Challenges lie in what to do next.

Myer CEO Richard Umbers has made a comparison between selling technology and fresh food when it comes to retailing knowledge and experience.

“Technology can be hard to get exactly right,” Umbers told Appliance Retailer in an interview in Sydney last month.

“I come from a supermarket world and I think of it as fresh food. It has got a sell-by date and you have to be much sharper with your inventory. You have to have a knowledge base that goes beyond what historically retail has invested in. You have to be very good to be a good technology reseller. We already have a significant technology business and we are a major reseller of Apple products and it has a real affinity with our customers as well, and it’s exciting to think how this might evolve over time. It is still a tough industry to be in.

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“People are very instinctive with technology, so it doesn’t require much training. Instead it is actually the reverse problem – ‘why do I have to do it this way when it is as easy as an app’ is now the bias that we are seeing. It used to be ‘I don’t understand this technology – give me the piece of paper’. It is now a case of ‘this is stupid – I don’t have to fill this out because if you do your homework and you are a proper employer you will give me an app that allows me to do this’. That is the bias towards a technology solution not towards the old way of doing things. There is an underlying undercurrent that technology is somehow a barrier to it and that’s not true – especially not true in Australia where everybody has just taken to technology.

“The challenge is what you do next – what is the next thing that you are going to do that is going to be appreciated by the customer. Because we are still at the forefront or the leading edge of where technology is now taking us, it is still a volatile kind of place and a lot of stuff that we are trying may not work perfectly on the first go. So we are experimenting with a lot of things, there are a lot of pilots running, some work, some don’t, our mantra is to fail fast, move on try again and that is very much the world we are moving to.

“What I would say is the more experiential retail becomes, the more it is based on the emotional side of someone and how you connect with customers. Emotion is now playing an increasingly important role now in the way that we provide our customers with service. An app on my phone gives real-time reads of sell-through rates and sales, so these are mobility tools that keep people out on the shop floor and not in the office – this has become routine.”