They say retail is dying. Brick and mortar stores are on the clock—closing in troves every day, it’s just a matter of time until everything has switched online, delivered by bots.
Retail isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s thriving, and about to enter a completely new, incredibly exciting new era. At the heart of these changes will be the customer. Those retailers that choose to actually listen to their customers, and give them experiences that they WANT, will be the ones pioneering this new age. That’s why we believe 2018 is the year of the customer.
For all the talk of disruption, Amazon has done the retail industry a massive favour.
We loved this take on The Register recently, whereby any shopping interaction falls into one of two categories: The things you want to do, and the things you just get over with. The ones you cherish, and the ones that are a chore. Reflect on your own shopping experiences, and you’ll see this to be true. Just imagine: You spend hours perusing new pairs of shoes with a friend, trying on dozens and admiring the different styles. You could make a decision in five minutes, but it’s not about that; it’s about socialising, enjoying yourself, having a break from the real world. After hours, you finally make a decision and purchase a pair, walking out with the box in your hands. Now imagine going out to buy new socks, or rubbish bags: You duck into the nearest store, grab a couple, then shoot back out. Done and dusted.
Guess which type of retail Amazon is disrupting? The chores. The stuff people don’t want to be doing. Their cutting-edge technology around online purchasing and bots, combined with an efficient distribution system means that socks and rubbish bags can now be bought from home, with the click of a mouse. No need to go outside when it’s raining, or when you’d just rather be doing something else. This sheer convenience of Amazon’s approach has delivered massive value to the customer, driving others out of the marketplace.
But this is all a good thing. Amazon has opened up the retail industry to focus on creating experiences which customers love, and will talk about. No longer is shopping just about acquiring products; it’s now all about the holistic experience: the socialising, the feelings, and the connection.
A shift to customer power
Back in the day, when people were forced to get all their food from the local grocer, and only had a couple of options of stores to buy from, retailers held all the power. ‘Buyer beware’ was well-ingrained into our shopping mindset, and we would put up with lacklustre service due to a lack of options.
The days of ‘buyer beware’ are long gone—now, it’s well and truly ‘seller beware’. The prevalence of retailers like Amazon, the way social media has changed how easy it is for customers to tell others about their experience, and increased customer expectations means that the power is in the hands of your customers – so it’s time to adjust.
Listen and thrive
Luckily, the stage has been set for customer-centric retailers to thrive.
Now more than ever, the key to success in retail is listening to your customers. Retailers need to know their customers like they know their own family—their likes and dislikes, their habits, their wants and needs. In an industry that is increasingly about providing the perfect experience for your customer, there’s no other way to survive.
We’re entering the year of the customer, and we need to be focused accordingly. At the very core of your business should be the customer, and the experience they’ll receive from the moment they enter your store.
A tale of two evenings
Imagine it’s Saturday night, and you’re taking the girl of your dreams out on a first date.
How well you know them, and how much you’ve listened to her in the past, will have a direct correlation on how enjoyable the experience is for your partner. Say you don’t know too much, and you take her to a dinner and the movies. Part way through dinner, you notice she hasn’t eaten much. “Oh, I’m actually allergic to Italian…” Not a great start, only to be made worse by the fact that she’s also already seen the movie you’ve bought tickets to.
Now say you’ve been really paying attention to her, asking questions, listening and getting to know her. You take her to a little spot she mentioned she loves, watch the sun go down, bring out a bottle of her favourite wine and talk about how much she hates Italian food. It’s safe to say these two evenings would have two rather different outcomes.
When it comes to your customers, it’s really not too dissimilar to going on a first date. Listen, then provide an experience no one else can replicate, and you’ll make the most of the year of the customer.