Retail guru Mary Portas told senior representatives from over 320 global brands in retail and FMCG that high streets and retail parks are far from dead and the future is more exciting than ever.
Speaking at technology innovation event ITG LIVE, hosted by marketing technology and services business Inspired Thinking Group (ITG), Mary, Randi Zuckerberg and Professor Brian Cox OBE shared their visions of the future of technology and innovation with an audience of over 600 leading marketers and CEOs.
Professor Brian Cox set the scene with a presentation that covered space-time, the scale of the universe and the big bang, before returning to Earth to explore technologies such as AI and the importance of getting both technology and the regulatory environment right.
Lucy Rowlands from Pret A Manger praised Brian for his brilliant insights and “translating the world of nature and physics into new thinking relevant to me and my world of work.”
Bringing a touch of Broadway to the event, Randi Zuckerberg gave an energetic presentation that included speaking – and singing – about the early years of Facebook and the business practices that contributed to its success.
“We organised ‘hackathons’ to work on pet projects,” she said. “When you take away the fear of failure, you suddenly get incredible ideas – often from people in the company you wouldn’t expect.”
Delegate Philip Oldham, chief executive officer Lyle & Scott, said: “Randi had some great ideas that were easy to implement – I’ve already been on the phone to my team to ask them to think differently.”
Mary Portas urged retailers to become more creative, detailing a retail future where the online and bricks-and-mortar shopping experiences are so well integrated that customers move seamlessly between the two.
“Humans are wired to connect,” she said, adding that a successful future for the high street will be built around “human interaction and relevant technology and would be as much about community as commerce.”
Insisting that the successful companies have always been those that see and adapt to change, she praised numerous retailers for bucking the negative trend by creating innovative environments that people want to visit. “Change in retail is nothing new,” she told delegates.
ITG chief executive officer Simon Ward said: “Feedback from the event has been phenomenal. It’s crucial for people to be able to step back and get a fresh perspective on what they do. The speakers were truly inspirational, giving brand leaders a huge amount to think about – in terms of both technology and their retail models.”
Delegate Anna Gallagher of Jaguar Land Rover said: “Working in automotive, there’s a lot of changing to do and business models that have to evolve. Today has given me rare thinking time and sparked different ways of thinking – in particular, about how we do this while keeping our customers at the heart of everything we do.”
With offices in London, Birmingham, New York and Chicago, ITG works with global brands including M&S, Heineken, KFC, Renault and Sainsburys. Founded in 2009, the company currently employs over 900 people worldwide. For the second year running, ITG has been named one of the Sunday Times top 12 UK firms for international growth and one of the fastest-growing European tech businesses by the FT.