of what they buy and what they consume. Knowing where the product is coming from, who is selling it, which price is fair, etc. are aspects of interest which relate to the ‘slow shopping’ phenomenon, as I like to call it.

A second phenomenon relates to the digital revolution. Next to the urge of consumers – especially the young generation – to be connected at all times, consumers are able to search for relevant information whenever they need it. Moreover, they are able to buy products with the same ease as pushing a button. This way of shopping I like to call ‘swipe-shopping’.

Third, consumers are looking for (new) experiences, increasingly within retail. They want to FEEL something when shopping, the want to experience pleasure (and this is pleasure not derived from the purchase itself) when shopping. More than we might expect, consumers want to interact with a retailer, feel connected and associated with to the store (in scientific literature this phenomenon is called the self-congruity theory). This one I refer to as ‘experience shopping’.

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Young woman using mobile phone at hair salon and reading text message.

A new era is opening up before us. Physical retailing is joining forces with digital retailing to create a retail experience focused on à la carte services. As borders are being eradicated, the winners are the hyper-connected consumers in search of experiences. Retailers are looking to create a symbiosis with the individual – what we call Augmented Retail, the theme of the 2016 Paris Retail Week.

With the arrival of digital technology in our daily lives, new opportunities of consumption through mobile tools are emerging and expanding. These moments of transition between two activities are opening up the way to a new form of shopping, one which is increasingly online, connected and ultra-personalised.

What are these new consumption times, are they the same as 10 years ago? When do French people want to consume, and how?

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The increase in the number of customers who shop online and the frequency of online visits by these consumers is unequivocally the most important reason for digital growth in retail. Part of that process in these hectic times finds consumers switching from mobile telephone to laptop to tablet. This behaviour is referred to as cross-device shopping. The phenomenon can be useful for retail.

Cloud commerce involves completing entire transactions (from offers and sales to completing administrative procedures) outside of the seller’s domain. This was just pie in the sky barely five years ago but is now a daily cost at American glossy blogs and luxury brands. Uniting the shopping experience across devices is crucial. When moving from one device to another, the person shopping expects the websites to handle the switch effortlessly. Retailers must ensure that personal elements such as the shopping cart, sales items and even customer recommendations follow the shopper seamlessly from one device to another.