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: 03/13/2020

    Is a compelling Amazon alternative?

    This seems like a nice way for independent book stores to achieve a high-level of online customer experience. For a lot of small businesses the time and cost of running an ecommerce operation can mean that the experience is somewhat lacking. Others may not have the skills or resources to create their own ecom service in the first place. also benefits from being a single destination for all things indie. This helps with customer acquisition and visibility given that a lot of independent book seller websites may not even appear in the top search results. I can't see this being a bad thing for indies to get onboard with, especially with the commission and affiliate benefits. I'm not sure it will make a big dent in Amazon's sales -- especially where price is a consideration -- but I don't think that's the point. As noted above -- if can take a tiny percentage of sales from Amazon, then that's a big deal for the indie sector. It all comes down to the customers, but some shoppers are actively looking for Amazon/more local alternatives.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2020

    What does it take to make collaboration work within organizations?

    I think diversity and equality are the most important elements of valuable collaboration. Egos have to be checked along with the idea that job title makes one person's contributions more important than another's. Diversity is also related to perspective - in the case of retail it's often frontline staff who have the best perspective of the customer and what they want or what is not working in a store, etc. Those insights aren't necessarily being shared with those at the top - or aren't given proper consideration. It's also important to have diversity across the business in terms of different divisions. Often an outsider can frame an issue in a simple way or raise questions that those who are immersed in a role day-to-day can't see. You want to create a culture that encourages the sharing of ideas as it's only once they're out there that they can be assessed and acted upon.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2020

    Is it time for retailers to move beyond fulfillment and on to experience?

    I think this is indicative of how people get too hung up on language rather than actually what is offered. Take the examples above -- they're all about fulfillment. Customers may order through a chatbot or try on in-store and order to their home, but it's still fulfillment. That's because all retail is fundamentally about fulfillment -- whether that's providing a product or service that's requested or fulfilling a customer's need to be entertained, inspired, informed etc. If it makes everyone feel better to call fulfillment experience, then that's one thing. It's another to think that experience means you're no longer in the fulfillment business because you very much are.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2020

    Will a resale shop deliver bigger sales for Nordstrom?

    The positive stats around resale means that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to try and get some of the benefit. This isn't surprising -- in today's retail climate, some companies are grabbing onto anything that might help them stay in the game. With concerns about sustainability growing among shoppers, resale is a way for fashion retailers to make sure they maintain some skin in the game whether the customer is buying new or secondhand. I doubt Nordstrom will be the last company we see incorporating secondhand into its stores. Making a success of it is another thing and we'll see how Nordstrom does. I can see some possible disconnect between Nordstrom's usual shopper and the secondhand offering, but as a way to bring in a new audience who may not have felt they fit the Nordstrom model, it might be valuable.
  • Posted on: 01/23/2020

    Will store closures worsen in 2020?

    There will undoubtedly be more store closures to come, but this isn't a death knell for physical retail as a whole. The fact is that a lot of retailers have been coasting for a long time when it comes to their store experiences and are now paying the price for various bad decisions and -- often -- not actually recognising what their value proposition is in the market. Why should customers choose them? What are their brand strengths? What do they offer that enhances the customer's lifestyle? For some retailers it is too late to make effective changes and so stores will have to close. Other retailers are reassessing their portfolio which may mean closing some spaces, but opening other formats that better serve customer needs. Hopefully we will end up with a more robust physical store offering as a result.
  • 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.
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