In an industry thats been totally disrupted by the digital revolution, what happens when customers become saturated with purely-digital means of engaging with retailers?
As part of the inaugural Post Digital Retail event hosted in partnership with Verizon at their Innovation Centre in London, Hero joined speakers from pacesetters in the retail industry including Google, JD Sports, Tesco Labs and Insider Trends to consider a world for retail that is post-digital. That is to say a world where digital innovations and disruptions are no longer enough to be the key differentiator for retailers and brands to steal the march on their competitors.
Today’s shoppers are not only used to compelling digital services but expect to constantly be impressed at every interaction and as such, pioneering retailers are looking for ways to remove friction between a customer and the point of purchase. From ‘zero interface’ services like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, to harnessing the power of people in retail, self-ordering smart appliances and shoppable experiences, retail’s post-digital future — one that fully combines the online and offline worlds — is set to be set to be an exciting one.
Here are three of our main takeaways from a great morning of inspiring talks:
1. Unlocking brick & mortar’s competitive edge
Contrary to popular belief, the physical store isn’t dead, far from it in fact. Physical retail’s renaissance is only just beginning and is completely focused around compelling experiences for consumers. Digital native brands like Away and Sonos are realising the power physical spaces have in building connections with customers and Everlane just announced their first, official store this week, all with the purpose of evolving the relationship with their customers beyond the purely transactional to the experiential. At the same time, established “traditional” retailers are finding new ways to harness the power of their network of stores.
Hero’s Founder & CEO Adam Levene encouraged retailers to ‘sweat the assets’ and talked to the audience about how the new key differentiators for retailers are their stores and their people. By empowering the experts inside stores to do what they do best — offer their expertise, guidance and service to customers — but to customers online, merging online and offline channels, retailers can succeed in a post-digital world.
2. Frictionless purchase with ‘zero interface’
Another facet of retail’s next frontier is the obsession with reducing (and ultimately removing) steps to purchase for consumers. Paul Wilkinson, Head of Tesco Labs opened the door into a world of voice controlled, personalised shopping and frictionless repeat orders by smart appliances. Via devices like Google Home customers can not only order a carton of milk (or any grocery item for that matter) by simply telling the device what they want, but the technology in the background ensures the customer receives ‘their’ milk; the 2 pint, unsweetened soy milk by Alpro, for example.
This kind of frictionless shopping experience is just the beginning, and as more retailers begin to build services that work with zero interface devices, the new challenge will be to continue to build relationships with customers when there is nothing they can see or have to touch. The good news is, services like this make it easier for customers to make purchases more often for lower-consideration purchases.
3. The continued threat of Amazon
It wouldn’t be a retail event in 2017 without the threat of Amazon being raised repeatedly. From physical stores and people to data and technology, retailers must use everything at their disposal in the battle against Amazon. One challenge presented by JD sports CIO, Barry Loftus was for retailers to improve their delivery times and distribution networks. Amazon has set an incredibly high bar for same day and next day delivery, with customer expectation at an all time high.
Loftus suggested that smart utilisation and repurposing of stores as distribution hubs was paramount to feed the ever-increasing customer demand for instant gratification. Retailers were encouraged to ‘make a start’ and work on delivering smaller, breakthrough innovations that set their business apart over time, rather than trying launch one, large initiative that may be boom or bust.
Of all the insights and challenges posed at the event, one thing was abundantly clear; retail’s post digital future is a truly exciting one, filled with opportunities.