Live Lowdown with Tom Summerfield, Retail Director at Peak ai
" I think the biggest thing that we've heard and seen for multi-channel retailers is that footfall is massively down in shops, which is not a great surprise. But conversion rate of that footfall has gone through the roof. So we've been catapulted into a world where window shopping is no longer a thing. People are people going shopping, they're going with intent, essentially."
Hannah Tovey 0:01
Hello, I am Hannah Tovey and I am Programme Director of Retail Week Live. I am joined today by Tom Summerfield from Peak.ai. Hi, Tom, thank you for joining us.
Tom Summerfield 0:11
Hey. Thank you.
Hannah Tovey 0:15
Tom, for anyone who doesn't know you walk or Peak.ai, can you tell us who you are and what you do, please?
Tom Summerfield 0:23
Yeah, so I'm Tom. I am the Retail Director at Peak. I've actually been at Peak just coming up to three months now. I've been around peak quite a bit longer because I was working with Peak at Footasylum, where amongst other things, I was owning the AI projects we were doing there. And at Peak, we work with all sorts of different companies, a lot of retailers and in manufacturing and CPG verticals as well, helping them do great things with their data, essentially.
Hannah Tovey 0:55
Awesome. Thank you. So first question, since COVID-19 first hit Europe, customer buying habits have changed dramatically. What are some of the trends that you've seen and has anything surprised you?
Tom Summerfield 1:13
Yeah, there has been most certainly been some things that have changed. I think the biggest thing that we've heard and seen for multi-channel retailers is that footfall is massively down in shops, which is not a great surprise. But conversion rate of that footfall has gone through the roof, basically. So we've been catapulted into a world where like, window shopping is no longer a thing. So people are people going shopping, they're going with intent, essentially. And it whilst there has been a massive shift to online, it's good to see some people out in the shops, I guess. Online was growing anyway, and this has just accelerated it. But yeah, the footfall piece in stores and the conversion rate has been the biggest thing. I think just along with that, it's made a lot of businesses, and we found that the market has really matured in terms of people wanting to turn and face like AI particularly into in their sort of digital transformation journeys.
Hannah Tovey 2:15
Yeah. And and obviously Peak.ai is all about artificial intelligence. What role do you think AI will play in the future of retail as we move forward in this sort of post COVID world?
Tom Summerfield 2:31
It depends which area, where where you sit. We play in a lot of like, customer facing stuff for people. And then we also do a lot of work in like demand planning, forecasting, pricing, that sort of stuff. So I think with the customer stuff, it's really made people realise that like, so we speak to lots of businesses, customers of ours that like, we've gained so many new customers digitally, digitally through this period. We don't know where they've come from. We don't know if we can keep them or how to talk to them. So using AI to nurture those conversations with all your customer facing stuff, through personalization and stuff from from an acquisition and retention piece. Ultimately, that's going to bring more control into the hands of the businesses to control channel mix and things like that moving forward. And then from a demand piece. One of the loads of ways it'll change and affect it, but one of the biggest, most pertinent ones right now is pricing. So lots of businesses is like a, you know, the world is like racing after the top line always. But it doesn't have to come at the price of the bottom line. So using AI effectively to optimise pricing strategy is something that we're seeing right now. And we're helping people with that actually. That's a that's a real big one, I think. Yeah.
Hannah Tovey 3:59
Looking at your customers, there's a lot of doom and gloom out there. And we're really keen to hear all those positive good news stories. Are there any stories that you can share of companies who you've worked with, that you've really helped navigate this quite challenging period?
Tom Summerfield 4:20
I think we've got some press release stuff coming out actually with one of them, let's call them a fast fashion retailer for now. Wewere helping them with like new customer acquisition through this period, they wanted to pivot into some new markets. So using the AI powered sort of segmentation of their database, we were able to leverage this and help them very efficiently get after some new markets through this period, which has been really cool to see the results of that. That's from a new customer acquisition piece, and then constantly from something I can say for the work we were doing it for asylum, and for us and through all this period have been able to sort of cut through the noise, you know, everyone's sort of migrating online, everyone inverted commas, and there's a lot of noise online now digitally. So customers will not noticea more personalised approach. It's sort of expected now. We've been able to help brands and retailers sort of nurture those customer relationships, even through this period of better personalised content, essentially. And then, I just touched on as well, but the pricing piece, we got some really cool, we can't talk about that publicly. But the pricing piece, so getting that, helping retailers spend more allocated markdown budget that they may have pre-allocated, but then also helping them to react in a very responsible ultimately, like profitable way is really, really cool to see through this period. And that's going to continue through this year, I think.
Hannah Tovey 5:57
Yeah. When is that press release coming? So we can look.
Tom Summerfield 6:02
I think it's imminent.
Hannah Tovey 6:06
That's good to know. And, with the benefit of hindsight, which is obviously a marvellous thing, it's quite clear now that lockdown was here to be quite long lasting. Knowing that, is there anything that you perhaps would have done differently within your team, either with Peak.ai or when you were with Footasylum? Are there things that you think have worked really well, that you want to continue to do? And similarly, are there things that you've gone, hang on, we tried and failed. But we had some fab learnings from that. So there's kind of two questions.
Tom Summerfield 6:51
Well, I think something that I would have done, is I would have stocked up on more like chopped tomatoes. Is something I would have done! And I wouldn't have booked a holiday.
Hannah Tovey 7:03
What are you making with all the chopped tomatoes?
Tom Summerfield 7:07
I'm still struggling to get my hands on it yet! No. And I wouldn't have booked a holiday to Andalusia at us for sure. I think something that has been really cool is actually adapting to like working from home with all the video calls and stuff. That surprised me a little bit to be honest at how good that's been because whilst I think the novelty of it is starting, it's a little bit jaded and you know, a bit tiring in parts now. I think largely on the whole productivity has been brilliant. Communication with customers is fantastic. I It's actually been easier to chat to people in some ways. So I think that's probably the coolest thing that's come out of it, is the adaptation of still having a brilliant team mentality. Peak are pretty well set up, everything's in the cloud and stuff anyway. As I was leaving Footasylum it was just when locked down was on the cusp of happening. And Footasylum weren't massively geared up for that. But I know that that's been a completely transformational piece for those guys as well, which is cool to see. So, yeah, I think that there's obviously been little bumps, but I think everyone's adapted great.
Hannah Tovey 8:20
Yeah, there's been so many examples of retailers who were not set up to work from home, but really quickly transformed to support of their colleagues, and we're hearing you know, things with retailers who did that, like 3000 people. It's, it's amazing how quickly people adapted really, to that change. Yeah, can't imagine thats an easy feat.
Tom Summerfield 8:43
Some of the businesses that we work with, I don't think that, they're not rushing back to the office, to be honest. I think like it, it's productivity is like through the roof for some of them, which is, you know, I don't know if that's even that sustainable sometimes because I think we're all we've all got very, very busy. But now I think that certainly for the rest of this year, it feels like it's going to be a bit like this still.
Hannah Tovey 9:08
Yeah. I think a really positive thing from this is that, you employ your team because you trust them to do a really great job. And hopefully they can do that, whether that's from at home or in an office, as long as they are on it and on their device. You trust them to do their job.
Tom Summerfield 9:30
Yeah, it's not been a problem at Peak. It's even kicked everyone on bit.
Hannah Tovey 9:37
It's great to know. Fab! Tom, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.
Tom Summerfield 9:42
Yeah, thanks alot Hannah.