Retail Disruption Creates Opportunities for the BOLD

Retail Disruption Creates Opportunities for the BOLD

Many well-known retail brands have shut down in the past few years. Many others are re-negotiating rent costs to buy time to find ways to cope with pressures of reduced customer footfall, sales figures and profits. This spreads retailers’ challenges to a wider community of corporate owners of retail space and their shareholders – which includes millions of us through pension schemes and government investments. So when media headlines shout “the high street is dying,” whether in the UK or in other markets, we ought to take note. Though is it really dying, or transforming? And how can new tech help physical retailers regain some ground by disrupting the disruptors?

Digital transformation

Online shopping has been the first and most visible stage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Unlimited possibilities for billions of people connected by personal hand-held devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, have been spearheaded by how we buy things.

This new reality has been provided by tech giants including Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba. Though for many physical retailers the loss of just a small proportion of their sales has been enough to tip them in to a danger zone. Latest figures from the UK’s Office of National Statistics show 19% of all UK consumer purchasing takes place online, and the figure is still growing.

Source: UK Office of National Statistics (ONS)

Some business owners, particularly independent retailers and their vocal trade bodies, want to claim “Endangered Species” status and demand regulatory changes. In the UK these include adding a sales tax to online purchases and a review of the entire business rates system. 

While online retail is certainly a contributory factor to the UK high street and US main street malaise, it  is not the sole issue. The thriving retail fashion brand Primark, for example has no online presence, while its online-only rival ASOS has begun to experience problems and has issued profit warnings.

Lucy Stainton is Head of Retail and Strategic Partnerships at the Local Data Company, which monitors the rates of business openings and closures across 680,000 UK retail premises. In a panel session at a recent event about the retail sector she confirmed a very healthy 64% of UK retail outlets are still independently owned. And when asked what types of retailers are most commonly going out of business, her reply was “The boring ones!”

The fairness, or lack of it, of anyone who chooses to shop online paying a levy to subsidise ‘boring’ shops, presumably run by the less enterprising owners, is debatable. Though the case for a review of business rates has some clear validity: in round terms, retailing accounts for 5% of the UK GDP yet the retail sector is levied nearer 20% of the country’s total business rates.

The role of local government

A bigger issue is that many local authorities remain caught in a pre-online retail time warp. In the UK, reduced access to central government funding through recent years has been offset by allowing local councils to keep a higher proportion of the money raised through business rates. Local retailers are often treated as a cash cow, as if there was no competition and they have an inexhaustible supply of customers.

Retail Disruption Creates Opportunities for the BOLD

Road transport policies were geared to reducing town centre traffic congestion and air pollution, partly through restricting the availability of car parking spaces and making what does exist more expensive. Many local authorities fail to see a fuller, holistic picture in which shoppers now need to be encouraged to support local stores rather than deterred from going to them. 

And the store owners need to ensure shoppers find it a rewarding experience when they get there. The word ‘retailtainment’ has entered the lexicon.

Social, not just commercial value

A growing number of built environment planners and lobbyists seek ways to establish a social value as well as a commercial value of high streets and local communities, and thus influence local authority decision-making in new ways.

The innovation foundation Nesta has addressed this issue through creating a board game called Flourish! Once downloaded, it can be customised to account for local circumstances and provides an opportunity for a variety of stakeholders to come together and share their relative points of view over a few rolls of the dice to assess policy options for boosting a local economy and strengthening the community. 

Some Retail Categories are Growing

The presence of charity shops in high streets and shopping centres is often used as media shorthand to suggest an area has problems of retail decay and community decline. Admittedly, charities are keen to take up short-term leases and they pay just a small fraction of business rates bills. Though this is an out-of-date attitude. Recent research findings released recently by Giffgaff, a contract-free mobile phone service provider, shows the stigma over buying recycled goods is lifting. A third of UK shoppers have bought used and refurbished items, or what some prefer to describe as “pre-loved.”

Some charity shops are actually leading the way in providing a better customer experience. They don’t have new lines or sales to highlight through PR or expensive media advertising. Store volunteers have to recognise the value of conversing with both the shoppers and the people donating goods who come through the door. All represent an opportunity to start the process of converting a casual visitor up the loyalty ladder to become a regular financial donor, or maybe even a shop floor colleague. It requires further skills beyond just transactional.

Others are multi-purposing to add to their social value on a high street and in a community. As an example, Robin Osterley, CEO of the Charity Retail Association told a “Future of the High Street” meeting organised by the non-profit social network Smiley Movement that the British Heart Foundation is distributing defibrillators to all its shops for public use. And they will also soon offer free blood pressure testing.

Lucy Stainton of the Local Data Company added that in the first half of 2019 the fastest growing retail category in the UK was men’s barber shops, and 95% of them are independently owned. Where once there was once only a magazine rack, customers are increasingly drawn in by attractions such as pool tables, and encouraged to treat them as places to socialise. 

Retail Disruption Creates Opportunities for the BOLD
L to R: Lucy Stainton. Local Data Company; Enedina Columbano, TRAID, Neil Duffy, Retail TRUST; Andrew Goodacre, British Independent Retailers Association; Robin Osterley, Charity Retail Association

Online Tech that Support  Retailers

As much as the digital transformation of shopping habits has put pressure on bricks-and-mortar retailers, there are also a growing number of tech providers offering to help them. Here is a selection.

Launchd in 2014 by a husband and wife team who began their retail careers with a market stall, Down Your High Street is a service that enables local independent retailers to achieve an online presence in a digital marketplace. Shoppers can source out-of-the-ordinary products from 530 independent shops based all over the country. They can also opt for an interest-free instalment payment plan if they wish through DYHS’s collaboration with the fintech payment platform Clearpay.

Dotty Directory provides advertising for small and medium size retailers on a number of websites with a local focus on areas around the UK. In return, their details are passed on to service providers such as insurance companies who will try to sell to them.

MaybeTech offers courses on using social media for local retailers to raise their online presence and attract more customers. Also, their platform uses AI (Artificial Intelligence) to help larger organisations listen and engage with their customers through social media, benchmark their results, and optimise the ROI of their activity.

LoLo (short for Local Loyalty) has started rolling out a mobile app that enables shoppers to benefit from using online tokens that unlock cash price reductions in local stores. The retailers can in turn use the tokens they accept to enjoy their own savings on goods and services they require for their business, including media advertising. When there are enough consumer users they will also receive customer data feedback in order to improve future decision-making on pricing and offers. The scheme is networked so that regardless of wherever tokens are earned they can be used with any retailer or service provider signed up to LoLo.

Near Street is a search platform that shows the availability of items in nearby physical stores alongside the regular online options of Amazon, eBay and so on. Any stores that maintain online records of stock levels can participate. The system also helps product manufacturers and brand owners check where their goods are after they have been delivered to distribution centres.

BOLD Awards 2020

There are 12 categories in the award programme. Some of the organisations included in this article are relevant to the Advertising, Fintech, Artificial Intelligence and Marketplaces sectors. Other categories include Open Innovation, Crowdsourcing, Agritech and Science. Entries are open now until December 31, and if you think you’ve got what it takes to be BOLD, check the full list of categories and please complete your details here ->

There will be a round of public voting in January 2020, that we hope you will take part in, after which a panel of international judges will decide the winners. The prestigious awards ceremony is a black-tie event that will be held on the campus of the startup accelerator hub H-Farm near Venice, Italy, on March 27.

Applications for an invitation to attend the award ceremony can be made via this link.

BOLD Startups Are Transforming Many Marketplaces

We are well acquainted with the likes of Amazon, eBay, Rakuten and Alibaba – the giants of online retail. These were among the first wave of pioneer disruptors who used the internet to rock the retail boat and make it easy and reliable for us to purchase goods and items from home or the office. Or on mobile devices, from anywhere with an internet signal.

Online shopping continues to grow in the UK and is currently estimated to represent 19% of the total. There is a Christmas shopping spike in November every year. The downside is a collapse of many large well-known retailers, as well as countless local independents, who have struggled to grasp the new reality and adapt their business models in time. But that’s another issue.

Source: UK ONS (Office of National Statistics)

Following the broad scale mass market platforms that have influenced many people’s behaviour, there is a growing range of specialist consumer and B2B marketplace platforms. Some are filling gaps as traditional markets disappear, some want to make traditional markets disappear, and through the use of technology some are providing services far beyond the scope of their traditional predecessors. Many were pitching to potential investors at a recent NOAH Conference in London where we caught up with them.

An important aspect of new technology that encourages many other startup marketplaces is the proliferation of fintech solution providers. Automated payment systems, such as provided by Tipalti, enable speedier, easier to manage and lower cost invoice processing and money transfer on a mass scale – cross-border if required – than legacy banks.

Consumer Marketplaces

Selling a home

Movewise is a proptech startup operating in the residential real estate sector. There are a lot of disappointed people who try to buy or sell domestic properties. Half the valuations made by estate agents don’t get listed. Those that are listed are frequently at over-estimated valuations to encourage sellers to go ahead. Then buyers mostly fail to make offers that meet the valuations.

Pure online services accounted for 5% of the UK market in 2018. However, many buyers and sellers remain wedded to the idea of using a traditional service and dealing with a person they believe they can trust. 

Founder and CEO Tom Scarborough

Movewise is targeting the other 95% of the market with an online service that deals direct with homeowners who want to sell. It provides them with a valid valuation based on mass data, checks where and what they are looking to move to, and then analyses the relative performance of different estate agents to put the homeowner in touch with the ones that have the best track record against their most important criteria.

Founder and CEO Tom Scarborough began Movewise in 2018 after the problems he went through selling his own property identified the pain points he hopes to solve. He says they will soon be crowdfunding.

Second-hand jewellery

Buying and selling second-hand jewellery is a global market worth £30bn. It is a slow, complex and fragmented buyers’ market in which sellers are subject to inconsistent valuations with no recognised independent yardstick of accuracy, competency or honesty. It can be a frustrating and time-consuming process to get a valid price. provides an independent valuation and makes details of the items available for sale to a global network of buyers. They aggregate offers from over a thousand national and international dealers to provide sellers with the absolute best price. They provide insurance for goods in transit, take payment from the buyer which is transferred to the seller within 7 days, and charge 10% commission.

Verado is the brainchild of Claudio de Giovanni, a serial entrepreneur with an MSc from London School of Economics.

Fashion retail

Any number of customer/purchase tracking systems can record the items we buy. But what about the reasons why we buy them, and what they show about us as a type of person?

Fashion journalist and psychologist Anabel Maldonado founded The Psychology of Fashion and in 2020 will launch PSYKHE. It is a test shoppers can take that reveals the Why they buy what they choose, not just the What they buy, powered by machine learning and personality trait science.

Once a retailer or a brand owner understands why a customer has certain preferences they can more skilfully create other recommendations for them. The shopper will receive better quality information that is more suited to their psychographic preferences, and will perhaps start to see those brands and retailers as their lifestyle partners.

The process can be extended to where people choose to go on holiday, where to dine out and where to work out, as examples.

Chartering a pleasure boat

Netherlands-based GotoSailing is a a 30 year old boat charter business. It has adopted new technology to disrupt its own market with an aim to be market leader in five years. Anyone registered with the platform can search a data base of 5,000 boats, specify additional services, and pay through an instant booking facility. It’s faster, safer and more comprehensive than was ever previously possible.

The boats are vetted by a team of experts. The costs have no hidden extras. Boats can be for exclusive use or with a hired kipper and crew. Payment is made to GotoSailing who in turn handle payments to the boat owners. The boat users cannot be charged by anyone else for anything else.

Sailing enthusiasts have access to boats they cannot afford to own, and boat owners start to earn an income from an asset that spends most of its time moored up somewhere. And 3% of all booking fees are donated to sailing clubs to help with their upkeep and encourage people to keep taking up sailing.

B2B Marketplaces

Livestock and crops

Stepping in to the gap left by the demise of many livestock markets in the UK’s traditional market towns is Hectare. Farmers are increasingly finding they have to transport their animals further to sell them at market. They may have to take from their own safe and disease-free locality to an area with a higher risk. It was becoming more expensive, taking more valuable time, and causing more stress.

Hectare is an online platform that examines numerous markets to aggregate current prices being paid. It provides an online interface for buying and selling livestock and cereal crops, and handles payment through its FarmPay service.

Hectare’s CEO Doug Bairner is a serial disruptor. He has worked in the marketing team at Red Bull, launched a cycle clothing business using crowdfunding, and worked for the crowdfunding-based craft beer maestros Brewdog.

Hectare (which was not pitching at the NOAH Conference) has raised over £3m from investors and organisations from grant funding from government schemes, to crowdfunding investment from individuals and farm businesses, and strategic investment from well known angel investors.

Scrap Metal

Most scrap metal originates from product manufacturing. Up to now it has been disposed of in a piece meal manner, often dealing with a shortlist of personally known buyers or, if new to the market, on a word of mouth basis.

Having built a business on new tech, German startup Schrott42 takes briefs from smelters and then find sellers who can meet each brief. They offer prices based on an extensive database of recent transactions. When a deal is agreed they collect the waste, deliver the waste to any one of 80 sites in Germany which is the most convenient for the smelter, take payment from the smelter, and the scrap metal provider is paid in 48 hours.

Schrott24 recently qualified for an EU grant worth €1.2m.

Live music industry

Swiss-based Optune is a live music industry booking platform. Performing live music has become more valuable to artists than sales of recorded music, yet 50% of the fees live music event organisers and promoters pay to artists doesn’t reach them. It goes to middlemen and supports a disorganised, inconsistent and inefficient supply chain.

The Optune web app enables artists, agents, promoters and venue managers to collaborate on and organize events together. Artists can set their availability, itineraries, riders, are provided with schedules and timetables, and all can create and exchange contracts and invoices with automatic templates. Optune facilitates the sharing and processing of all relevant event details, and every player can view the event and contribute to it in the same shared online space.

Once an artist is booked to appear an automated social media marketing programme kicks in.

BOLD Awards 2020

Marketplaces is one of 12 categories in the BOLD Awards 2020. You can check all 12 categories – which include AI, Robotics, Fintech, Agritech and Open Innovation – and submit your entry here, to December 31.

Public online voting will take place in January 2020, a panel of international judges will decide category winners, and awards will be presented at a black-tie ceremony hosted by our event partner H-Farm on their campus just outside Venice, Italy. The date for that is March 27, 2020. So, what are you waiting for?

Smart Farming, or the Future of Agriculture

Smart Farming, or the Future of Agriculture

We are a Ukraine-based company which means that our parents and grandparents lived in the era of infamous Soviet collective farms, where tractors were considered to be an ultimate technology. For them, a smart farm will sound like a fairy tale.

So let it be, a fairy tale of a smart farm.

First of all, what is a smart farm?

Smart Farming is a concept of farming management using modern Information and Communication Technologies to increase the quantity and quality of products.

Among the technologies available for present-day farmers there are

  • Sensing technologies, including soil scanning, water, light, humidity, temperature management;
  • Software applications — specialized software solutions that target specific farm types;
  • Communication technologies, such as cellular communication;
  • Positioning technologies, including GPS;
  • Hardware and software systems that enable IoT-based solutions, robotics and automation; and
  • Data analytics, that underlies the decision making and prediction processes.
Technologies involved in smart farming, according to Beecham Research 

Armed with all possible tools, farmers can monitor the field conditions without even going to the field and make strategic decisions for the whole farm or for a single plant.

The driving force of the smart farming is the IoT — the concept of connected smart machines and sensors integrated on farms to make farming processes data-driven and data-enabled.

IoT-based farming cycle:

The core of the IoT is the data — and more data. To optimize the farming process, IoT devices installed on a farm should collect and process data in a repeated cycle that enables farmers to quickly react to emerging issues and changes in ambient conditions.

Observation — sensors record observational data from the crops, livestock, the soil or atmosphere.

Diagnostics — the sensor values are fed to specific software with predefined decision rules and models that ascertains the condition of the examined object and any deficiencies or needs.

Decisions — after issues are revealed, the software determines whether location-specific treatment is necessary and if so, which.

Implementation — the treatment needs to be performed by means of the correct operation of machines.

After evaluation, the cycle repeats from the beginning.

It is believed that the IoT can add value to all areas of farming from growing crops to forestry. In this blogpost, we’ll talk about two big spheres where IoT systems can revolutionize agriculture: precision farming and farming automation/robotization.

Precision Farming

Applications of IoT in agriculture

Precision farming, or precision agriculture, is an umbrella notion for IoT-based approaches that make farming more controlled and accurate. In simple words, plants and cattle get precisely the treatment they need, determined with great accuracy. The biggest difference from the classical approach is that precision farming allows decisions to be made per square meter or even per plant/animal rather than for a field.

By precisely measuring variations within a field, farmers can boost the effectiveness of pesticides and fertilizers, or use them selectively.

Precision Livestock Farming

Like in the case of precision agriculture, Smart Farming techniques, enable farmers to better monitor the needs of individual animals and adjust their nutrition correspondingly, thereby preventing disease and enhancing herd health.

Besides, large farm owners can use wireless IoT applications to monitor the location, well-being, and health of their cattle. With this information they can identify animals that are sick so they can be separated from the herd, and prevent the spread of disease.

Smart Farming, or the Future of Agriculture

Automation in Smart Greenhouses

Traditional greenhouses control the environmental parameters through manual intervention or a proportional control mechanism which often results in production loss, energy loss, and increased labor cost.

And IoT driven smart greenhouse intelligently monitors as well as controls the climate, eliminating the need for manual intervention. To do so, different sensors that measure the environmental parameters according to the plant requirement are used and store it in a cloud for further processing and control with minimal manual intervention.

Agricultural Drones

Agriculture is one of the major industries to incorporate both ground-based and aerial drones for crop health assessment, irrigation, crop monitoring, crop spraying, planting, soil and field analysis and other spheres.

Since drones collect multispectral, thermal, and visual imagery during the flight, the collected data provide farmers with insights into plant health indices, plant counting and yield prediction, plant height measurement, canopy cover mapping, field water ponding mapping, scouting reports, stockpile measuring, chlorophyll measurement, nitrogen content in wheat, drainage mapping, weed pressure mapping, and so on.

Importantly, IoT-based smart farming targets not only large-scale farming operations, but can also add value to growing trends in agriculture like organic farming, family farming, including breeding particular cattle and/or growing specific cultures, preservation of particular or high quality varieties etc., and enhance highly transparent farming to consumers, society and market consciousness.

Smart Farming, or the Future of Agriculture

Internet of food and farm 2020

If we have the Internet of Things and the Internet of Medical Things, why not have one for food? The European Commission project Internet of Food and Farm 2020 (IoF2020), a part of Horizon 2020 Industrial Leadership, explores through research and regular conferences the potential of IoT technologies for the European food and farming industry.

It is believed that the potential of a smart web of sensors, actuators, cameras, robots, drones, and other connected devices brings an unprecedented level of control and automated decision-making and makes it possible to build a lasting innovative ecosystem.

Third Green Revolution

Smart Farming and IoT-driven agriculture pave the way for what can be called a Third Green Revolution.

Following the plant breeding and genetics revolutions, the Third Green Revolution is taking over the agriculture based upon the combined application of Information and Communication Technologies such as precision equipment, the Internet of Things, sensors and actuators, geo-positioning systems, Big Data, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, drones), robotics, etc.

In the future depicted by this revolution, pesticide and fertilizer use will drop while overall efficiency will be optimized. IoT technologies will enable better traceability of food which in turn will lead to increased food safety. It will also be beneficial for the environment, for example, through more efficient use of water, or optimization of treatments and inputs.

Therefore, Smart Farming has a real potential to deliver a more productive and sustainable agricultural production, based on a more precise and resource-efficient approach. New farms will finally realize the eternal dream of the mankind and feed our growing population that may reach 9.6 billion by 2050.

BOLD Awards 2020

Agritech – smart farming – is one of 12 categories in the BOLD Awards 2020. Other categories include AI, Robotics, Science, Advertising, Fintech and Marketplaces. The full list, and the place to submit an entry in any of the categories, is here. After a round of public voting and assessment by a panel of international judges, category winners will receive their award at a prestigious black-tie ceremony on March 27th 2020 in Venice, Italy. Entries can be submitted now and up to December 31.

Article credit: written by Sciforce, a Ukraine-based IT company specialized in development of software solutions based on science-driven information technologies #AI #ML #IoT #NLP #Healthcare #DevOps