Nick Lansley will be the master of ceremony for Health-e-Hack at Food Matters Live 2018. Nick had more than 25 years of experience at Tesco where he was part of a team that was the first to bring online grocery shopping to UK customers. He is now working as an innovation consultant to help bring pragmatic innovation techniques to companies.  Foodmaestro and Nielsen Brandbank had the privilege to do a short Q&A with Nick before Health-e-Hack to get some initial insight into the future of retail and role of technology.  

How do you think technology can help reduce the friction between consumers and retailers? 

Technology has the remarkable ability to delight and annoy in equal measure, so successful retailers are the ones who deploy technology in such a way that it clearly makes a positive difference to the consumer experience. For example, consumers hate queuing at supermarket checkouts, but several stores tried to solve this by making consumers scan their own products. This experience went down badly. Retailers had not explained that the main reason for self-scan checkouts was to reduce or

 eliminate queuing, not kill jobs. The self-scan tills were a frustrating nightmare with products that would not scan and the “unexpected item in the bagging area”…! The good news is that the supermarkets started talking to consumers about till density, the technology got better, and now many prefer self-scan checkouts. Queues have dropped or are absent with the exception of peak shopping times. If you solve a consumer area of friction using technology, get it – and the message surrounding it – correct, you will quickly succeed. 

How can retailers impact the health of shoppers? 

Consumers have always wanted to eat healthier, but the messages from industry, healthcare providers, governments and the media have sown confusion. What consumers want is a simple, clearly signposted path that will show how to find healthier versions of food they love, and an incentive to give it a go. To make this work, access to high quality, reliable nutrition data is key. Then the ability to access that data simply and easily.  This access can be through a mobile app, a website, kiosk or even a staff-operated expert system to answer consumer questions. The solution needs to take the consumer on a journey to a set of products that they will enjoy and yet will be healthier than their previous choices. The incentive can come from great marketing – for example, health points that accumulate towards a reward. My own health has been positively impacted by the choice of a health insurer who offered me a ‘free’ health activity watch in return for doing some system-measurable exercises during a week. Earn 40 points a week and this month’s watch installment is free. I’ve made sure it’s been free every month! 

How do you think customer experience can be enhanced – which technologies can be incorporated? 

The best way of enhancing the customer experience is to find ways of harmonizing the different channels to work with each other. There have been many efforts to create the ‘omnichannel’ experience, but this ignores the fact that different retail channels (for example, in-store vs online) have unique strengths that suit one group of consumers over another. The challenge is to make all your channels suit all your customers through a great experience.   

A good example is the fact that in-store space constraints limit the number of different products for sale in any category. Compare this to online where such constraints are virtually non-existent. Customer experience can be enhanced if in-store technologies are used to help the consumer see the much wider range online. That way they can decide whether they can prefer the in-store range to take home right now, or the greater online range which they can’t have until tomorrow but will ultimately suit their needs better. 

What are the issues food retailers are facing to adopt innovation? 

Food retailers have been early adopters of the innovation process in a bid to improve efficiency and differentiate themselves in the market. When you make such little margin on a vast range of products, anything you can do to help colleagues and consumers experience you better, simpler and/or cheaper than the competition is key. The only issue has been for innovators to work in a rapid, pragmatic manner in such organisations – speedily executing innovation projects that take just days or weeks to find, test, and prove (or disprove) a particular solution to a business challenge. Good ideas are often discovered at the consumer-facing level. However, these innovative ideas can often take time to reach management teams to explore and implement these ideas to better serve the customer. The best way to adopt innovation is to facilitate everyone by creating a culture and environment to allow them to innovate in their roles. 

How will AI or voice technology change the retail industry? 

AI- Artificial intelligence (or more accurately, machine learning) will focus on marketing by contacting the customer ideally just when they are thinking of making a purchase. If you mine your data and use AI to find purchasing patterns of shoppers, you can contact shoppers right on time, so they think of you first!  

Voice technology has been the big surprise breakthrough technology of the last few years, but many retailers have not embraced the experience even though it is in an increasing number of consumer homes. Retailers embracing this technology are stealing a march by working with consumers and learning how to give the best experience. Voice technology is all about convenience, so a short conversation to find out where your nearest store is and when it opens will be a great first step – as easy as updating Google Maps, Yelp! and other location-based services. Next comes the convenience of finding your products and adding them to an online basket – ideal if you sell consumable items.  

Nick will be the MC at Health-e-Hack at Food Matters Live conference on November 20th-22nd, 2018.
To see details about the event, or to register visit www.foodmaestro.me/HEALTHeHACK.html