Retail is changing and leaders need to adapt. In the wake of e-commerce rapidly becoming the preferred way to shop, representing £96 billion in retail sales alone in 2018, U.K. retailers know they need to transform their business, but the question is how? As retailers rush to adopt digital capabilities similar to Amazon and other e-commerce giants, the winners of the retail throne will be customer experience leaders who prioritise the moments that matter for their shoppers. On that note, here are 5 trends that are being championed by top retailers:
Trend 1: Omnichannel gets personal
Delivering seamless experiences across channels isn’t new, but it is a necessity for retailers to thrive. According to Deloitte one in five customers who are interested in a personalised product or service are willing to pay up to a 20 percent premium. Therefore, to stand out, consider how the entire customer journey can be individualised to each customer’s needs. Failing to fix an irreverent and fragmented experience will be an easy excuse for shoppers to ditch you.
Starbucks has mastered this approach by utilising its mobile app to create seamless personalised transactions from ordering to in-store pickup with the same service options on any channel.
Fast Tip: Identify your most valuable customers to reward with individualised omnichannel experiences and build out pilots from there.
Trend 2: Winning the last mile matters most
Innovations in e-commerce have transformed supply chains and the purchasing journey. Now brands are vying to win what’s become known as the last mile: the delivery of packages to our doorstep. As options for next-day or same-day delivery from Amazon become the new norm, people also want real-time support options they can access from any channel. For retailers that want to stand out, the speed of customer service needs to match the speed of delivery and modern expectations. In fact, 86 percent of U.K. consumers say a free returns option increases their loyalty to a brand, according to a Klarna report
Fast Tip: Customer care teams should be nimble enough to scale up or down in order to build a strong support system for solving even the smallest of customer inconveniences.
Trend 3: Practical AR and VR
Virtual reality may not yet be a common fixture in shops, but virtual and augmented reality tools are becoming effectively cheaper and more accessible to many businesses. And more and more brands are using them for amazing instances of storytelling and exploration. John Lewis & Partners replicated an interactive catalogue experience by hosting a virtual reality event where participants could move, alter, and explore their products.
Fast Tip: Consider the wider reach VR and AR has on your customer’s mobile devices and how your brand could be experienced on-the-go or at home.
Trend 4: Winners commit to a bigger purpose
Some consumers have always been attracted to brands that contribute to the good of society, but now more than ever there’s an expectation for brands to take a stand on social, political, and environmental issues. Ethically responsible products resonate with consumers. Unilever findings show that one in three consumers are shopping at organisations they believe are doing social or environmental good.
Fast Tip: After identifying the issues and values that matter to your core customers, provide regular updates on the impact your company is making as well as ideas on how customers can get involved.
Trend 5: Experiential retail 2.0 arrives
The brick-and-mortar shopping experience isn’t over, but it must be reinvented to offer unique and tangible experiences. Experiential retail is therefore expanding beyond one-off events like pop-up shops into store designs that feature permanent interactive spaces where shoppers can sample products or gain new perspectives on a brand, making in-store shopping fun as well as frictionless. The low-cost tech store Raspberry Pi did this well when it opened its first brick-and-mortar location in Cambridge, U.K., which included an area for customers to sample products in an interactive environment.
Fast Tip: Think of in-store services that offer value and experiences that aren’t easily replicated in other channels.
In 2019 and beyond, the retailers that come out on top will be those who provide relevant, meaningful, and innovative interactions for their customers. As these trends attest, retailers have plenty of opportunities to better engage their customers. And while it may be tempting to try everything and anything to entice shoppers, every decision should begin with answering a simple question, “how well do we know our customer?”