Interview with Jordi Bartoli, director of the IT department of TC Group Solutions
- Hi Jordi! Thanks for your time: we are really glad to be able to interview you again. Currently, you are the CTO of IT’s department of TC Group Solutions: a team of technicians who work tirelessly to constantly improve software and technologies made to improve the performance of physical stores. Can you explain to us what “digital transformation in retail” means to you?
I believe this is a great opportunity: digital transformation allows the introduction of new technologies aimed at improving business logic. It is useful both for traditional companies, (already strongly established in their sector), because it allows them to be more efficient and immediately measure their results, both for new-generation companies, because it offers services and solutions that meet the needs of the final consumer.
Companies have to bet on new technologies: this is not an option, but a necessity: concepts like Cloud, Mobile, IoT and social networks must be part of the company’s strategies.
In the retail sector then, digital transformation has been more disruptive: the rise of online stores and social networks has shaken the entire industry by creating new scenarios. Nowadays, if you want to be successful in this sector and stand out from others, it is no longer enough to have physical stores and a good web page, but you must also be active on social media.
- You had the possibility to go to the New York Retail Forum last week, probably the most important event in the world on retail innovation. What are the things that impressed you the most?
The NRF reflects the importance of this sector. Participating in this event gives you a global view of everything behind physical stores or online commerce. Nowadays there are tools to do almost everything, so it is important to choose the most appropriate according to each sector. At NRF you have the opportunity to see and experience the most innovative technologies and establish agreements with partners that can help you improve your business strategies.
- We know that the NRF is a well-known event, hosting more than 36K participants each year and countless technologies. How do you keep updated on all this technical news?
There is not a single channel to get informed: the secret is to be aware to any technological change, in any sector. There are reference companies that mark the evolution of products: the automotive industry, aeronautics, logistics and even medicine. All of these sectors are constantly evolving.
To me, I can say to be a true tech-enthusiast: I am interesting to everything and I like trying to understand in which direction it is necessary to aim.
To keep up with the technology, I always try to stay in touch with specialized partners in this field. Taking part in fairs like the NRF is fundamental: in fact, in this type of events there is a great concentration of producers, developers and distributor. Not to mention that it is possible to see all the latest news in the sector.
- Which will be the main trends in Retail Intelligence in the coming years?
Technology must help retailers to discover and anticipate their customers’ needs. The omnichannel approach will be fundamental: the online world (e-commerce) and the off-line one (physical stores) must be coherent and integrated in a way that allows a unique shopping experience for the customer: the purchase of the future will start in the sofa of your home and it is very likely that it will ends up in a physical store, or vice versa.
- It has been a rather difficult year for the retail sector, especially in the US market. How do you see retail in the future?
It will go through mobility, personalization and speed in changing and adapting to the needs of its customers. It is already happening: from personal experience, I can tell you that a few days ago I went to a pharmacy and I was very surprised that many of their stores show no more pharmaceutical products… Instead, they now are full of energy bars and a large number of athlete oriented products. Another example is the supermarkets, now go to a Lidl and there is no longer just food or home products, they now sell clothes or even electronic products!
- How do you think the store of the future will look like?
Last week we had a turning point: Amazon opened its first store to the public without cashiers or cashiers. Undoubtedly much of the technology applied in this Amazon store will, within 5 years, be a standard in the industry.
RFID will be a fundamental technology for understanding the store of the future. This technology allows us to control the product until it is distributed to final customers (all in real time). They also allow us to monitor the store’s warehouse, the circulation of goods inside the store, etc.
VR (virtual reality) is another technology that seems ready to change the paradigm of the physical store and transform digital, experimenting thanks to the sense of sight. The future will be entering a digital store and choosing the product (as if we were in a physical store) from our sofa at home. Imagine entering a supermarket and walking, choosing the product you want, as if we were in the physical store, but from your own sofa.