There is endless conversation about the customer journey, how she shops, and how to best influence her along the way. And of course, technologists and retailers are hanging onto every word hoping they will be the ones to perfect that multi-channel shopping experience – capturing her spending dollars at just the right point.
At RetailNext we often talk about how retailers can better understand, measure and influence her behavior along the way. But this post is about something more basic – what does she really want?
Earlier this month we held our 5th annual Executive Forum, an annual event bringing together retail leaders, technology partners and the RetailNext team to discuss the future of retail and how we can all stay relevant in these ever-changing times.
During the course of the event, in a conversation on technologies making a difference to the customer experience, a retailer made an interesting comment, saying something along the lines of, “it’s an interesting question, because the things we think will make a difference get a shrug as if our customers are saying ‘it’s about time.’”
In thinking about this, it made sense. Technology solves many of our every day problems. Our cars are smart, and our homes are becoming smarter. We walk around with more computing power than our parents or theirs ever imagined possible. And yet, when we go shopping in a physical store, we still need to wait in line on a busy Saturday afternoon. And we still have to ask a sales associate to find us a size, or rely on her to bring the best fitting jeans, or help us figure out if the color and size we want is available to ship directly to us.
According to popular press, 5 years ago, physical retail was dead. Last year, the news was all about online retailers opening stores. This year started with a flurry of news about stores and malls shutting their doors. To me, these are all symptoms of a few trends we (at RetailNext) talk about a lot – channels are converging, retail is changing and SHE IS IN CHARGE. This opens tons of opportunity for new and old retailers to reinvent how she shops. Lets forget trendy topics like #omnichannel or #seamlessexperience and replace them with the likes of #thejoyofshopping or #supriseanddelight. If we, as retailers, start with how she feels about the experience, we may find out we have the tools to give her just what she wants.
But it’s hard to listen to and react to everything she wants in her shopping experience because guess what, women (and men) – shoppers – are fickle. What’s desired on a Saturday afternoon shopping trip with friends is very different than what’s wanted on a Wednesday morning when running into a store to get something needed now. And it’s hard to plan for and invest in technology that addressees all of the fickleness in shoppers.
However, the retailers focusing on the customer and her specific needs have a much better chance of surviving and even thriving. And from where I sit, what she wants is pretty simple – a frictionless shopping experience, technology that solves real problems in-store, associates who know more than she does, the right size in the right place at the right price and easy and convenient check out and return processes.
Easy, right? Maybe not, but most things of value, and certainly sustainable competitive advantages, rarely are. But, it’s the place for retailers to start strategizing – solving problems for your shopper and giving her what she really wants.
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