One of the most popular activities on the net is shopping. Of course, it’s easy to see why – you can buy virtually anything online, and you don’t even have to change out of your pyjamas to do it! But that doesn’t mean retail stores are shuttering their windows and moving exclusively to web based platforms; far from it. What we’ve seen instead is a real transformation in the retail landscape. Many retailers now have a bricks & clicks strategy, emerging retailers have gone from clicks to bricks, and we’ve seen the debut of new store formats like Showrooms and Guide-rooms.
The retail landscape is definitely changing, and one thing is clear, at the end of the day it all boils down to consumer experience.
Warby Parker Showroom/Store – a classic example of a retailer moving from clicks to bricks!
So what is the current landscape for selling or buying online?
The competition is fiercer than ever, and most retail businesses are working to get closer to the buyer as they compete in a customer-led, digitally driven market. To support this trend, the WSJ has predicted that in 2017, one-third of companies in B2C space will begin changing their business structure and competing on the basis of experience as much as of product. This trend towards the experiential has been embraced by retailers the world over, and the results are pretty innovative and inspiring.
There has never been a time when technology has had a more profound impact on customer journey and revenue performance. Marketing and Communications departments must now design for customer engagement as well as master technology and analytics, in order to deliver more personalised and better experiences.
What’s at stake if you don’t innovate?
Today, empowered customers are on the move: 40% of consumers have a high willingness and ability to shift spend, with an additional 25% moving towards that mindset. Companies can’t afford to undervalue this dynamic: today’s customers reward or punish companies based on a single experience — a single moment in time. This behaviour was once a Millennial trademark, but it’s now a factor with older generations as well. One poor experience can trigger an immediate shift in spend to a competitor, forcing companies to increase revenue per customer or grow the customer base to remain at.
This is especially important for web-based retailers who need to build trust about a product the consumer has not seen, touched, or tasted (where appropriate :p). If you start a subscription to a company like Graze (who are smashing it by the way..), and you receive mouldy granola bars in the post, you’re never going to order from there again! Of course quality control is just the basics, and what’s more important is getting that user to order in the first place, and to continue to order regularly afterwards. For a company like Graze that impetus to buy and subscribe, comes from their promise of healthy, wholesome foods, some wicked branding, and a simple delivery model. Graze makes you feel GOOD about your decision to buy from them, and fosters an emotional connection to their products – and this has been key to their success.
The fact that understanding and influencing emotion is a vital ingredient for business success is not surprising — it has been the heart and soul of branding efforts since time immemorial! What is surprising is how emotion has been so poorly measured and incorporated into experience design and core operations until recently.
Companies are confronting some scary numbers: customers who experience disgust, anger, or a feeling of neglect during a brand interaction are about eight times more likely not to forgive that company. Companies need to repair operations that provoke negative emotions and implement capabilities that generate positive emotions! In 2017, a few companies will make important inroads on what drives consumer decisions. This is the first step in understanding emotion as both a descriptive and predictive measure to guide experience design and govern operations.
How do we make these processes to run smoothly? Technology, of course.
Technology has already changed the world: the way people live, the power customers have, and how businesses operate. The pace of innovation can be dizzying, and the next wave of technologies is set to remake industries and customer experiences.
These technologies will come in three forms: engagement technologies that will create profoundly different virtual, physical, and digital experiences; insights technologies that will convert the promise of personalization and predictive analytics into reality; supporting technologies that will drive new levels of speed and efficiency.
But which will these new technologies be? In 2017, mobile payments will become a reality, big data will get bigger, and IoT will drive a lot of customer experience and supply chain optimisation stories. Additionally, cognitive computing will make its debut in many retailers’ technology landscape! And of course, we can’t leave AI out of the conversation here. Yes, it might not look like it does in a sci-fi movie, but AI is here. Retailers are already using it and using it well. In 2017, we’ll see the gulf widen between those that do and those that don’t. With the aid of helpful chatbots in SMS and messenger apps, or by suggesting looks based on customers’ shopping history, social profiles and interests retailers are able to tailor the shopping experience, which should now not only feel seamless but insightful and inspiring.
Retail has always been a very dynamic business and an effective use of technology will continue to redefine the landscape towards omni-channel solutions. With the technology savvy consumer at the centre of the newer business model, most business strategies are taking their offerings closer to the homes of customers, doing everything to stay ahead of the curve, and devoting a little more time to hearts and minds of their consumers.