Guy Chiswick, managing director of Webloyalty Northern Europe, looks at how technology, in particular mobile, is converging with customer expectations to place increasing pressures on retailer, and what steps can be taken to mitigate some of those pressures.
The retail landscape continues to evolve at an incredible pace. Having thought a lot about innovation in retail, it is clear to me that the way forward for the industry is a shift towards a highly personal shopping journey for consumers.
New technologies and constant customer demand for improvement requires an equally constant response on the part of retailers. Innovation is a key component in keeping up with this demand, with new digital solutions spanning the entire customer journey, from ordering and payment through to customer satisfaction and returns.
Innovation in logistics solutions, in particular the ongoing search for a solution to the ‘final mile’ issue, is already a major factor and is going to be a recurring theme in the future.
One company that’s performing really strongly in this area is Doddle, a delivery partner for fashion retailers. The company is expanding into more railway stations with its simple, but effective, business strategy – Doddle shops act as collection points for online orders for retailers such as River Island, Warehouse and TM Lewin, in addition to retro-fitting changing rooms at a number of locations to allow customers to try on their orders, and immediately return any unwanted items. With today’s commuters stretched for time and local Post Offices dwindling in numbers, Doddle is effectively capitalising on the competing demands on customers’ time and patience.
It’s not just new innovators taking strides to improve the shopping experience. Giants such as Starbucks are also transforming our high streets and shopping experiences. Over 10% of its transactions are now being processed via a digital device. Its payment app is a clear winner with consumers and it makes business sense to develop an expanded mobile strategy. They have brought in the ability to pre-order food and drink, and more recently added a pay-ahead option. Starbucks is also planning the launch of a delivery service for app orders in an attempt to generate up-selling opportunities.
Mobile is essential in the evolved retail world. Retailers must recognise the importance of an effective mobile strategy in both attracting and retaining customer loyalty. ‘Like to Know’ uses the influence of fashion bloggers to enhance their readers’ relationships with retailers. When bloggers use Like to Know within their Instagram posts, users are sent an e-mail detailing how they can buy items within the image if they have ‘liked’ the post, and the blogger in turn receives commission on every item sold. This new innovation capitalises on the growing power of the blogger, as well as providing an additional service for retailers looking to increase their relationships with consumers.
A personal favourite innovation comes from high street staple, Pizza Hut. They have developed a ‘mind-reading’ Subconscious Menu, using Tobii technology to track eye movements across a menu on a tablet and predict customers’ orders. With an acclaimed success rate of 98% to date, it will be an interesting test of customer satisfaction, as orders can be overridden manually should the technology fail to determine an ideal meal.
So what are the lessons for retailers?
Although they must innovate to stay ahead, retailers do not necessarily have to come up with something entirely new to do so – expanding on a current, successful model with new features might well be enough to meet their consumers’ needs.
You don’t need your own infrastructure – demand for click-and-collect will continue to grow, which is why retailers like John Lewis are now charging for smaller click-and-collect deliveries. But solutions such as Doddle that mean you don’t necessarily need your own bespoke infrastructure to deliver effectively to consumers.
Convenience is king – make the entire shopping journey easy for your customers, or they’ll go to another retailer who will.
Stick with what you know – but be mindful that in today’s digital landscape, a mobile strategy is key.