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Oppo Ice Cream

“We may find ourselves advancing as a species at the same rate as our robotic counterparts”.

Charlie Thuillier, Oppo Ice Cream

Which prediction stands out to you as the most appealing or exciting, and why?

"The Cobot Revolution! A robot called Sally that can make me one of 1,000 different salads will be a great reason to be alive in 2050. (I'm being serious!) I think all the predictions are exciting, but using technology, and in particular cobots to enhance our lives and businesses feels like the most appealing. There's nothing worse than wasting time, and assistants who can carry out our routine tasks will free up our brain power to achieve more".

How would these predictions affect your own business?

The Cobot Revolution:

"I was going to say that at Oppo we would use cobots to carry out store compliance checks (checking if Oppo is on shelf and looking good). But by 2050 I believe there won't be any large grocery stores, because the rise and convenience of online shopping and drone/robot delivery will put bricks and mortar supermarkets out of business within the next 10-20 years. So, we would probably use cobots to deliver Oppo straight to people's doors whenever their brain sensors detect that they have a craving for some healthy ice cream!

Charlie Thuillier, Oppo ice creamBack in the 'office' (I also doubt we will have an office since virtual reality and lightning fast data will mean that every interaction with a co-worker feels every bit as seamless as a face-to-face conversation – and therefore we could have a highly functioning team working wherever they feel like it, thousands of miles from one another) – I imagine we will use cobots to analyse sales, marketing and operations data and recommend to us which marketing and consumer communications are improving sales, and which are not.

Cobots will also allow us to change marketing messages to focus on different product benefits for different customers, because the cobots will be able to process our consumers' responses to advertisements and indeed the product itself by reading expressions, eye tracking, arousal states and other biometric markers. It's exciting!”

The 4-Hour Work Day:

"I'm honestly not convinced we will have a reduction in the number of hours we work. What will continue to change is the degree to which we are connected to our colleagues and customers, wherever we are and at any time – meaning that you are always switched on and that your smartphone is essentially your desk. So, you might decrease the amount of face or desk time you have to 4 hours a day, but the insistent notifications from your smartphone will mean that the 4-hour work day will only be attainable by very few people. We are naturally busy, and entrepreneurs are a good example of that. Any extra time is used.

However, what this means is more flexible working, more time for people to spend with their families or doing activities they enjoy, which in turn will improve their quality of work. I am dubious that we will ever work less though – it's not in our nature!"

The Reputation Game:

"The food industry is full of companies that claim, through their packaging and other marketing communications, that their ingredients, processes and business practices are green and clean. The reality is very different, and it is often staring you in the face when you look on the small print on the back of so much food available to purchase in grocery stores. We would benefit hugely from a higher consumer awareness of ingredients and processes used in food products.

The ease of market entry has meant that the food industry is becoming more and more competitive all the time, and in my opinion, this has meant that it is no longer possible to do business without a meaningful purpose that people can relate to and aspire to. In our case it is to allow people everywhere to indulge in their favourite sweets without compromising health. Basically, to never have to resist their temptations when it comes to food. The clearer this is to people and the more transparent our business, the better for Oppo”.

The Experience Economy:

"Food, and ice cream, is pure experience. We anticipate people who buy Oppo products will increasingly require more and more sense of experience (and dare I say mindfulness) and occasion in their consumption. To educate on the brand it is likely we will need to have greater control over our distribution channels to facilitate a richer experience".

Are you already looking at ways your business can progress with these trends – or do you feel some would benefit your business?

"We are very focussed on our reputation – following a clear purpose for the brand with a relentless effort to continue to reduce the unnecessary sugar and calories in Oppo while maintaining the natural ingredients and flavour. We are also looking at the extent to which we can curate an experience at events or popups to facilitate greater affinity with the Oppo brand".

Do any of the predictions scare you, make you nervous or alternatively, fill you with positivity about the future – and why?

Charlie Thuillier, Oppo ice cream"None of the predictions are bad for Oppo, and all have benefits. Collaborative robots would be an extremely positive addition. However, I think it is naïve to say that robots will only ever tackle the more mundane aspects of our lives, and that they can never be creative. Robots have created musical symphonies that classical aficionados have found impossible to distinguish from those created by human composers. Robots can create incredibly expressive art. Creativity is more complex, but it still operates in an algorithmic way and is based on a set of rules that will be harder for robots to learn, but absolutely possible before 2050. Empathy is the same. Robots will use artificial intelligence to understand the people they are conversing with in a deep way, and thus relate to them and gain better outcomes than other humans will. I believe there is very little that we as humans do that robots won't ultimately be able to do by 2050. Rather than retaining out humanity, we will become more bionic beings, with memory and processing enhancements in our brains so that we can keep up with robotic speed and quality of thinking.

Many jobs, such as the jobs our warehouse teams undertake in processing pallets of Oppo Ice Cream, or the work our operations manager does to ensure that ingredients and finished product are where they need to be at any one time, will soon be better completed by robots. Marketing, sales, and other bigger business decisions will soon follow though. However, this will leave room for deeper pursuits, better human relationships, and we may find ourselves advancing as a species at the same rate as our robotic counterparts".

Do you agree with James that reputation today is paramount, with reviews, and good or bad word of mouth on the likes of social media/review websites making a big difference to sales and brand reputation? What action do you take to keep this as a key part of your offering?

"Absolutely. We live and die by our sales, and our sales live and die by what people say about Oppo online and to their friends. Whenever we make a decision about our product or marketing, we make sure that we would be happy standing up in front of a room of 100 journalists to tell them the same thing. This helps us to have a transparent state of mind. We monitor our social media accounts from early in the morning to past midnight 7 days a week, and make sure we reply and chat with people taking the time to engage with Oppo and give us their thoughts. As for reviews, we just make the best product we can and it speaks for itself in the reviews we have had across Waitrose, Ocado and Facebook".

In addition to these trends, is there anything else you predict happening, from your own hands on experience and what you are seeing on a daily basis? What do you predict to happen by 2050 where businesses and consumers are concerned?

  1. Ever higher consumer standards and expectations, that are fuelled by new technology
  2. More validation and purchase consideration using social media
  3. Less willingness to compromise on what people want. In our case, our audience want food to taste great and be good for you too. Food should be as high tech as electronics. There is no reason it can't be natural, healthy, and taste amazing as well. People will want to have their cake, and eat it too.

Keeping your own predictions in mind, but placing yourself in an ideal/dream world, what would you want to happen by 2050?

"I would like to see more direct and deeper relationships with the people who enjoy our ice cream. If, rather than relying on retailers, we had a better idea of who was buying Oppo, we could better tailor our future products and communications to them. I believe there will be more direct brand to consumer conversations and feedback, which can only be a good thing".

Having started a business in the digital world, do you have any advice for other business owners or budding entrepreneurs, on how to stay successful and make use of new technologies?

  • Make something other people really need. Not because you think it's cool or could make you some money or might be useful. Make something that people (ideally a lot of people) are desperate to have and then bring it to them.
  • Use technology to facilitate this and remember that technology is only a tool for creating better experiences, it should never be used for its own sake.

Rather than selling and promoting, create content and curate conversations on social that inspire, entertain and educate people – and above all else, leave them wanting more. This will grow your reputation as a brand.

Photography by Alex Bamford (Alex Bamford Photography)

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