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Episode 026 : 09/03/2021

Cate Trotter, Insider Trends (Part 1)

Cate Trotter of Insider Trends has launched two successful businesses and has been named a Future 100 and Startup 100 entrepreneur. Insider Trends delivers omnichannel strategy to large retailers based on data-driven insights. The team works with global brands and retailers, including Walmart, Converse, Facebook, Ikea, and many more. (Part 1 of 2)

Host: Ned Hayes and Ashley Coates
Guest: Cate Trotter

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Topics discussed in this episode

  • Many services are available to help retailers understand what is coming next in the future retail and what to do with it
  • We’re going to see more spaces of exclusive VIP spaces that can only be accessed by people who are members or spelt a lot with the brand
  • We can think about how retail experiences have become richer, more enjoyable in terms of having more in common

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Audio Transcript

Ned Hayes [00:00:01] Welcome to SparkPlug, where we talk to smart people working at the intersection of business and technology. Brought to you by SnowShoe making mobile location smarter. To kick off the second season of SparkPlug, we’re excited today to feature part one of a two-part episode with Cate Trotter of Insider Trends. She shares with us the future of retail trends that she’s spotting in the future and how retailers can make best use of data.

Ned Hayes [00:00:36] Cate Trotter, head of trends at Insider Trends, is a frequent retail speaker who delivers presentations to global audiences. She has also launched two successful businesses and has been named a Future One Hundred and Startup 100 Entrepreneur. Insider Trends delivers omnichannel strategy to large retailers based on data driven insights. The team has worked with a number of notable brands and retailers, including Walmart, Converse, Facebook, IKEA, among many other notable retail brands. So welcome to SparkPlug, Cate. 

Cate Trotter [00:01:06] Thank you very much. What an intro! 

Ned Hayes [00:01:09] Well, we are so happy to have you on the show, and I wondered if you could give us a little thumbnail sketch of your work in retail and your journey to where you are today? 

Cate Trotter [00:01:18] Oh yes, so my journey, it started yeah when I decided I wanted to be a trend scout. And at that point I looked to see who was interesting to work for in London. And I went off, did some research into who was doing what’s around the world, and I came across some businesses offering retail safaris. So I think there was one in Miami, there was another in Tokyo, but no one really owning that in London. And so I thought that could be my thing, I’m basically placed in one of the world’s best cities for I fell on my feet with that choice. So we started offering these retail safaris and other trend tours. And over the years, we’ve expanded into essentially now offering all sorts of services that help retailers understand what is coming next in the future retail and what to do with it. So it can very much still be a retail safari. We now offer those from New York to Tokyo, but we also run innovation programs, we consult with people, we help shape their concepts, we sense check their concepts and everything in between. 

Ashley Coates [00:02:42] That’s incredible. And we were going to ask you about retail safaris. Can you tell us a little bit more about these safaris and talk us through the experience of them? 

Cate Trotter [00:02:54] Sure. We talk about them as being a strategy session in the field? In its simplest form, it’s a tour of interesting shops let’s say. But you are doing that tour with either me or one of my expert consultants, colleagues who either know the businesses that we’re talking about or have researched everything that we can find about our business. And we don’t just talk through what they’re doing. We talk through, well, how what we’re experiencing in the store is relevant to that client and then for all of us safaris designed on a bespoke basis. So we’ll find out what’s important to that client, what questions and challenges they have. And then we will design a day or two days of different experiences that show various solutions to that problem. And then we raise a series of questions for the clients to think about how they would remix that concept. So you can’t solve everything in a day. But the idea is that over the course of the day, you might visit, say, 15 stores, and each one will show at least one clue about the future of retail for that client. We kind of use the stores that we visit as examples of what the client can do. I think there’s something really powerful about being in a space experiencing it. I think when I deliver presentations, a lot of people say, Oh, well, that’s all very well. Of course, that brand can do it all. That’s never going to happen. But actually, when you’re standing in a space that you can see is working that other people are buying from. It’s so much more compelling. We get other people to come in and talk about their take on the future of retail as well. So it’s all quite varied and interesting. 

Ashley Coates [00:05:06] Right? You said that it’s a strategy session in the field. Can you take us on kind of a virtual tour? Imagine we’re walking with you. What possibilities do you think we might see in a set of three to five stores? 

Cate Trotter [00:05:21] Gosh, I wish I could whisk you around the world that’s what’s I’d want to do with you now with this imaginary client. So thinking about loyalty, I’m actually thinking of a few spaces that we’ve seen in Seoul, so Hyundai, for instance, have a series of libraries that can only be accessed by people who have their Hyundair credit cards. Because in Seoul they’re like I think, they have a department store there’s a financial arm that they don’t just make cars. So they have these fantastic a cooking library that’s actually a cooking space. They have a design library and they have a travel library and they’re all in different parts of the city, but you could only go into those if you have that Hyundai credit cards. We’ve seen versions of this concept in China as well, where if you have the department store app, you are allowed into an exclusive art gallery to see the latest exhibition. So in terms of loyalty, I think we’re going to see more spaces of exclusive VIP spaces that can only be accessed by people who are either members or people who have actually maybe spent a lot with the brand or have maybe interacted with that brand. So one of our views on loyalty is that it’s not actually going to be so much about spend going forward, but more about spending time with the brand or interacting with the brand more. Another example that we love is Mashas fashion in London, which again embodies a lot of different things that we talk about when we talk about the future of retail. So when you walk into this space, it feels like a beautiful townhouse. You can see some of the products, but it’s not packed to the brim with products actually one of the floors, it just almost feels like an art gallery of fashion. Two of the other floors have personal shopping spaces on them. But what makes it really special is that the staff are equipped with tablets that essentially let the staff access everything that customers have browsed or bought online before they’ve arrived at the store. So they probably know the customer’s shoe size, dress size, color preferences, maybe fabric preferences, and they can use all of that information to put together a curated collection of items that that customer’s going to want so that that is our view of where omnichannel shopping is going. It’s actually about knowing the customer better, so those are two examples. Another one is the the Nike app, which I guess taps taps more into omni channel. But this idea that you get the Nike app can be used to shop and discover Nike items when you’re away from the store, but when you come into the store, it has a whole series of extra functions. So we also have a strong belief that really omnichannel should be about constantly learning about the customer. So if a customer tells a brand something about them online, when they go into the store, the brand should be able to access that to use it to improve that experience in the store. And probably while the customers in the store, they’re going to share other useful bits of information that should then be used to optimize the online journey. 

Ned Hayes [00:09:14] So it becomes this kind of virtuous circle that things are reinforcing each other. One thing that we run into with smaller retailers, especially, is a question of cost. We go to a small retail store that sells shoes for women, for example. We’re working with some right now and we say, Hey, add a foot scanner, and then you can use this with your online purchases as well. They’ll say, Well, how much is this going to cost? So I’m curious if there is kind of a cost equation balance that you would advise people, what’s the proper investment? 

Cate Trotter [00:09:45] We also, for small businesses, we often talk about the the poor man’s version, which we don’t mean an insulting what we mean, normally when you say big brands do something that is quite clever, quick, dirty way, you can execute like 80% of that experience, so get 80% of the value to 20 percent of the cost. So thinking about an independent shoe store, you could just have one of those wooden measuring systems ask a customer to stand on, put it in the CRM profile and use that to optimize what they see later on when they go online. Like, it doesn’t have to be a really fancy self scanning system or scanning thing. Yeah, the technology behind the scenes does need to link up, but really it can be done very simply. 

Ned Hayes [00:10:37] Right. This does remind me of the software development journey that there are all these online tools, but often the most effective tool is a set of Post-it notes that you write your upcoming tasks, you put them on a board, then you do those things. So often what you’re saying is retailers can find a way to meet their customer where they’re at for not a huge spend. 

Cate Trotter [00:10:58] Yeah, totally. 

Ashley Coates [00:10:59] And so, Cate, I’m curious looking back about any specific trends you’ve highlighted, in the past that have come true. Do you have any prophecies that you’re most proud of? 

Cate Trotter [00:11:11] Let me have a think, how long have you got? 

Ashley Coates [00:11:14] Wow, that’s impressive. 

Cate Trotter [00:11:16] Yeah, well, I don’t know. It’s hard to pick one. I’ll try and pick one or two for you, something that we call fast and slow. I guess it has come true, but also it’s still coming true because as with a lot of trends, things always evolve and never fully complete. So the whole idea about fast and slow is about saying that there are lots of mediocre moments in retail because we’ve always assumed that there are parts of the retail experience, but now smart brands are questioning why certain things have to be there. So these are things such as queuing in a standard queue or maybe carrying your items around a city after you buy them. And there are two ways that stores retailers can design them out. One way is to speed things up or to make them frictionless or essentially so fast they could almost become invisible. So when we think about queuing, a virtual queue would take away that pain and the boredom of queuing. But the other way to improve on these mediocre experiences is to slow down the experience, essentially to make an experience so enjoyable that a customer would want to give that time to something. So queuing isn’t the best example with this. But if you think about how Disney say do queues, they make it extremely entertaining. So actually part of your experience of being in Disney World is actually enjoying being in the queue maybe? We can think about how retail experiences have become richer, more enjoyable in terms of having more in common, perhaps with visiting an art gallery or visiting a fashion show where they’re entertaining things to do and discovering the store. So we’ve been talking about fast and so for years. Another one, I think, is vertical integration. I’m not going to say I’m the person who felt that but it’s interesting to see that Nike, for instance, so focused on controlling every aspect of that production and their retailing. And another one might be what we call microstores. We’ve obviously seen Nordstrom open their Nordstrom local concept. So those are spaces that are two percent of the size of the giant store. But what’s incredible about that? One of the co-presidents said that people, when people shop with them offline and online, they say those customers spend five times more and the profit per customer doubles. We’ve been advising people that they can have their big stores is the big experiential hub, but sets up tiny micro stores to access these really lovely service points. If a store is two percent of the size, you can probably afford to have 50 times as many people. Rather, you can have 50 micro stores for the cost of one big one. So you can then expand the number of customers that you’re reaching in a region. When you overlay digital on that, you can get not only do you get more customers, but you get double the amount of profit for each of those customers. So, yeah, so I think Nordstrom was were the people who really brought that to light, but we started talking about that and it’s been interesting to see IKEA do this. You know, IKEA you would have thought, would be wedded to the big box formats actually moving into city centers. In this way, Bloomingdales now do something similar. So that’s that’s what I’ve been proud to see rollouts, but there’s more that can be done, I’m actually surprised that one is expanding faster, but you have to be patient. 

Ned Hayes [00:15:33] Cate, thank you for those three great examples of trends that you’ve spotted and helped to facilitate. But as we look at recent trends, what’s happened during COVID? Can you unpack the COVID era for us a little bit? 

Cate Trotter [00:15:47] Well, there’s two things, actually. I want to say that innovation has really needed to show that it can pay for itself. So I think businesses have been a lot harsher about experimenting, but in some way these retailers have been open to experimenting in other ways, I think as long as a new concept can show that it will pay for itself and that its relevance to people who are shopping more online. Of course, those are that those are the innovations that we’ve seen take off massively. And there’s a few others, a few other people that we were recommending to the world but thinking it’s just going to go slowly. But actually during the pandemic, they just exploded. And that is brilliant. 

Ashley Coates [00:16:36] So what has been your focus over the past year and a half during the pandemic? 

Cate Trotter [00:16:41] We’ve been offering a lot or helping retailers with a lot of quick wins. So these are things that are typically not big long term projects, but small innovations that they can quickly integrate and quickly see a return from. 

Ned Hayes [00:16:57] Well, coming out of COVID. What are you the most excited about Cate, whether that’s technology trends or otherwise? 

Cate Trotter [00:17:05] I think the thing I’m most excited about I’ve been seeing recently that retail is coming to the customer in a new way. We’re talking about it as a new definition of customer centricity almost that the customer almost doesn’t have to do anything because they don’t want to. I think the trigger for this idea was just seeing this explosion of super fast delivery companies in not just the UK, but Europe. And I’m sure there are a number of rolling apps in America at this point as well. But these are these companies where you can tap an app and have it chat, handing you a basket of groceries at your front door 15 minutes later. So that is like this whole new level of convenience. But we’re also noticing that there are other concepts like this that are bringing retail to the customer. That’s one thing I’m excited about. The other is possibly in the further future, but I think brand experiences are going to eventually wraps themselves around the consumer. Alexander McQueen, he has a line in the McQ, which is, I think, the younger people like it’s more of his hipper, more innovative brand or rather the company’s innovative brand, but their latest products have chips in them. You can scan most with your phone or tap your phone on the chip. It will tell you about the product, but it also acts as a jumping off point to the McQ community, where you can trade your products. So actually, I know, like the store is where the majority of sales are happening at the moment, and that’s definitely not going to change overnight. But we can start to see a future where actually the product is the center of the brand ecosystem. And actually, when you’re asking me about loyalty, I think this is also a new take on loyalty to there’s a company called Verifier who are working with a series of brands putting chips in their products. So there’s a bike that has one of their chips in it. What that means is that whenever you ride your bike, your smartphone will track where you are, and potentially loyalty points can be awarded to the people who ride their bikes most often or they ride and the furthest, or they ride to the most interesting places. And when you start to think about that, I think we that we get to a place where actually engagement with brands can be far richer, more meaningful and some more frequent than it is when we think about the store as being the center of that ecosystem. 

Ashley Coates [00:20:04] It’s fascinating. Your perspectives are so really illuminating. 

Ned Hayes [00:20:10] This concludes part one of our two part episode with Cate Trotter. Tune in next week to hear more from Cate Trotter and Insider Trends. Thanks for listening today to the SparkPlug podcast and brought to you by SnowShoe, For smarter mobile location, Spark Plug is a wholly owned property of SnowShoe all content. Copyright 2021 SparkPlug Media.