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: 09/20/2019

    Will The Body Shop find it’s easier being green?

    It's interesting that The Body Shop says that they tried refill stations 20 years ago but dropped the idea as consumer uptake was too low. The world is a different place now and customers are looking for sustainable options and brands. It's a very clear example of how important consumer buy-in is when it comes to innovation and how retailers need to be aware of customer habits and wants when making decisions. Something that might be too out there now may be exactly what your shoppers want in 5 or 10 years from now. I think it makes sense for The Body Shop to be tapping into its green, natural, sustainable heritage as a way to position the brand today. As others have mentioned, it's a shame that it lost sight of this over the years. At the same time, other brands like Lush are pushing much further ahead when it comes to innovation -- you don't need to refill a bottle if you've got no packaging, for example.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2019

    Retailers approach tech’s cutting edge with caution

    I've always said that tech shouldn't be used for tech's sake. It needs to serve a purpose and to improve things for either the customer, the retailer or both. If it doesn't then it will quickly fall by the wayside. Without a doubt order and inventory management are going to make more difference to most retailers than robots at this stage. I think retailers should ensure they're aware of the new technologies that are out there and what they can do because then they can make an informed decision about whether it works for their business. Not every retailer is the same and what makes sense for some won't for others. They should also regularly reassess the developments though. Something that might not make sense now might in the future with a different application or cheaper price point.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2019

    What keeps online shoppers from creating user accounts?

    I think speed is definitely part of it. It feels like there's a lot more effort involved in setting up an account compared to checking out as guest. This is especially true if something like PayPal is a payment option as it can populate your billing and shipping addresses for you. I think others are spot on that having yet another username and password to remember is also a turnoff - especially if you're making a first purchase from a brand and you're not sure that you will be returning. Marketing is another consideration. It's not that email isn't a relevant way of communicating with customers - it's volume that is the issue. With so many brands to shop from these day and consumers spreading their spending among them, it's easy to accumulate a lot of traffic. Especially as some brands insist on emailing on an almost daily basis!
  • Posted on: 09/05/2019

    Whole Foods wants a hand from shoppers at checkout

    It's never surprising to hear about Amazon experimenting. This isn't exactly super new technology, although I expect that Amazon is testing it with other use cases in mind as well. I can imagine that some people may be more comfortable with this than facial recognition, but I wonder if it really offers any more convenience or efficiency. Is it really going to make a difference to checkout speed? What if the tech struggles to recognise even one hand? Suddenly everything slows down massively. Also, unless this is the only payment option would be incredibly restrictive, you're relying on uptake to improve checkout speed. If only one in 10 people, for example, used it to pay is there any benefit? With card and smartphone payments so quick, easy to understand, and accepted by customers I wonder how many will opt for this over them. Maybe useful if you happen to forget or lose your wallet, but otherwise I'm not sure it will become the standard.
  • Posted on: 09/03/2019

    Will H&M’s ambassador program turn employees into social influencers?

    In the past I've seen brands who hire their biggest fans on the basis that if they're already an advocate for the brand, then they will be much more passionate, engaged and committed as an employee. This is another step along that road. On the one hand I think it's great that H&M is recognising its staff in this way. It's one way to make them feel valued and that their contribution is recognised. They don't just work for the company, but are seen as representing it. On the other hand it's hard to just make someone an influencer. Customers connect with influencers for all sorts of reasons including looking up to or admiring them. These staff are not your typical influencer, which may resonate well with some customers. Others may wonder what the difference is between them and influencers paid to promote brands -- H&M is still funding them. An interesting one for sure.
  • Posted on: 08/29/2019

    Lord & Taylor to be sold to Le Tote

    This is a fascinating development for sure. It's a real change for Le Tote and I wonder if they're up to the challenge. Running a physical retail business like Lord & Taylor is not to be taken lightly. Although it suggests they will keep all the spaces open, I wonder if in practice we'll see some changes as they adjust. It is interesting though to see the continuing trend of digital companies moving into physical space. The rental element is also an interesting one. It's a small, but growing, area. I can see opportunity for Le Tote to use Lord & Taylor's spaces as physical connection points with customers -- whether that's letting them return items or creating real-life versions of totes for them to try on. Whether that's enough to make this combination work, I'm not sure.
  • Posted on: 08/23/2019

    Will the next recession devastate mall-based retailers?

    It's a tough one. As others have pointed out, things are different compared to the previous recession. A lot of retailers have shed some of their stores where they can, or worked to foster new business models that will hopefully stand them in better stead. Some are gone from the market entirely. I think another recession will be tough on those retailers and it may well speed up the demise of certain retailers who are struggling now -- not necessarily changing the final outcome, but bringing it about faster. There may be new opportunities though. A recession could mean that those retailers who are making in-roads in resale and rental now may fare better, for example.
  • Posted on: 08/22/2019

    Will shoppers thank heaven for mobile checkout at 7-Eleven?

    7-Eleven was built on the idea of being convenient so this is a fitting development. I think it will be interesting to see how it actually works in practice though. It says that customers have to scan a QR code to confirm purchase and that cashiers know that's happened by a tone -- in practice I can imagine some customers feeling as though they need to be "released" by the cashier before they leave. This may just be a temporary thing as people get used to the shift in model. I think checkout speed is important to customers but technology doesn't always help that much -- take self-service checkouts. Often you'll see three or four customers stood waiting for an assistant because there's some issue with the transaction (they're buying something age restricted, the scale hasn't detected an item -- or detected the wrong thing, a reduced item won't go through, etc). Hopefully 7-Eleven's implementation is slick enough that it doesn't just create congestion at a slightly different point in the journey.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2019

    Does a new product donation program for marketplace sellers make Amazon the good guy?

    Measures like this are certainly a welcome move on Amazon's part. I think though that critics would say that there are fundamental things that the company continues to do that make it the villain (tax practices and employee conditions for example). The question is whether this is really an act of goodwill on Amazon's part or an act of deflection of some of the criticism that comes its way. I think like it or not Amazon's dominance in many sectors means it's more likely to be considered the bad guy than the good. However, the needless destruction or dumping of goods is an issue across the retail industry that needs to be addressed, so this is certainly positive action on that front.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2019

    Is it time for retailers to tier up their loyalty/reward programs?

    Surely the first question for any brand that has returning, high-value customers is why do they come back? What do you get so right that they want to return? It's probably not because of your loyalty programme. Maybe it's your assortment or experience or customer service or something else. That's the thing you want to be tapping into. That said I think we all like to be rewarded -- we like it when brands recognise us. Loyalty programmes are a great way to say that you appreciate the customer. Making them more about the things your customer already loves, rather than a single discount or freebie, seems logical. What you need to do is find the value you offer. Amazon Prime offers convenience first and foremost -- all the extra media is a bonus. Making your customers feel part of the club - whether that's through exclusive products or services, a high touch experience, early access, meeting ambassadors or designers, etc is how you get them to start paying to be loyal.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2019

    Amazon adds personal shopping to Prime Wardrobe

    It feels like an obvious development of the Prime Wardrobe service. Really Prime Wardrobe just branded behaviour that customers were already displaying -- order a bunch of stuff online, try it on at home and send back what you don't like. It was hardly a new concept. But it still required customers to make those products choices themselves. The appeal of the personal stylist is having someone else do the hunting for you. There's also a "mystery" element to it that makes it more fun as you don't know what you're going to get. I think given the success others, like Stitch Fix, are having, it's no surprise Amazon is giving the same idea a go. It's also at a cheaper price point which could widen the subscription/stylist market. How well it will be able to do it is the question - Amazon hasn't made massive waves in fashion yet but in theory it knows plenty about its customers and what they like. I'll be intrigued to see how well it can put that information to work.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2019

    Can an e-tail startup establish a physical presence using hi-tech vending units?

    Vending machines are hardly a new concept -- even in the context of brands making a push into physical. I think vending machines can be a great way to make retail part of the customer's journey, rather than the destination, because of their flexibility. Think of how many journeys you make every day, how many places you go that aren't stores, how many places you pass through where you're not shopping -- bus stops, train stations, parks, sports grounds, concert venues, cinemas, swimming pools.... These can all be turned into sales spots for retailers. For brands starting out they can also be a more cost effective option than a full store or pop-up to test the market. I definitely think there's an opportunity here. Maybe they won't bring masses of revenue in, but they serve as another touchpoint for brand awareness.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2019

    Amazon kills its Dash button – what comes next?

    I think it was clear that Dash buttons weren't ever going to be a permanent solution -- it would be impracticable to have buttons all over your house in order to reorder everything you might run out of. I think as an experiment to understand more about customer habits, rate of usage/replenishment and even to see what kind of products people opted to use the buttons for, Dash may have provided Amazon with some interesting insights that can inform its future reordering options. Overall though, virtual buttons or voice ordering seems like a simpler, and more useful, option so it's not hard to understand the shift. At the end of the day customers take to what is intuitive and useful.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2019

    Your company has a vision: Why can’t everyone see it?

    If you're going to develop any sort of meaningful statement you need to first know what you stand for. The reason so many mission statements are wishy-washy is because the company hasn't really defined what it's about and is using imprecise language and jargon to cover that fact up. Even these example statements generally don't feel particularly clear or precise. A great statement should enable you to recognise the brand without being told. The statement is just one thing though. If you have a genuine, clear vision, then it's felt in everything that you do. Your staff understand it and can relate to it. Take Lush for example -- its vision is clear in every part of its business. Too many brands have mission statements that they pay lip service to -- making it part of their culture is what they need to focus on.
  • Posted on: 07/25/2019

    Does Tim Hortons need an innovation cafe?

    I'm not sure how much we'll see the ideas from the innovation cafe rolled out into other Tim Hortons stores, but maybe that's only part of the equation. Creating a space like this is surely about creating buzz -- more of a destination space if you will. Like Starbucks' Reserve spaces, it's about giving people a reason to seek the store out. That it's also a place to test new ideas is a good use of the real estate. There's no better way to know what customers like than testing it with them. I had read that they were going to use the store to test new sustainability initiatives as well, which we may then see rolled out more widely. Is this space strictly necessary? Maybe not. But it's also giving loyal Tim Hortons customers something a little bit different to visit.

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