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The rules are changing: Four trends shaping 2020

Who has time to read international trend reports when you’re busy running a retail store? Sarah Dunn has done the legwork for you and tailored the results into four New Zealand-centric insights. The bottom line? The pace of change isn’t lessening.

Anybody who’s ever worked in customer services has heard the phrase ‘The customer is always right’. Coined by Chicago retailer Marshall Field, it’s a sentiment I’ve never been totally comfortable with – while it encourages a productive attitude, I feel that in the face of a real-life customer who may be misinformed, dishonest or otherwise plainly not right at all, it clashes with reality.

I believe the real value of ‘The customer is always right’ thinking comes into play when we zoom out beyond individuals to consider them in aggregate. One shopper can certainly be wrong, but a market isn’t going to alter its preferences just for you.

If the majority of your customers don’t like any given product’s design, the problem is not their inferior taste – it’s your product that must change.

If shoppers consistently shift moveable elements within your stores to create an unauthorised shortcut between aisles, the problem is not their behaviour – it’s your store layouts that must change.

If your focus groups tell you that your product is unaffordable, the problem is not their insufficient funds – it’s your price points or finance offerings that must change.

Retailers can, to an extent, initiate and lead changing tastes, behaviours and spending patterns, but broadly we’re in the business of satisfying customers’ needs. Customers want what they want, and in that sense, they are – yes – always right. 

Identifying specific products is beyond the scope of this article, but with the following insights distilled from trend reports and tailored for New Zealand, I can try to help you understand what they might be thinking.

We’ll be publishing those insights over the rest of this week. Stand by!

Read Insight One: Values-based retail evolves

Read Insight Two: URL balanced against IRL

Read Insight Three: Instant gratification

Read Insight Four: Social gets serious

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 766 February / March 2020

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