Cate Trotter

Head of Trends, Insider Trends
Cate Trotter is the Founder and Head of Trends at Insider Trends, a leading London-based retail futures consultancy. Insider Trends helps brands such as Chanel, Marks & Spencer, Walmart, House of Fraser, Lancome, L’Oreal, Samsung, Clarins, Metro Group, Lego and EE innovate and create world-leading retail ecosystems. Insider Trends works with senior team members such as Chief Executives, Managing Directors and other C-Level professionals, specialising in retail trend presentations and retail safaris. Insider Trends' retail safaris give clients first-hand experience of the latest trends in action and introduces them to the innovators who can solve problems with the latest thinking and technology. Cate's work draws on the latest case studies, solid data, and insights from her personal connections with retail innovators. As Insider Trends delivers retail safaris in London, New York, Paris and Berlin, she often comments from her own experience of world-leading retail spaces. Visit:
  • Posted on: 01/17/2020

    NRF 2020 Review: Human vs. Machine

    Right now, robots can't communicate at anywhere near the level that another human being can. There's a place for them within some retail businesses, but it's more in a service delivery role like behind-the-scenes product picking and so on. In 10 years... who knows? Technology is advancing quickly and it may be that robots become human-like in their communication sophistication by then. The question is will customers want it? Will we want to talk to a robot in a store? Or would we prefer a silent robotic partner where we use our smart devices and apps to make requests and place orders that the robot fulfills? It's important to remember that just because a technology can do something doesn't mean that it matches up with the human expectation or want. That gap exists. It might narrow or even close in time but ultimately it's about making the right choices of where to put technology and where to put human workers.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2020

    Will endless aisles and better supply chain management negate Amazon’s edge?

    It's hard to point at any one or two approaches and say that they're the answer to helping retailers catch up to Amazon. It's so unique to the specific retailer and their customers, what they sell and how they shop. One thing to take onboard from Amazon's figures is that it makes sense that it would sell a lot of Prime memberships during the holiday season when the advantages around delivery really benefit people buying gifts for a time-specific event. It will be interesting to see how many of those new members it holds onto now that the need to have something for Christmas has passed. What retailers can learn from this though is that customers want security when they're shopping. They want to know they're going to be able to get what they want when they want it. BOPIS, endless aisles, bolstering your supply chains are all ways of helping achieve this, but customers need to have the perception that you can deliver the goods when it comes down to it.
  • Posted on: 12/20/2019

    Amazon gets more free with free returns

    Let's face it, Amazon set the bar for many of the things that customer now expect when it comes to ecommerce and delivery. An expansion of free returns is just another facet of this. I think it's really just a formalisation of something that most customers perceive Amazon as offering anyway, but of course this experience will lead to them expecting the same from other retailers. The challenge is that Amazon is better equipped than most to manage the logistics of the service and the costs. By extending its free returns it may well gain even more market share as it gives customers another reason to choose it over other retailers who cannot necessarily do the same.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2019

    One of the best Christmas commercials ever cost almost nothing to make

    What do the Christmas commercials that resonate have in common? They all tell a good story. And it's often one that we can personally relate to either in terms of the sentiment, the setting, the participants, or the emotions. Haford Hardware has just proved that what you have to say is more important than how you say it -- you don't have to have masses of bells, whistles and budget if the message is authentic. Retailers can certainly learn from it but they shouldn't try to emulate but apply that learning to their own brand.
  • Posted on: 12/10/2019

    Did Aviation Gin just make lemonade from Peloton’s lemons?

    Aviation Gin saw a great opportunity and took it. This is the new norm in this fast moving world. The whole world was talking about Peloton so Aviation tapped into that in a smart way that reflected, and in turn boosted, its own brand. I think it shows why brands need to know themselves and what they stand for in the same way that perhaps Peloton didn't think about with their own ad.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2019

    To localize stores or not, that is the question for retailers

    Is it really either or? Are we saying you can't stay true to your brand and adapt to the local market? Rough Trade's store could still have the same overall look and feel of the brand but make sure it also promotes local links, e.g. displays of music from artists from that area, local acts performing in the space and so on. I think every retailer should be looking on what tweaks they can make to make each store a little more individual while still remaining part of the brand. When they're away from home why would customers want to visit a cookie cutter of the space on their local high street? Whether it's location-based exclusives, localised displays, differences in design (eg local artists doing murals), different services or something else, visiting the brand should feel cohesive, but never exactly the same. Even big retailers can do this in basic ways as Primark shows with its localised signage which highlights features of the local area. Of course big retailers also have a chance to do both in a more distinct way because of the size of their portfolio -- take Nike for example. It's now got its localised stores and its general global concept.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2019

    The holiday season promises many unhappy returns for retailers

    Returns are certainly a conundrum. While they come at a high price for retailers, customers pretty much expect free returns as standard. It's understandable that if you're going to buy something online that you've never seen, felt or tried in person that you want to feel secure in doing so. Free returns offer that security because you know you're not stuck with it if you don't like it when you get it or if it doesn't fit etc. I have seen talk of offering incentives to customers on the promise that they won't return an item (or at least won't get a free return) e.g. giving them free shipping in exchange for paid returns or offering a small discount on the proviso they can't return it (unless it's faulty, etc). It's tough to see these sticking, though. As already noted, retailers who have physical stores are benefitting from reduced costs around returns. I wonder if we might see more online only retailers opening pop-up logistic spaces in shopping centres and high streets over the holiday season to mitigate this issue. These spaces might open during the shopping process so that customers can have their parcels sent to the physical store and then try them on using on-site fitting rooms and other try-out spaces to see if they want to keep them. The retailer can then use the space in January to allow customers to bring back gifts for a refund. Ultimately though there's no easy fix. You can try to give people the best possible information at the point of purchase (photos, videos, product descriptions, reviews, AR/VR try-on, etc) but there are still going to be things that come back. And customers don't want to pay for that part of the service.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2019

    Big things are happening as Small Business Saturday turns 10

    People like the "shop small" message. They like independent and small businesses, but I think it's clear to everyone that for a large proportion of shoppers things like price and convenience often win out when it comes to where they actually spend their money on a regular basis. Who hasn't expressed sadness about a small local business closing down but also remarked that it's been "ages" since they last went there? Customers want these spaces to be around for the odd occasion they choose them, but of course no business can operate like that. Initiatives like Small Business Saturday are certainly to be commended for keeping local business awareness up and hopefully convincing customers to shift more of their regular spending that way. The backlash from certain shoppers over the practices of the likes of Amazon and other big names is undoubtedly also helping drive a shift in habits.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2019

    Will IoT reinvent the supply chain?

    I think the supply chain is benefitting (and will continue to) massively from technology including IoT. The logistics industry in retail alone is huge, and ecommerce uptake keeps impacting this further. The ability to better track and monitor shipments, and know their history, is a no brainer when it comes to transforming the way the industry works. I think connecting this with stores in smarter ways will also bring new improvements -- whether it's robots reporting out-of-stocks and ordering supplies to IoT enabled shelving identifying when they need restocking (as an example) -- and help bring the frictionless concept to the backend of retail too.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2019

    Kroger brings the farm closer to the table

    It's certainly a nice idea. I think we'd all like to be able to buy freshly grown produce when we go to the supermarket. The challenge is going to be around scaling this. I think if it does become the norm, it's going to be a long time before we see them in every supermarket. The problem is convincing customers it's worth paying more for (if prices go up as a result). Customers talk about things that are important to them (like sustainability, organic etc), but getting them to give those things monetary worth is hard.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2019

    Dunkin’ introduces online holiday pop-up

    We all know about the success that's been had with pop-ups in the real world, so extending that idea to online seems like an obvious move. The timing also works well as people are looking for gifts at this time of year -- they want to have things to buy and Dunkin' is meeting that need with a mix of novelty and cult fandom. As with any pop-up it's the limited nature of the items on offer and the time the store will be available that are going to drive people to it. Nothing to make you splash out on a Dunkin' branded novelty like the pressure of it only being available a short while!
  • Posted on: 11/14/2019

    Are mixed reality apps set to skyrocket?

    Based on the definition above it's clear that mixed reality is a big deal and something that plenty of people already engage in - look at Snapchat and Pokemon Go and its like. I think there's plenty of scope for mixed reality to play a role in retail - one of my favorites is Nike's use of AR and geolocation to send people on treasure hunts to unlock new drops. It could be a powerful way of unlocking new retail experiences. How much of this will be tied to smartphones over glasses and headsets is up for debate. Smartphones are ubiquitous and we all feel comfortable with the tech - I'm not sure the same can be said for AR glasses or headsets. I suspect it will be quite some time before a.) we're all comfortable enough to use such devices (in public) and b.) the penetration is deep enough to make a big difference.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2019

    Why do digital transformations often fail?

    As I said in my presentation today, "all the technology in the world won't save you if your heart's not in the right place." You have to want to change particularly when it comes to becoming a more customer centric business. The attitude comes first to drive the change and then the application of the tech is what brings it to life. It's the only way for a business to properly embrace digital transformation. There are lots of benefits, but it's not necessarily easy, so retailers really have to commit to doing the right thing. The answer is not in the tech -- the answer is in your attitude as a business. Because if you get that right you start to see that looking at yourself as a retailer is not necessarily the most useful description and that you're actually in the business of user experience, which can be enhanced through digital.
  • Posted on: 11/01/2019

    Survey says consumers want online orders shipped fast and free

    Is anyone surprised by this? Just because they're buying online doesn't mean customers are any less impatient to get their products. They also don't want to pay more for them (i.e. for delivery) -- that charge can be the thing that pushes a purchase price up too much for them to actually want to make it. For retailers it's a challenge certainly, and I do think a lot of customers do use Amazon as a benchmark. A huge proportion of regular online shoppers have shopped at Amazon at least once before and that experience will probably have helped cement their expectations. Couple that with the fact that Amazon always seems to working to make things faster and you've got an ever moving goalpost. I think all retailers have to be looking at customer wants when it comes to delivery and finding ways to try and meet them (without crippling themselves in the process).
  • Posted on: 10/31/2019

    Are retailers out-of-step with consumers when it comes to price?

    It's interesting how big the gap is between executives and consumers on some of these points. I think it's indicative of how some of the retail industry is failing to keep pace with customer habits and wants, which is causing it to lose out. Price is certainly important to a lot of shoppers and this has been enabled by retailers through coupons, deals and sales. I would say that it's not the only factor -- what's important for the customer is the perception of value. The exchange has to feel worth it for the customer and if you know something is going to be on sale in a few weeks time the perceived value of a product can be quite low. Retailers need to provide an end-to-end customer experience (and by that I don't mean Instagram walls and big productions -- although they can have a place) that makes it worth shopping with them.

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