Digital – the key to retail success?

Digital innovation – what does it mean for us?

It seems that wherever we turn, all things digital is in the news – or our favourite retailer – more than ever before. What does this all mean for us the consumer? And why is digitising the business so critical for success?

Walk into many stores – especially fashion or electrical – these days and what strikes you most? Well, it’s still most likely to be the layout, the service, the price, the navigation around the store, the product. But look a little deeper and there is a revolution taking place right before our eyes – a digital revolution. It can be seen virtually everywhere we look from the padikins at New Look (manikins with iPads for heads), to the smart mirrors at Burberry. To some degree or other retailers everywhere are desperately trying to keep up with the ever burgeoning consumer expectations to be always on, always connected, engaging in ways like never before. And of course the store is now just one aspect of the total retail offering we expect.

I would suggest that getting price, product, promotion, availability right, whilst being absolutely essential to retail success, is only the beginning. Where once if these were in place sales conversion would most likely follow, this is no longer true. But why? What has changed so fundamentally to shift the emphasis onto some other priority in order to entice us to spend?

Much has been written about customer experience (CX) and a whole consulting industry is evolving – with good reason.

Customer experience is everything; it should be at the very heart of everything a retailer does. Where retailers speak of “putting the customer first” what they really should be saying is that ‘the experience our customers get when engaging with our brand will always be so good, so engaging, so interactive, so immersive, so involving that they will want to return time and again to experience us some more’.

And central to this is how we as consumers wish to engage with our favoured brands. No longer the static, one dimensional, often parent – child relationship which typified the retailer / customer relationship in years gone by. Now, the customer wants a slice of the action. We want to feel a part of the brand, part of the experience, to be able, in some way to influence and ultimately decide what works and what does not; indeed, what the outcome shall be.

And the good news is that this is all happening right now; more than ever we can now become brand ambassadors, we can critique, we can join in the community, we can promote, publicise, detract – to a degree unheard of even 5 years ago. And why is all this so significant?

We are now only seeing the tip of the iceberg; customer experience is everything and we are driving it; has there ever been a more exciting time?