Retail Conference 2011, a fantastic day of workshops and business briefings that explored the state of the retail sector, shared insights into the market and brought together like minded individuals from both retail and services sectors.

This is one of my most favourite events of the year and I had the privilege of leading a conference workshop looking into the truth behind optimised retailing.

The attendees for the workshop came from all verticals within retail – electrical, fashion, FMCG and grocery to name but a few and there was a resounding consensus that optimised retailing is not just about price, it is about the customer experience that is delivered from the blend and compromise of quality, service and price.

The internet and mobile technologies have opened many new sales channels over the last decade and typically each new sales channel has been adopted in an isolated way at the point of implementation. Over the past 18 months we have seen increasing consumer demand for a consistent cross-channel experience.

Today it is the inability to deliver this consistent customer experience regardless of channel which threatens the future of the modern retailer.

The future of retail lies in creating a seamless and integrated customer experience across multiple touch points. Too often, we are seeing markedly different shopping experiences in store compared to online or via mail order and in this day and age there is no excuse for it.

Customers want to have the same experience, regardless of what channel they use. They want you to recognise them, to remember what they purchased and to offer them options which meet their needs and the way you embrace technology will determine how well you achieve this.

The customer is now very well educated in terms of the benefits of technology, using smartphones, tablets, etc. and it is this accelerated adoption of technology by the customer that is now making more retailers explore ways to embrace technology into their shopping experience.

From iPhone Apps and contactless payments to QR codes and sales by text, the next few years are going to be an exciting but challenging time for retailers. The past decade has been highly characterised by the internet and this is only going to develop further with the future decade seeing great developments in technology.

The question will be who will be brave enough to embrace the inevitable and who will choose to sit by the wayside, pretending they’ll be ok to just carry on doing things the way they always have. I for one will not be resting on my laurels but looking at new and exciting ways that we can use technology to keep pace with the modern consumer.