Retail Innovation and A Platformised Economy | A Q&A with CEO Kate Ancketill

20 October 2017

The CEO founder of London and New York-based retail trend consultancy GDR Creative Intelligence, Kate Ancketill shares insights on the technological, human, digital and physical innovations that will change the face of retail, hospitality, finance and industry.

We spoke to her at our recent Knowledge Guild event, which focussed on marketing and branding.

What was the inspiration behind GDR Creative Intelligence?

GDR Creative Intelligence is a retail trend consultancy, and we generally work with retailers and manufacturers. We speak on all subjects to do with innovation in the retail and hospitality space: that's less about the consumer, and more about the actual innovation that we’re seeing at all consumer touch points – physical, digital, marketing-related, e-commerce, social, how you engage your store associate, how you increase your footfall in store, how you understand the big picture trajectory, and so on.

GDR existed as a business slightly before I arrived -  but in a different form. Back then, my job was to get to know the creative industry and to matchmake the creative agencies with the clients. For example, Unilever – new packaging roster – find us the right packaging agencies across or below the line of all creative industries. When I was there for about four years, I bought the company from the previous owners and turned it into what it became: trend-forecasting.  We still took in the content and the inspirational creativity of the creative industries – below-the-line design agencies mostly – and crunched that into trends, which we then made available to our clients and retailers.

Can you describe some of these trends?

Many of our clients are interested the nitty-gritty of hospitality and retail innovation.

However, I also look at the upstream bigger picture of the socioeconomic and technological issue impacting retail that's further down the line.

When I speak at board-level, which I tend to do a lot of these days, they don't need to know about the tactical issues of retail innovation, but tend to need to know more about what's going to happen as we move toward a more platformised economy, the impact of the fourth industrial revolution, what's happening if you are a legacy retailer with physical retail, and the disadvantage you're at compared to all these new digital native brands, what happens when you're a retailer that's not Amazon or Alibaba.

Domination by the likes of Amazon or Alibaba is certainly a frightening prospect! Tell us, how do you go about finding the trends that are likely to impact your clients?

Because the business started originally as a matchmaking service between creative industries and clients, we developed really great relationships all over the world with the world's best designers, architects, technology companies and marketers. So, over those years, we encouraged them to submit their work to us as case studies, and then essentially we crunch it together into what we see as trends.

How can businesses go about future-proofing in light of these challenges ahead?

There are many ways - obviously not operating in silos, many of our clients have innovation labs, or skunkworks, or bespoke 'sections' of the business that are given innovation as a project so that they aren't working on their day job. But also all sorts of businesses use us, and people like us, in different ways. Essentially our job is to inspire them to top up their innovation pipeline and to make sure that they are looking outside of their sectors - because everyone looks at their own competitors, and that doesn't necessarily get you anywhere. We try to encourage them to look at completely different sectors, because that's where we think to new innovation really comes from.

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