How Disruptive Retail Tech Can Meet the Needs of Today’s Agile Consumers
It’s easy to get lost in a myriad of different technology solutions. But if we don’t connect technology with a real problem we’re looking to solve, we miss the point. Tech specifics tend to change over time as technology matures and customer expectations become clearer. Therefore, brands need to ensure they can meet the needs of today’s agile consumers, who are not set in their ways, not particularly loyal, and whose path to purchase is everything but linear. To do this, brands must focus on the concepts of retail being everywhere, instant, personal and circular.
Everywhere: Every Touchpoint is a Point-of-Purchase
As consumers, we want to be able to buy services and products anywhere and everywhere. Every touchpoint is a potential point-of-purchase, and the smartphone is the most powerful of all, with solutions like Samsung Pay and Apple Pay making purchasing really easy. Tech has matured so rapidly that some brands are now on the verge of the holy grail of a fully connected customer experience across platforms where every touchpoint is a point-of-purchase.
For example, H&M is now tying its different touchpoints together. In some stores, you can scan the price tag with the H&M app to locate different sizes, see if it’s available in nearby stores, and complete the purchase in the app. While across all online markets, consumers can find in-depth information about each garment, what it’s made of, where it’s produced, the factory name, and the number of factory workers. Not all businesses are H&M with massive tech muscles, but smaller brands could still look at ways that a mobile strategy could better support customers and how digital channels could support the physical store.
Instant: Be There When I Need You
It’s hard for physical stores to compete with the immediacy and convenience of online shopping. Instead, brands must rethink the role of physical retail and bring all the benefits of online shopping in-store. Using geographical and local content, as well as optimizing for search engines, is vital to ensure that you’re visible when shoppers are searching. And don’t miss out on the voice and visual search revolution. Voice search is projected to make up half of all searches by this year, and 30 percent of searches will be done without a screen.
Personal: Understand Me and My Needs Before I Have to Tell You
Personalization is about empowering the consumer to shop the way they prefer and helping them to make informed decisions. The key is to put your data to work, and to be transparent about it. Digital pure-players have been data driven from the get-go. They understand where their audiences are, what engages them, and what makes them love the brand and share their personal stories with others.
One interesting company is b8ta, which offers a retail-as-a-service-platform. b8ta turned the market upside down with a flat monthly fee paid by the product manufacturer to the retailer, including everything from staffing, merchandising, point-of-sales to hefty data analytics. In-store cameras track metrics around foot traffic, and in-store “b8ta testers” collect information from shoppers, giving the product manufacturer complete insight into how consumers interact with its products.
Circular: Help Me Do the Right Thing and Feel Good About Buying Your Products
A study from 2017 shows that among Europe’s 25 leading retailers, only 12 explicitly addressed the circular economy on their websites. After the climate protests in 2019, sustainability has most definitely moved higher up on the executive agenda.
The concept of circular economy involves all stages of the product life cycle, from the product design and production process, through marketing and consumption to waste management, recycling and reuse. Brands must figure out how to make products more durable, easier to repair, collectible and then reused in production once the initial lifespan is over. If you aren’t already looking at your business through circular design lenses, start now! Innovate around new services that enrich your offering and create new revenue streams in addition to your product.
Katharina Borgenstierna is the business unit director of commerce at Valtech, a global digital agency focused on business transformation.
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