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.

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  • Posted on: 12/12/2017

    Why are so many brand categories woefully bad at word-of-mouth?

    Tech products usually come with a higher price tag which makes customers more risk-adverse. It's easy to risk a new flavour of crisps and to form your own opinion because they only cost a very small amount. If you're going to spend hundreds of pounds on a tech item that you may have for a number of years, you're going to want to do your research and word-of-mouth -- whether from friends or online -- is part of that.What's interesting to consider are the categories that have both luxury and discount offering, such as beauty. Again, you might not think anything of trying another high street mascara, but you're likely to turn to reviews or word of mouth for a luxury version at a higher price. Generally though getting better at word-of-mouth comes down to understanding your brand and your positioning. For some categories, even if customers strongly recognise your brand they just don't need word-of-mouth to make their buying decision because it's based on something else (price, offers, past experiences etc).
  • Posted on: 12/11/2017

    The new NYC Nike store will have a members-only floor

    I think this is an interesting approach to loyalty and tapping into human curiosity. If you're in a store where part of it is sectioned off don't you want to know what is behind the curtain (or on that floor in this case)? Making access free is a great move as more shoppers are likely to sign up on that basis, which gives Nike a chance to work on a long-term relationship. For NikePlus members it's another way to prove the value of that membership. It's unlikely you'd want members-only sections in every store, but for a brand flagship it's a neat idea.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2017

    Will last-minute pickup payoff for Walmart?

    Last minute in-store pickup is a very welcome extra service at this time of the year. By not having to rely on delivery services, Walmart can ensure that as many customers as possible can get the goods they want -- even at the last minute. As we get nearer to Christmas customers may also prefer to reserve for collection to guarantee they will have the item in time, rather than hoping things turn up in the mail. Plus, if they go in-store to pick up an order, customers may well decide to do the rest of their shopping there too. I think increasingly this type of in-store pickup is becoming part of the everyday service mix, ensuring that customers can shop in the best way for them, but it's likely take-up increases during the holiday season.
  • Posted on: 12/08/2017

    Get ready – there are still three shopping holidays left before Christmas

    I'd say Free Shipping Day seems like the biggest winner of the three (not least because for the unacquainted you know exactly what it's about!). We all know that delivery costs can be off-putting to customers, especially if they're disproportionately high compared to the value of the purchase, so the idea that you can save up all your online shopping and do it all in one day with free shipping is attractive.I do wonder if there are too many events and discounts competing for customers attention -- does this mean that some are putting off purchases they would have made in case of getting a better deal? Likewise, is Super Saturday undermining purchases that would have been made anyway (if we assume that there will always be people who shop for Christmas last minute)? I think retailers need to be careful to not fall into a trap of ever-increasing discounts and bargains.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2017

    Will shoppers pay services to do returns for them?

    The sensible thing about these services is that they seem to understand that in order to provide value to the customer they need to pick up items from their home -- if you have to take the item to someone then what's the difference to taking it back to the store? The downside is that these services also fall victim to the biggest annoyance of home delivery -- being at home to give the parcel to someone to return. The 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. delivery time slot is a source of real frustration for customers, so these services can't adopt the same model for collections. For shoppers it would need to be a case of "press the button, and there they are to collect."The other big issue is the fees. ReturnRunners' rates seem to be cost prohibitive for a lot of customers (who as others have pointed out don't even like paying delivery fees) -- perhaps if you have a lot of items to return to a host of different stores, then it works out at some time/cost benefit. But for the average customer who might like to return one or two items it seems overpriced. Perhaps a better approach would be an annual pass where you pay one amount yearly and can return as many things as you like. Even better if the same pass covered your parcel delivery too.
  • Posted on: 12/05/2017

    Subscription services are moving beyond just being surprise boxes

    The sweet spot for subscription boxes is a mix of surprise and familiarity. Getting a curated box of goodies each month where you have no control over the content is fun for the first few, but if you find no value in the contents then the novelty quickly wears off. Likewise, getting a box where you know exactly what is inside is nice (especially if it's things you love), but has the danger of becoming mundane month after month.Being able to pick, or have some control, over the majority of the contents could mean that customers get their regularly used products when they need them (without requiring them to go to a store). At the same time the company should be using what it knows about the customer, data crunching and/or AI, to include additional products that they think the individual customer will like.At the end of the day it's about thinking of each subscriber as an individual and making each box match that, rather than blanket mailing out of the same products. If you don't get the product offering right, all the extra community stuff is for nothing.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2017

    Will a combo of data and personal stylists drive online apparel sales?

    It sounds like a great model for customers -- what's not to like? Expert, personalised service which saves you trawling endless brands' sites for a very small fee (or essentially free). I think it's a good idea to combine the human element with the data side, as good as AI and the like is getting it's still no match for a real human who can understand context, goals, nuances like not liking that type of fabric, or liking that colour but only if it's metallic, etc. Plus, hopefully this type of online personal shopping approach will benefit retailers too, whether that's be introducing them to new customers or ensuring that existing customers don't pass them by when looking for new clothes online.
  • Posted on: 11/23/2017

    Amazon launches exclusive with Calvin Klein

    I wonder how significant this exclusive is to Amazon (in terms of sales/traffic etc) or whether it's more a means for them to test out more of their plans for physical spaces. I find the details of how the pop-ups work very interesting. The use of Alexa in fitting rooms to control lights etc and answer questions seems like a very cost-effective option for retailers to add this kind of functionality to their spaces. For Calvin Klein it seems a good way of increasing visibility of the brand at a crucial spending time, but without putting too much product through Amazon -- assuming that it doesn't just drive customers to return to Amazon for their Calvin Klein purchases!
  • Posted on: 11/13/2017

    Are data sharing concerns still holding back true personalization?

    I think these types of concerns are quite valid and something of a challenge for retailers. A lot of it comes down to the value exchange -- at the moment a lot of customers aren't seeing the benefit from giving away information like their email addresses, as the result is usually a load of generic offer emails. In order for customers to trust a retailer enough to give them more information, retailers have to start doing better with the information they do have. I'm sure a lot of shoppers have no issue with a brand using data about what they've bought before to personalize emails and offers, and yet we don't see much of this happening. And of course there's always going to be a line that shouldn't be crossed -- no-one wants to be wiretapped in order to have a relevant offer sent to them!
  • Posted on: 11/13/2017

    Lowe’s and Macy’s join rivals chasing smart home opportunity

    I think the idea of the smart home is out there now, but customers are still coming round to the reality of what that means for their lives. Spaces where they can see products, interact with them and ask questions are an important part of that, which makes these seem like sensible options. Lowe's in particular is doing a lot of interesting things in the technology space, from robots to VR, so this makes a lot of sense. I'm sure these won't be the last names we hear of opening up these sorts of spaces.
  • Posted on: 11/09/2017

    Will 24/7 curbside service help Nordstrom pick up late Christmas sales?

    This is a great idea, but 24/7 might go a bit too far. How many customers will actually be picking up things at 3.20 am? (I'd love to see the data after!) I think the idea is a real solid way of providing an extra level of service and convenience to customers when they may be at their most busy (and out of the house more so unable to take deliveries). Extended hours, rather than 24 hour availability, would probably be enough though.
  • Posted on: 11/09/2017

    Are retailers caught in a content trap?

    I actually see a lot of retailers embracing co-creation -- Lego's Ideas platform, for example, is a well-known, but great example of having this two-way dialogue with customers. Plenty of companies use customer input as part of a marketing campaigns and contests such as vote for your favourite flavour, test these exclusive limited-edition versions, send in your ideas and we'll make the best one etc. So I think the idea of having dialogue with customers is well recognised. Perhaps where retail is still struggling is the idea of conversation between "spokes" -- the customer-to-customer aspect could be really valuable. Yet, you have retailers who still don't like the idea of someone taking a photo in their store, even though they may use that to have a conversation with friends, followers etc about the space.
  • Posted on: 11/03/2017

    Large brands and retailers expand the subscription economy

    It's interesting that the article correlates the success of services like Netflix and Spotify with the growth of retail subscription services/boxes/packages. I think a lot of Netflix and Spotify's success is tied to our on-demand nature -- they're digital services so you can get the music or film or TV show you want the second you want it. You also pay a modest amount for essentially "all you can eat." It's an access model.Retail subscriptions operate quite differently -- you get them according to the subscription cycle and you usually get a curated selection of items to keep. You're not getting access to every item Sephora sells for example. Will we ever see a subscription service that brings a brand new mascara to your door the day it launches?That said, subscription services are attractive because they're fun, they give customers a regular treat and there's an element of surprise to them. I am interested in how important curation and personalization are to these services. Do customers want more control over what comes in their packages, so they get what they want? Or do they want more recommendations and curation from an expert?Plus, Amazon's Prime Wardrobe, and Asos' try-before-you-buy service are edging closer to an access model. Customers can get as many items as they want delivered to their home to try and then only pay for what they want to keep. It's taking existing customer behavior (buying loads of things to return) and turning it into a service, which is essentially access to everything those companies sell. This can't translate for every retailer (beauty wouldn't work for example) but I wonder if we'll see growth in this type of model.
  • Posted on: 10/27/2017

    Can live streaming make online customers feel like they’re in-store?

    For most online interactions there isn't really a need for this level of immersiveness (certainly not yet). A lot of people shop online to save time and so livestreaming a store and chatting with the staff won't be high on the agenda. However, it could prove interesting for specialist or niche products, luxury items or products where authenticity might prove important (e.g., locally made produce). Rather than a day-to-day service, I wonder if livestreaming might better serve as a tool for marketing special products or new launches, where retailers can create hype and connect with core fans.
  • Posted on: 10/27/2017

    Walmart puts robots to work with humans in more stores

    The theory is good here. If robots can deal with things like checking shelf inventory, then staff can concentrate on the more important task of helping the customer. Retail staff are often pulled in many directions, so offloading certain fixed tasks will certainly make their life easier and should make them more available to improve customer service. As others have mentioned, the question is, how far will the automation go and what will the reality be for staff?

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