I was delighted to be invited to speak at two different conferences last week about the emerging consumer, how their shopping experiences are being transformed and the implications of that for retailers. Interestingly one of those conferences was the Magazine Publishers Association, so a conference for a changing industry. In this world, storytelling is creating new ways for brand owners to connect with customers’ hearts, minds and souls, and curators of opinions and information are connecting to individuals. Publishers are at various stages of re-imagining their relevance and some are feeling their craft is under fire.
So into this environment I ventured. At first glance it might seem a little weird to have a retail expert come and chat about embracing disruption, but there was some method to this madness. I can empathise. As retailers we’ve been there. Ten years ago pundits proclaimed that retail was on its last legs. ‘Who is going to go shopping once the window to the world is at your fingertips?”
Well, it turns out, everyone will still go shopping. One thing the pundits did have spot on was that mediocre retailing would die. Some instantly, some slowly but die they do. Online was a catalyst for change and created a retail renaissance.
The retail world starts and ends with the shopper – always has, always will - and never before has there been such complexity to the shopping journey. It’s a journey that can change each and every time as shoppers navigate their own way through shopping experiences in an era anything and everything can be purchased at any point in time.
With the swipe of a screen we browse, pin, tweet, buy, compare products and provide star ratings. Realising and accepting that control has been wrested from them has been tough for some retailers with decades of experience to get their heads around.
Traditionally, retailers had absolute control of the shopping situation – what people could buy, how much it cost and when they could buy it.
That has all changed in a market saturated with products, retailers and information that can be procured from a multitude of channels.
Yes, the customer was always right, but now she delights in wielding her power with a turn of her trolley, a click of her mouse, or a tap on her smartphone. The shopper is truly queen of her own destiny.
The 'ah-ha' moment for many retailers has been the shopper doesn’t think about where she is buying from in terms of “channel” - she just wants her needs met. Retailers are curators of product, information, service and advice to meet shopper needs.
Your shopper doesn’t care about your strategy or how you need to run your business, she only cares about how you can solve her need on her terms. Or not. In which case, she will go elsewhere.
Omnichannel really just means “On my terms” and that means that retailers need to start thinking differently to make the shopper journey more desirable, intuitive, intelligent, and user-centric.
You don’t need to be a multi-national retailer with buckets of money, but you do need to be smart and nimble. You do need to understand your shopper journey and use those insights to effectively meet her needs.