Head of market intelligence Lorna Hall runs a team out of London, and was the keynote speaker at the Auckland summit earlier this month.
In her talk, Hall connected the dots between a rise in personalisation of ecommerce sites with the increasing popularity of mobile phones as the first point of contact with shoppers. Personalised sites contain less irrelevant material, which means they suit smaller mobile screens better.
Besides this significant benefit, Hall said, the aim of personalisation is to have direct relationships with customers by only presenting them with relevant information. This should be done carefully, however, she said consumers have become very intolerant of poorly-done personalisation which causes them to be bombarded with messages or “stalks” them with tracker ads.
“You shouldn’t know when personalisation happens,” Hall said. “[The customer experience] should just be better.”
She said WGSN has been tracking UK clothing retailer Very with interest as it is currently in “major transformation mode” after investing heavily in data research.
Moving on to the second major trend, fast-laning, Hall said customers increasingly desire products to be served up in ways that circumvent unnecessary procedures such as queuing.
In the UK, she said, ‘click and collect’ schemes have become so popular that distribution of parcels from store counters has become a problem. Specialist queue-busting technology called Qudini has emerged to address this.
“The shopper is looking for brands and retailers who don’t waste their time, and in some cases, may even win them back time,” Hall said. “Time is a luxury.”
Hall spoke of two different customer personas, which a single customer may inhabit in the course of a day. One type of customer wants to take their time and be immersed in the mood of a store; the other just wants to get in, complete the transaction and leave quickly.
“Some customers will pay a premium for convenience, yet immersive experiences are raising expectations for all.”
Hall’s final major trend is elevated engagement. This is about innovation within mature retail markets, where the retailer becomes more of a host.
She praised clothing brand Finery London’s use of events staff for special occasions instead of shop assistants. Using these trained communicators gave the label an edge over competitors, she said: “If you can get the right kind of squad, you can talk to your customers in a different way.”
Hall also praised US label Kit & Ace for its in-store dinner parties, which encourage customer and staff interaction and connect the stores with their communities.
She said she was usually unimpressed with in-store technology as it was often poorly-implemented and had a low uptake with customers, but its use was improving. Smaller retailers could have a go at copying Topman’s use of Google’s free Hangouts video conferencing software to give customers remote style consultations.
Even in small markets like New Zealand, Hall said, there is tremendous pressure to stay current: “The gulf becomes wider and wider if you don’t continually improve.”
Asked how concerned Kiwi retailers should be about the arrival of foreign chains such as TopShop, Hall said there is not really room in New Zealand for a large number of stores.
“They’re not all going to come here and open stores.”
Local retailers have enormous potential to become the channel of choice by “making yourself so special that you have a differential.”
Speaking about New Zealand retailers she admired, Hall praised Farmers for its move online. She also listed Ezibuy as one to watch for its collaborations, especially with UK retailer Next.