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How to connect with connected customers

Except, perhaps, for possum merino fibre, New Zealand has nothing to offer the world that shoppers can’t get elsewhere, so Kiwi retailers need to strategise carefully. Speaker Ian Jindal started his talk at Westfield’s retail breakfast in SkyCity on Monday with this statement.

Jindal is the editor in chief and co-founder of trade publisher and educator Internet Retailing. Amazon has between 10 and 20 million products, he said, adding that last Christmas, 36 percent of all online product journeys began on Amazon.

“Why? If I can think of it, I know Amazon’s got it.”

Retailers who wish to compete with Amazon must have three things, Jindal said: a ruthless understanding of what drives their customers; a visceral understanding of their product; and a tight grasp on operations.

“We now need to think, ‘In this world, where do we fit in?’”

Jindal listed a series of specific actions retailers could take to be competitive.


  1. Focusing on mobile, and being “always on”.

The days of automatically getting credit from customers for being across certain technologies without having a good reason for being in that space are gone, Jindal says, but every transaction is now touched by mobile.


  1. Delivering on promises.

Jindal meant this phrase in a fairly literal sense, saying customers now view retailers as being responsible for the delivery of products. Nearly half of customers who abandoned their cart prior to online checkout cited delivery worries as the driver behind their decision.

As many customers order products online without necessarily intending to keep them, Jindal also advised retailers to be ruthless about enforcing their returns policy.


  1. Be careful when it comes to digital renaissance of the store.

Jindal said that some customers check online before visiting a physical store, and others report that they’re inspired to shop online after visiting a store in person.

He recommended “robustly unbreakable” digital screen technology, but warned retailers to be ready for it to break.

Jindal also questioned the value of beacons and augmented reality, saying the support and maintenance of thse made demands on staff time. They are  “seductive”, he said,  but do not offer much original value: “We need more than ‘Ooh, I’ve stalked you, you’re here, have 20 percent off something you don’t want.”


  1. Pay attention to staff and how they make the customer feel.

Staff are a retailer’s only sustainable competitive advantage, Jindal says. He recommends they “support staff to support your customers”, saying that as customers value knowledge, retailers should make sure their staff are as empowered as those they’re serving.


  1. Be seamless and mind the gap.

Retailers should spend time allowing their staff to learn processes and technology. He spoke passionately about how it didn’t make sense that retailers assumed that their staff would know everything they needed to while training them as little as possible, paying them as little as possible and denying them career prospects  – “And we wonder why artisanal stores run by staff who care are beating us!”

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