Kate Ancketill
 Talking Tech

Kate Ancketill

Kate Ancketill is CEO of GDR Creative Intelligence, a globally recognised consultancy focused on innovation and emerging trends in retail, leisure and hospitality. A world-renowned, inspirational speaker on retail futures, Kate was the winner of the Jennifer d’Abo Memorial Scholarship for female entrepreneurs in 2007 and was selected as one of the UK’s top 100 business people to watch in the Courvoisier Future 500 in 2009.

We were fortunate to spend some time with Kate to get an insight into how she sees technology shaping the world over the next five years.

Can you tell us a little about GDR?

“GDR Creative Intelligence is a retail strategy consultancy based in London and New York, with a global and impartial perspective of consumer behaviour, retail and hospitality trends and brand activity.

“We help our clients make sense of the world through global context, insight and inspiration to help them drive innovation, anticipate trends, and create actionable strategies for delivery.”

What is the ethos of your organisation?

“Our ethos is that innovation comes from outside. Outside your category, outside your traditional geographical boundaries. We believe strongly in cross fertilisation.”

Can you provide some detail around your digital platform?

“Our digital platform contains all our research and insights from the last seven years. It’s a searchable library of trends and case studies, with new content added daily. Our partner clients use it to for inspiration and preparatory to project work. It was built for sharing; even one user can share curated content with large numbers of people within the organisation.

How do you think the retail world needs to adapt to the rise of technology?

“The best user (not just collector) of data wins. Without a focus on the store as a real-time data source, retailers can’t understand their customers, and can’t personalise their product selection, environment, service and post-channel offer, which consumers increasingly demand.

“The retail world needs to use the tools made available by the fourth industrial revolution: AI, natural language processing, sensors, internet of things, automation etc. Amazon’s success is partly due to their use of these technologies, combined with their advanced use of data to understand their customer, and a willingness to develop new ways to measure success. Retailers on the outside of such vast data sources may need to combine their resources to access sufficient data for machine learning to do its job and identify valuable consumer insight.”

What are the major tech trends you see coming in retail and leisure over the next 5 years?

“The major tech trends in retail and leisure in the next 5 years will include:

1.     Greater use of unattributed data to personalise customer experience in the real world. This could include computer vision identifying your age, gender, family group, gait (revealing mood), what you’re wearing etc, impacting the ads you see, product configuration, services provided etc.

2.     I anticipate we’ll see unstaffed stores (particularly in convenience, possibly mobile, responding to your call) where you pay seamlessly by face, voice, or through computer vision combined with sensors. Amazon Go has had problems with large numbers of people using its pilot store but there are smaller concepts using less dense product displays which overcome the issue of computer overload, and the technology is constantly improving…

3.     Use of augmented reality and virtual reality will increase significantly with improvements in the size and look of the hardware and the spread of 5G across the globe starting in 2020. The ability to have untethered heads-up displays with much faster upload/download will expand the already exciting opportunities for VR, where we’ll see more interaction with the real world, as we already have with the Star Wars experience at The Void. Layering education and entertainment on top of reality with AR will become commonplace within retail and leisure.”

What do you think the big tech focus will be for 2018? 

“I think the big tech focus for 2018 will be user privacy, and more introspection around the effects the giant platforms are having on users and society as a whole. We have GDPR coming in, and we’ve already seen big stories in the press on the behaviour of Facebook, Google (YouTube) and Uber, so I think tech companies (and to a lesser extent, retailers who are increasingly acting like tech companies) will need to make concerted efforts to show they are respecting consumers and using the considerable power they wield benevolently.

“From a consumer perspective, voice input has now gone mainstream and a two-way platform war is shaping up between Amazon and Google (with Apple still yet to properly move), and there will also be a lot of noticeable activity in AR. For businesses, implementing AI has now become a priority, and we should see the first effects of automation on the workforce start to bite by the end of the year.”

We recently interviewed Anne Marie Imafidon who spoke about the challenges for women in maths, science and technology. Why do you feel there are still not enough women progressing in technology?

“The problem with not enough women in technology is one of perception. You don’t have to be a maths whizz coder to be ‘in tech’. Not that there aren’t women who are good at that, of course. I suspect the pace of change is also daunting for many. It’s almost a full-time job keeping up with technology trends. Women tend to focus more on what they don’t know than men, they suffer impostor syndrome, and they worry they can’t keep up with all the innovation and jargon to compete in the tech job market. The answer has got to be more encouragement, mentoring and female role models.”

What are the major challenges we are likely to face both as workers and consumers as AI and machine learning become more prevalent?

“The challenges we’ll face as workers as AI and ML become more prevalent will come in phases. The first and most obvious will be loss of cashier jobs in retail. There will be a loss of warehousing and back office jobs as automation is deployed, and call centre workers will be replaced by AI for FAQ-type enquiries. Some white-collar jobs will go in the second phase; admin, paralegal, some legal, basic accounting. As consumers, we’ll see more ‘co-biotics’ where store associates are assisted by AI or robotics to enable them to spend more time being empathic, curating service. I anticipate an upgrade to the training needed for retail work, and hopefully, the status attached to it, as the digital and relationship skills requirement rises.”

If you would like more information about Kate Ancketill and GDR Creative Intelligence, visit their website here.

George R Vaughan