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Say hello to ICON at The O2 and the future of retail

In September we hosted our first annual O2 Blue Door Conference at the O2 Arena in Greenwich – a day focused on the issues and technologies that affect every UK business, both now and in the future. The conference included a retail industry specific ‘Deep Dive’, where a number of industry experts discussed the challenges the sector faces and the role that technology can play to overcome them.

Top drivers for retail growth

O2 recently partnered with Retail Week to produce a report on the UK’s Top 30 Growth Retailers of 2018. Liam Chennels is Retail Technology Director at Retail Week, and he shared what he thought were four of the top drivers of growth in retail:

  1. They put the customer first, and recognise that the customer experience is EVERYTHING

It’s easy to say, but harder to put into practice. Successful retailers adopt a company culture that takes a customer focused view. They obsess over details to ensure that they provide their customers with an experience, rather than just a place to go to make a purchase.

A good example of a company leader who embeds the customer focus into the culture is Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Bezos is renowned for including an empty chair at every meeting to represent the customer, the “the most important person in the room”.

  1. They focus on what they are good at

It really can be that simple. Some retailers fail because they attempt to do or offer too much, losing sight of what their core business is about. Liam cited Far Fetch as an example of a fashion retailer that understands its customers and knows what they are looking for. The company holds no warehouse inventory and has few overheads, but has invested in systems that make it simple for customers to know which stores carry which stock, and offers simple ordering and delivery options.

  1. They learn from other industries and adapt

The speed at which technology is changing the way we live and work is remarkable, and the retail sector has seen unprecedented change. Successful retailers no longer look only at their competitors, and are taking their cues from entirely different organisations such as banks, telecoms providers and disruptive businesses like Uber and Airbnb. These are the organisations that have changed entirely the way a consumer expects a product or service to be delivered. The successful retailer recognises this and keeps pace with the change in customer expectations.

An example is contactless payments, which overtook payments by cash for the first time in January 2018. The convenience offered by the contactless debit or credit card is now regarded by the consumer as essential, and the retailer who does not offer contactless payment as old fashioned.

  1. They embrace digital transformation

The role of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) was once limited to responsibility for servers, website hosting and IT support. No longer. CTOs drive digital transformation, and foster a culture that encourages technology adoption. The technology being implemented isn’t just for back end roles or for analytics either. Technology is being adopted right in store to provide the customer with the optimum retail experience.

ICON Outlet at The O2: Where retail and entertainment converge

On Saturday 20 October, The O2 will open its doors to ICON Outlet, a brand new 220,000 square foot outlet shopping village, which will host 90 new stores when complete. The O2 has always been a multi-purpose arena, boasting exhibition spaces, bowling alley, cinema complex, restaurants and bars, as well as a world class music and entertainment venue. Until now, though, this has not included retail.

Alistair Wood, Executive Vice President, Real Estate & Development at AEG Europe, talked about some of the challenges the company faced in developing this exciting new retail development.

“The O2 is in the enviable position of already achieving a 9m footfall each year but our plan is to diversify to appeal to a new audience, as well as to encourage our existing audience to come to the O2 at different times.”

Using data and analysis to understand your customers

One of AEG’s principal challenges is to create a retail experience that will appeal to a broad and diverse consumer group.

“We already have excellent data about our existing customers. But it is challenging to create a retail experience that appeals equally to Little Mix concert goers and families coming to see Disney On Ice. The O2 appeals to a large and diverse range of people.”

Alistair Wood, Executive Vice President, Real Estate & Development at AEG Europe


ICON Outlet will attract tourists, local residents and office workers, but is also part of a plan to extend The O2 experience to arena visitors coming for music and entertainment. But there are practicalities to overcome.

“We want our visitors to shop before enjoying an evening’s entertainment, for example. But no one will want to carry four shopping bags into a concert. We are looking at ways we can personalise the service further for our customers such as a concierge luggage drop and hands-free shopping service.”

Outlet shopping centres are normally reserved for large, out-of-town retail parks, so ICON Outlet will be breaking new ground being so close to the centre of London. Will you be there? ICON Outlet opens its doors at 10am this Saturday 20 October, however we’re giving O2 customers 48hour early access from Thursday 18 October, so they can be the first to shop London’s latest fashion outlet.

You can follow ICON Outlet on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all the latest updates.

Looking ahead

And so, looking ahead to the coming years in retail, our expert panel were optimistic about the opportunities for this sector, and so we’ll finish by summarising the key guiding principles they advised retailers adopt:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Focus on the customer
  3. Know and focus on what you are good at
  4. Focus on the customer experience rather than the technology used to deliver it
  5. Recognise that innovation from one retailer is soon expected as standard by the customer

How can we support your retail growth journey? Get in touch today.

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