Posted: 8 May 2017
In a retail world increasingly dominated by future-looking technologies like VR and AI, customer centricity seems more attainable than ever before.
Unsurprisingly, many brands and retailers are making efforts to develop and implement new customer-centric business initiatives as well as deploy digital in-store enhancements, such as interactive display solutions, that can take the entire shopping experience to the next level.
However, it’s only natural to wonder whether or not customer satisfaction, in its true sense, is the real motivation behind all these actions.
Here, I couldn’t agree more with Leon Edwards, our Managing Director, who has recently brought up a very interesting dilemma: Are the new technologies going to make lives easier for customers? Or are they a marketing exercise, a vanity exercise for the retailers?”
For the sake of argument, let’s focus on the “endless aisle” a little bit. Using an endless aisle kiosk, a shopper can access product information, compare products, check inventory, and order out-of-stock items. Once a customer places an order, the brick-and-mortar store will process and deliver the item, similar to an online retailer.
An “endless aisle” strategy, therefore, enables brands and retailers to sell stock more efficiently as well as combat lost sales, which lead to higher cross-selling rates, revenues and profits. But more importantly, endless aisle allows brands and retailers to better meet customer demands, with undeniable benefits, including higher conversion rates and improved customer satisfaction (and retention, implicitly).
Take Debenhams for example. Thanks to its “endless aisle” strategy, the company was able to capture about £10 million in sales - that would have otherwise been lost - in just 6 months. Over the past few years, Debenhams has implemented its “endless aisle” initiative in 150 stores.
Therefore, the benefits of using the endless aisle and other tech advances for retailers and brands cannot be denied.
But what about the consumer? Are the new technologies that many retailers present on a silver platter nowadays truly advantageous to customers? Or is it somehow “more about the retailers trying to extend their sales rather than truly think about what's beneficial for the consumer”, as Leon Edwards said in a recent interview?
Considering the same example about the endless aisle, the customer still needs to go to the store, check products, review information and then, if a certain item isn’t available in the store, order it using an endless aisle kiosk.
With this scenario in mind, it’s quite difficult to predict if all these new technologies will ever transform the retailer-led retail environment, as we know it today, into a true consumer-led business model.
Whilst some may argue that many brands and retailers already use the latest technologies to create the customised in-store shopping experience their customers want, let’s not forget that a happy customer is the best “thing” that can happen to a retailer. After all, a happy customer means repeat business and more sales in the future.
With increasing numbers of customers who emphasise convenience, speed and efficiency as key purchase factors, the entire retail sector is expected to change dramatically in the next few years.
Industry influencers and retail leaders already talk about a consumer-led retail revolution, centred on convenience. Thus, one thing retailers and brands must do to remain competitive in this sector is to offer time-pressed shoppers what they want, as conveniently as possible.
Since convenience is also one of the reasons why more customers seem to prefer local, smaller shops to big-box retailers, redefining “convenience” strategies is of paramount importance for a brand or retailer that wants to survive and even thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace. The retailers and brands that fully understand and are able to adapt to the new, consumer-led trends are best positioned to succeed.
Like anything else in an age of transformation, we won’t know the future of retail until we get there. But I do know this: the key to success is to always remember that it’s the customer’s shop; the rest of us just work there.
If you’re looking for a specialist in POS and POP display solutions that doesn’t believe in cookie-cutter thinking, please feel free to get in touch with us at DisplayMode. Our team is able to bring to life a wide range of innovative display solutions that can help you create a truly inspiring, “consumer-led” in-store experience.