Retail’s most vital new trend has nothing to do with what’s for sale or the latest new technology. It’s about returning it to retail’s fundamental building blocks – the connection with the customer.
Through our retail safaris and trend insights, we see that smart brands focus on truly serving the customer and building meaningful connections by putting them first in new ways.
One example of this is personalisation. As well as giving customers the ability to personalise their purchases if they want, smart brands are personalising the actual shopping experience across all channels.
At Burberry, staff tailor their conversations to each specific customer based on past purchases, while Enclothed sends a personalised clothing selection to each customer every month.
Companies are also utilising digital billboards that can adapt their display based on who is looking at them. Tailored interactions are more useful to, and therefore attract more attention from, customers who are more likely to buy as a result.
Another example is offering the customer something more than a simple sales transaction.
Nike’s Nike+ Run Club and Performance Stylist services help build a rapport with customers by letting them borrow and test new trainers before they buy or participate in regularly organised runs with like-minded people.
Lululemon does a similar thing with its in-store classes and hang-out spot with information on local trainers, activities and even new places to eat. In both cases, the customer benefits from a better experience and, in the process, build a closer relationship with the brand, which may also make them more loyal.
This is part of a wider shift in mindset from pushing products onto customers to pulling them in.
Sexy marketing campaigns that push the same advertising onto everyone regardless of relevance have less sway, and great customer experiences are driving more sales than ever. It’s less about flash sales and loyalty points and more about useful innovations like mobile pre-ordering, which Starbucks, for example, uses to great effect.
It’s also about moving away from customers having to invest their time and efforts to get what they want out of the shopping experience. If the customer is told what they want isn’t in stock and to look elsewhere, then the retailer has failed. If the customer can’t find what they want in-store without sifting through everything on sale, then the retailer must reevaluate.
Customers are looking for retailers to help them solve a problem or fulfil a need, not to be sold indiscriminately.
With the freedom to shop in more ways than ever, retailers need to bring customers closer by demonstrating the value that they can offer. It’s the brands that give customers rewarding experiences that will see them keep coming back.
The future of retail isn’t all about passive consumption. It’s also about connecting with customers, delivering a new type of brand experience and a new type of dialogue. This makes for some exciting times ahead.
Jack Stratten – Retail Trends Speaker:
Jack Stratten is Head of Trends at Insider Trends, a leading London-based retail futures agency that helps global brands create world-leading and profitable retail spaces.
It does this by clarifying what’s coming next in the world of retail and what clients can do to get ahead of their competitors.
Jack has delivered presentations, retail safaris and workshops to blue-chip brands, including Nike, Johnson & Johnson, Converse, EE, Ikea, Shell, Aggregate Industries, Galeries Lafayette, Freeths, Marks & Spencer, Jaguar Land Rover, Costa Coffee, Diageo, Unibail Rodamco Westfield, Nespresso, Microsoft, The National Trust, Twilio and LVMH.
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