What awaits retail in the future? Summary of Retail Summit 2019

Paweł Więsek
What awaits retail in the future? Summary of Retail Summit 2019
7 min.

Retail Summit 2019, the largest conference in Poland dedicated to the Retail&FMCG sector, gathered representatives of the world’s leading brands.

Dozens of inspirational speeches and discussions emphasizing the importance of innovation in all areas of business conducted by companies from the retail and FMCG sectors, interesting conversations and exchange of ideas behind the scenes – this is just a brief summary of the 11th edition of Poland&CEE Retail Summit 2019, which ended a few days ago.

The formula of the event, divided into lectures in the main session and experts’ speeches in several parallel thematic modules, enabled the conference participants to take part in presentations suited to their interests. What were the leading themes of the event? The speeches were grouped into the following modules:

  • Trade in Poland 2020,
  • Cooperation between retail chains and FMCG manufacturers,
  • E-commerce in retail,
  • Omnishopper in the world of brands,
  • Supply chain excellence,
  • Futurology.

New technologies and innovation

The subject discussed by many speakers at the conference was the issue of planning and implementing innovation – both in the area of customer purchasing experience (online and offline), as well as logistics and building modern delivery channels. In particular, the importance of innovation through new technologies was repeatedly stressed.

The first speeches at the conference concerned the changes that retail has to prepare for in the face of changing technologies. Agnieszka Sora (GFK Polonia) referred, for example, to trends such as simplifying the shopping payment process (scan&go), interactive store circulars and automation of logistics processes. Michał Pieprzny (Deloitte) in turn discussed the impact of digital tools on purchasing decisions and the execution of the purchasing process. From both of these presentations it could be inferred that the shopping habits of Poles, especially those of the young generation, are constantly evolving. Retailers have to adapt quickly to these changes and keep up with them. Consumers who go shopping in brick-and-mortar stores with a smartphone are increasingly aware of the characteristics of particular products, their substitutes and the prices of competitive goods.

“Technology changes the rules of the game” (Francois Colombie, Ex-CEO, Auchan Polska)

Francois Colombie (Ex-CEO, Auchan Polska) also talked about rapid changes that take place in business, reflecting that those unfamiliar with the principle “today it is technology that changes the rules of the game” are no longer present on the market.

This was also the main thrust of the debate about the macroeconomic situation in the region and the impact it has on business. The debate featured, among others, Krzysztof Krawczyk (Head of Poland, CVC Capital Partners / Żabka), Piotr Nowjalis (Board Member CCC / Dino Polska), Francois Colombie (Ex-CEO, Auchan Polska) and Ewa Białek (Head of Retail and Services Desk, DNB Bank Polska S.A). As pointed out by the speakers, innovation should be of paramount value to all persons performing important functions in companies, and investments made in times of prosperity should focus on the areas where a competitive advantage can be built in the long term. As Piotr Nowjalis concluded, today the market does not leave much choice to companies: they must either keep up with it or accept that they will disappear from it altogether.

An interesting moment in the main panel of the conference was also a speech by Carolina Garcia Gomez (CEO, Ikea Polska) on the importance of today’s digital transformation. The speaker drew attention to the growing awareness of Polish customers (and brands) about environmental protection, as well as non-discrimination and equal rights in employment, and to the impact that ignoring these areas in operational activities may have on corporations present on our market.

Jarosław Sokolnicki (Head of Industry Solutions Retail & Consumer Goods, Microsoft) and Alicja Koleśnik (President of the Management Board, DOZ S.A.) in turn described the digital transformation in the retail sector by using the example of their cooperation with Dbam o Zdrowie, a network of online pharmacies. The presentation centered, among other things, on the demonstration of plans to launch the first land-based pharmacy, which Microsoft is going to support with intelligent technological solutions.

“Thinkbig – Digital Transformation in Retail”.


“Artificial intelligence and algorithms are not the future, but the present” (Sebastian Starzyński, ABR SESTA).

The futurological panel, organized on the first day of the conference, was largely dominated by the subject of artificial intelligence and algorithms, which, as the speakers proved, are not a song of the future, but the reality that surrounds us. The lectures started with a most interesting speech by Aleksandra Przegalińska (PhD in Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence), who was telling the participants what a significant role artificial intelligence (AI) plays in the digitization process today. The speaker also emphasized the importance of advancing the knowledge about AI, as well as its potential and effective application in everyday life. In her speech, Aleksandra Przegalińska paid particular attention to bots and their role in automation processes, e.g. in natural language processing. According to other predictions from Aleksandra Przegalińska, we can also expect a further evolution of the way we use our mobile devices – intelligent assistants, with whom we will communicate in natural language, will be increasingly present in them. This seems to be a matter of not too distant a future.

Aleksandra Przegalińska (PhD in Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence).

The growing importance of artificial intelligence was also emphasized by Sebastian Starzyński (CEO, ABR SESTA), who, in his controversial speech entitled “Food shopping doesn’t matter anymore – in 10 years’ time it will be like hot water in the tap”, talked about how new technologies already help the retail industry to optimize individual business processes (e.g. in logistics) or process huge amounts of data in Big Data systems. The speaker also stressed that the increasingly popular today Machine Learning (ML) and more widely – artificial intelligence – are not only about directing us home or to our favorite restaurant automatically via the map application, but also about ordering our favorite juice by Alexa with one sentence (Amazon’s virtual assistant already present in a few dozen million American homes). Today, an interesting trend is to combine different systems in order to achieve a synergy that will maximally facilitate our daily activities. For example, thanks to the partnership project of Amazon, Ford and Starbucks, the car navigation system will take you directly to the nearest coffee shop of a popular chain if you express a desire to drink coffee after getting into your car.

“Some occupations will soon be replaced by algorithms” (Sebastian Starzyński, ABR SESTA).

In his presentation Sebastian Starzyński also predicted that the progress of robotization and artificial intelligence is so fast that soon such professions as accountant would be replaced by algorithms.

Sebastian Starzyński (CEO, ABR SESTA)

“How are new technologies changing retail at the store level today and in a few years’ time?”

The conference also featured a debate on the impact of technology on the retail sector today and in the future, attended by Grzegorz Wazowicz (Carrefour Polska), Konrad Jezierski (eobuwie.pl) and Piotr Szarwas (Eurocash). All the speakers agreed that having a constantly growing number of new technological solutions at your disposal, it is important to choose them wisely and implement only those that can have a real, valuable impact on business development.

Paweł Krawczyk (Development Leader, Decathlon) also talked about the technology involved in the purchasing process at the Decathlon chain. The speaker quoted an example of one of Warsaw’s Dehathlon land-based stores, which serves as a “testing ground” for new solutions and technologies. For example, the shop tests the marking of products with a special sensor that automates and speeds up the process of counting goods at the checkout counters. As a result, payment for goods is maximally shortened there and contributes to building better customer experience.

Among many other speeches, it is worth noting the lecture by Christopher Rabatel (CEO, Carrefour Polska), who talked about the business transformation of the Carrefour chain and the importance of the technological revolution in the chain’s strategy, an example of which is the strategic partnership between Carrefour and Google.

Sustainable development in business

The discussion on sustainable development in modern business featured Maciej Ptaszyński (General Manager, Polish Chamber of Commerce), Marcin Łojewski (Member of the Board, Kaufland Polska), Martin Behan (Managing Director, Tesco Polska), Geraldine Huse (CEO, P&G Polska), Marek Borowski (President, Federation of Polish Food Banks) and Gerjo Scheringa (CEO, Euro Pool Group).

One of the most interesting lectures during the main session was the speech by Grażyna Piotrowska-Oliwa (CEO, Virgin Mobile Poland), who described the challenges of the modern CEO in the era of omnipresent digitization. According to the speaker, modern business is driven primarily by digitization (in the sense of a transition from automation to digitization – processes are to be faster, simpler and accessible from anywhere in the world), cyber security, as well as the maximum reduction of traditional operating costs of the company. How do CEOs perceive the importance of digitization for organizations? The following data appeared in the presentation:

  • 47% of CEOs acknowledge that shareholders require them to make significant progress in the digital transition of their business;
  • 56% of CEOs admit that their digital improvements have increased the profits of the organizations they manage;
  • 20% of CEOs recognize and use digital transformation as a key approach to doing business. This means the digitization of all processes.

Futurology – cont.

On the second day of the conference in the Futurology module, we had the pleasure of listening to speeches by Grzegorz Wazowicz (Financial and Commercial Services Director, Carrefour) as well as Krzysztof Witkowski and Ivan Hernandez from EY Polska.

Grzegorz Wazowicz (Carrefour) described the process of business and technological changes that took place in the last two years in the Carrefour chain, while Krzysztof Witkowski and Ivan Hernandez from EY Polska closed this part of the conference with a very interesting presentation “The Perfect Store: Reinventing Retail with the Internet of Things”.

Krzysztof Witkowski (EYnovation Lider, Associate Partner , EY).

Current trends: total digitization.

Current trends in the sector can be described as “total digitization”. Retail and FMCG, as well as other branches of the economy, are constantly looking for tools to minimize operating costs and optimize business processes. IT solutions automating work and enabling full control over data will continue to gain popularity. In the era of reality changing so fast, IT can no longer hinder business development. Thus, we have further confirmation that the latest solutions from eLeader perfectly match the forecasts and strategies defined by market leaders.

Retail Summit 2020 – you’ve got to be there!

The above summaries of selected speeches are only a glimpse of the highlights of this year’s Poland & CEE Retail Summit 2019. Apart from the tremendous dose of knowledge and analysis of the most important trends in retail, the great added value was also the openness of all conference participants – the readiness to talk and share their experience.

The organizers of Retail Summit 2019 stood up to the challenge. Without a shadow of a doubt, the conference has become one of the most important events for decision-makers of the retail sector in Poland and the region. You just cannot afford to miss it!