Retail: Tech and ESG as Catalysts of Revolutionary Change

Retail: Tech and ESG as Catalysts of Revolutionary Change

Paul Cheval

06 December 2023
5 minute read


On November 28 and 29, the Tech for Retail trade show in Paris highlighted the key priorities of the retail sector. This European event, focusing on technological innovations and eco-responsible solutions, unveiled cutting-edge perspectives and major industry trends.

As we near the end of 2023, we are witnessing a rapid adoption of new technologies, coupled with an unprecedented commitment to sustainability. These advancements are in perfect alignment with the conclusions of recent studies.

  Key highlights
  • Rapid adoption of AI in the retail sector
  • Collaboration over replacement between people and technology
  • Sustainability and circularity have become essential retail pillars
  • Trust is more crucial than ever in retail
  • The retail sector is at the forefront of global geopolitical change                                                          

Artificial Intelligence as a lever for transformation 

2023 has proven to be a pivotal year for generative AI, with rapid adoption in various industries. According to McKinsey's "The State of AI in 2023" Survey, more than a third of companies are already integrating these tools into at least one of their functions, and 40% plan to increase their AI investments. In retail, AI has become a powerful lever for transformation, crucial for enhancing customer experience and personalizing offers. This was highlighted by David Galley (BCG) and François Loviton (Google) in their presentation.


However, AI raises a crucial question: are we witnessing a fruitful collaboration between man and machine, or will AI become a threat to employment?

For Franck Le Moal, CIO of LVMH, technology is inseparable from human talent. In his keynote, he emphasized how LVMH uses AI to enhance human craftsmanship, not to replace it. Their mission: to offer a seamless and omnichannel customer experience in perfect harmony with technology, delivering the right product at the right time. This year, the focus has been on data and Gen AI, used cautiously for sales forecasting and logistics.

The luxury sector is thus fully committed to this digital revolution, as evidenced by the BCG’s “True Luxury Global Consumer Insight 2023” Survey. Generative AI promises to revolutionize luxury by enabling personalized treatments on a large scale.

The impact of ESG practices

Sustainable development and circularity have become undeniable pillars of retail. Figures such as Amandine de Souza (Leboncoin), Chantal Jouanno (former Secretary of State for Ecology), François Xavier O'Mahony (Accenture), and Géraldine Olivier (Fnac-Darty) illustrated the positive impact of ESG practices. The Deloitte’s "Global Powers of Retailing 2023" Survey confirms this trend with 73% of Retail sector CXOs increasing their investments in sustainable development.

A strategic choice in response to customer expectations and upcoming regulations, particularly in the EU. In luxury, 65% of consumers are influenced by sustainability in their purchasing decisions (BCG’s Luxury Survey).


The challenges of trust in an era of radical regeneration

Trust in retail is more crucial than ever, as revealed by the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer. Retail players must not only adapt to radical changes but also rebuild and maintain consumer trust. This requires increased transparency, social and environmental responsibility, and the ability to innovate sustainably and inclusively.

Erik R. Peterson, in his lecture "World in peril: Radical regeneration", highlighted the global geopolitical transformation. According to him, in a world marked by geopolitical reinitialization, Retail is at the vanguard of radical change. He highlighted the transformation from a unipolar to a multipolar world, marked by the rise of the BRICS and other powers. A multiplicity of forces, coupled with political inflection points and a transformation of the global military balance, poses unique challenges for the Retail sector.

On the economic front, the 2.6% growth trend forecast for the rest of the decade reveals a period of uncertainty, exacerbated by the risk of global fragmentation. Retail must navigate this complex landscape, where national economies such as India and Vietnam are showing faster growth, challenging traditional models.

Conclusion: a future rich in possibilities and challenges

The retail sector is in constant reinvention, driven by technological innovation and sustainability imperatives. Companies that quickly adapt to these changes will position themselves as the leaders of tomorrow.

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