Alex Murray, Digital Director at Lidl, joined us recently for Episode 3 of our podcast series The Retail Revolution. On the agenda for discussion, amongst other things, was the issue of emerging tech and how this is affecting retailers in 2018, and how it will continue to impact over the coming years.

A Modern Languages graduate, Alex Murray has also been a lover of all things tech, a passion he attributes in part to the fact that his parents were early adopters of tech. Whilst working in the wine industry, Murray delved into the world of wine forums in the early days of the internet, and his journey into retail and really begun. He held various E-commerce and multi-channel positions at Waitrose before moving to his current role at Lidl.

Alex Murray clearly appreciates the importance of tech. He says, “Technology drives so much of the sort of consumer change. And so that means as a retailer, the fact that you’re always having to reinvent yourself and stay close to what your customers are doing.”

Emerging tech will emerge at a quicker pace than before

A really interesting observation that Alex Murray makes is about the time it takes for new technologies to emerge, embed and mature. He cites mobile as an example. Recalling attending conferences over ten years ago that were heralding the future importance of mobile, he explains that “it probably took another five or six years really for that to take hold to a degree that it has now within our society.”

Now he feels that things are accelerating at a quicker pace and he has the sense that lead times are reducing. He believes the big topics of the day for retailers to be “what technology can do in terms of helping us understand and get close to our customers.”

A hint of what the future might hold

Alex Murray believes there are “some really interesting innovations and disruptive technologies coming on stream now that are still pretty nascent and undeveloped now, but kind of give a hint towards what might be coming in the future.”

How we pay for goods and services will be affected by this new tech. Murray believes that ‘conversational interfaces’ will become more popular and the opportunities for conversational commerce is another key emerging development in the retail space.

Murray also feels that AI and machine learning are giving retailers a glimpse of the future and “things like one to one personalization and programmatic marketing.”

The excitement that Alex Murray feels about tech and the future is tangible, but he also offers a word of caution to retailers. He warns against the use of technology for technology’s sake. He believes it should be about the retailer getting closer to the customer.

He suggests some key questions that retailers should ask when it comes to emerging tech: “How is it helping you as a retailer to help your customers? How is it helping to give them a more informed experience? How is it helping them to access your brand, your services?”

Alex Murray is a firm believer that tech should always be about improving customers’ lives.

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