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: 07/16/2019

    Who owns customer service in an age of co-branding?

    This is an element of something I wrote about a few years ago regarding social media and who ultimately owns the relationship with the customer -- is it the brand or the retailer or the social media platform you buy it through? When there are multiple partners involved in a transaction, it's important to make things seamless for the customer. I don't think they see the distinction in the same way as the brand/retailer. If you asked most people, I think ultimately they would say that if they bought it under Macy's roof then they bought it from Macy's. To not be prepared for that, and able to provide the service expected, is a big mistake.
  • Posted on: 07/11/2019

    Crate and Barrel takes the feed them and they will come approach

    Clearly Crate & Barrel isn't alone when it comes to the retail-restaurant idea. It keeps being done for a reason. On the plus side, it gives people a reason to come to Crate & Barrel stores outside of wanting to actually buy some furniture, but it's also an ideal setting for trying before you buy. If you have your eye on a table then why not test it out and have a nice time doing so? But on the flipside, to really work as a restaurant it needs to feel like you're not eating in a store that's had a few tables thrown into it. It needs to be worthy of being the customer's choice. That means the food, service and ambiance also all have to be up to scratch. Operating a restaurant well is not the same as running a store well and Crate & Barrel now needs to spin both plates.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2019

    Is Walmart at an online crossroads?

    The comparisons with Amazon are always difficult because Amazon isn't in the same business as Walmart -- not really. Amazon makes its money from its web services business, not its retailing. It loses money from retail, even with customers paying into Prime. It's not difficult to understand then why someone like Walmart might also be losing money when trying to compete with it. The question is whether it really needs to? (Directly compete that is). Customers go back to Amazon again and again for convenience over anything else. What Walmart needs to do is focus on how it can give customers what they want -- a convenient shopping experience -- and then build an ecosystem (of online and offline touchpoints) that serves that. Ecommerce should certainly be part of this, but only if it's offering something of value to the customer rather than for the sake of "keeping up" with Bezos.
  • Posted on: 07/01/2019

    Rent the Runway lands inside Nordstrom

    If this is the first step on the road to a deeper partnership between the two brands, then we could be looking at something interesting. A drop-off point for Rent The Runway certainly makes sense for it given the benefits it's seen from similar set-ups elsewhere. I wonder if Nordstrom is using this to gauge the clothes rental market in certain areas. Adding pick-up will help to make the service more convenient, and drive traffic to the Nordstrom spaces. If they can then nail the model where there are Rent The Runway pieces to try on in-store, or you can order your RTR choices to the spaces to try on with a stylist, then it could be a real step forward in the rental market. I think Nordstrom is smart to partner with a known name rather than purely try to strike out on its own. I think a mix of rental and owned pieces could become the standard in a lot of wardrobes in the future, so getting the groundwork right now is a good move.
  • Posted on: 06/28/2019

    How Tuft & Needle found the right balance on Amazon

    Tuft & Needle is far from being alone in using Amazon well, but I do think it's gone about it in a really effective way. As with any customer touchpoint, every brand needs to consider the value to themselves and the customer on an individual basis. The very rational and considered approach that Tuft & Needle has taken has served it well in this case. I also love the test-and-learn approach in trying out sending all orders to Amazon and seeing how customers respond. The more you know about their preferences, the better you can serve them and I think Tuft & Needle has a really good line on that. As long as it keeps evaluating and thinking and experimenting in this way, then Amazon will be in service to it, rather than the other way around.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2019

    REI scraps mail order catalog to publish a magazine

    If this is done right, then it's still going to be shoppable in the same way as the mail order catalogue. In fact, it could even be more effective because rather than just saying "buy this" or "look what you could buy," it's going to give customers reasons to buy. They'll be able to see how certain products fit in with the things they want to do, and be inspired with new ideas, which in turn may prompt them to buy necessary equipment. Plus, let's face it, it's likely that the mall order catalogue wasn't delivering anymore anyway. I think this is part of the general shift among brands towards giving customers reasons to buy, rather than just selling to them. No one wants to be bombarded all day long with sales patter, but we appreciate people who help and inspire us.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2019

    Kroger sees rivals’ one-hour delivery and raises it a half hour

    It will be interesting to see if this is a case of overpromising and underdelivering. It doesn't matter if Kroger is not promising to make the delivery in 30 minutes (in that your pizza in 30 minutes or its free way) -- the customer expectation will be that it should arrive within 30 minutes. If it doesn't, or inconsistently does, they're going to get frustrated and fed up. With these convenience goods, like alcohol or snacks or nappies etc, you've got to convince people that ordering from Kroger offers more convenience than popping to the local corner shop. Some customers are willing to pay for that perception -- if Kroger can make good on the promise. If it can it might position Kroger as the convenient option, but will it make customers convert to doing all their grocery shopping through the company?
  • Posted on: 06/14/2019

    Amazon taps AI to drive fashion recommendations

    Amazon clearly isn't the first to be experimenting with this sort of thing -- it's interesting in the context of whether this will help Amazon take sales from elsewhere. After all, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that Amazon has been reported as overtaking Google as number one when it comes to customers searching for products to buy. This tech could make that search process faster and easier -- especially when it comes to seeing something and being inspired by it. Obviously it remains to be seen how good the recommendations are, but if customers are seeing products elsewhere, searching for, finding and buying them through Amazon then that's something to watch. I agree with the other comments though that visual search only solves one part of the online apparel problem with fit and feel being hugely important factors when it comes to keeping an item.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2019

    Has Barnes & Noble found its savior(s)?

    I think everyone is thinking the same thing when they see "hedge fund" in the context of Barnes & Noble. However, Waterstones is doing well at present (three years of profits) and holding up against the likes of Amazon and other online alternatives. Whether that will remain the case is of course not guaranteed, but I do think the company has some good thinking (more events/reasons to visit the store, staff, differentiation between locations). So if they were to apply the same approach to Barnes & Noble you could be quietly optimistic about its chances. At the same time, Readerlink would bring the brand closer to the supply chain which could benefit in other ways. I think this will be a case of two different approaches, but to have a chance of success they need to tap into what makes someone go to a bookstore and enhance that.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2019

    How long before Amazon launches its fleet of drones?

    I think we're quite a way off seeing drones becoming a viable, and regular, delivery options. There's a myriad of things to iron out (approvals, regulations, logistics of coordinating multiple drones -- the list goes on) and it's hard to see that being figured out quickly. I can understand why Amazon and the like are still pursuing the idea, but the reality of drone deliveries is definitely one for the future (if at all).
  • Posted on: 06/03/2019

    Experience is overrated, hire talent

    Experience can definitely be useful, but I think there's also a lot to be said for the right attitude. Someone who is motivated and wants to learn and cares about the brand is likely to get more out of their training and role. One of the most interesting things I've seen is certain brands targeting their biggest fans when recruiting. It makes sense as who better to engage other customers than people who have naturally come to love your brand? Of course you need to have a brand that people actually care about and want to be connected with then -- not too difficult for a cool sneaker brand, but maybe harder for your average supermarket.
  • Posted on: 05/28/2019

    Can department stores shake themselves out of the doldrums?

    I think no one is under any illusions that department stores are struggling. But there are no easy fixes for their problems -- and certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach. I like what Macy's has done with Story and Nordstrom has done with its Local and Men's stores. Those feel like recognition of changes in how we shop and attempts to tap into those. Variety and interest has always been the name of the game (ask Selfridges) and I think Macy's hopes Story will do that for them. The interesting thing about department stores is that they were essentially an early model of convenience (everything you want under one roof) and now they have been surpassed by a very different form of convenience (I'm looking at you Amazon). These huge spaces can just seem cumbersome and long and slow to shop which puts off customers. I think the Nordstrom Local idea really plays back into that idea of the department store as a place of convenience. I think the more these companies can do to rethink how they can offer convenience to today's customers (with the added benefit of being able to throw in some wow and experience thanks to their large footprints), the better.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2019

    Should retail boards include seats for store associates?

    I can't see how having input from store associates can be a bad thing. There's often a disconnect between those at the top and those who are day-to-day working in the spaces and with customers. You could even argue that a lot of retailers might be in a better position if they'd had this input earlier because they could respond to the problems, criticisms and customer wants that staff deal with on a daily basis. I think there would obviously be some training/understanding required, but the more staff feel listened to and understood the better the retailer can also retain them.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2019

    Just how big is Amazon’s ethics challenge?

    Amazon's deal has always been convenience. But it's clear that this comes at a price. Customers are becoming more conflicted about the ethical trade-off that comes into play when shopping with the big A. While these issues are clearly becoming more and more important, there is a question of whether people want (or can afford) to put their money where their mouth is and choose alternatives. The thing is that Amazon itself knows this and you could argue that it knows that as long as it keeps offering more and more convenience/perceived value, then it can get away with having lower ethical standards. As the company grows and moves into more and more areas though, there's definitely going to be some changes required.
  • Posted on: 05/16/2019

    Why does loyalty program ROI remain so murky?

    The thing about loyalty is that some of the brands with the most loyal customer bases don't have a loyalty programme. Or at least not a stamps/points/rewards style arrangement. They're brands that people naturally want to keep coming back to because they offer something better than what else is out there -- be that product, experience, customer care etc. While loyalty programmes can, and do work really well, retailers need to have their offering straight first. All the points in the world won't bring someone back if they don't enjoy shopping with you. Know who you are and what you offer, understand why people choose you, then (if you want to have a loyalty programme) create a scheme that is linked to that. Loyalty is the ROI of getting your retailing right in the first place.

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