The retail landscape is unrecognizable from what it was just 10 years ago. Innovative technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and automation coupled with constantly shifting consumer preferences have resulted in retailers needing to evolve more rapidly than ever. It seems that nearly every day we’re hearing about another retailer that has had to close its doors due to falling behind the latest retail trends.
Because the need to keep up (and frankly, survive) is so palpable for retailers, they simply don't have the time to contemplate or judge consumer habits. Rather, they must evolve alongside consumers and use technology to help them revolutionize their businesses.
What Modern Consumers Want From Brands
There are certain factors we know consumers are looking for from the brands they regularly engage with.
First, consumers want brands to take a stance on social issues. More than half of American consumers consider themselves to be socially conscious shoppers. They want to understand what values the brand stands for and know that its purpose-driven with a larger mission behind its business. This is becoming a key differentiator in today’s retail landscape, and brands must evolve accordingly.
We also know that consumers want brands to take data privacy and consent seriously. To satisfy this demand, retailers need to be fully transparent with what data they're using, as well as how and why they're using it. This level of transparency allows consumers to easily adjust the amount of data they share. Transparency and an open dialogue around data privacy will lead to trust and loyalty over time.
Lastly, brands must deliver a consistent, hyperpersonalized experience. The definition of personalization and what constitutes a good experience is continuously changing due to new technology. Because of this, retailers must have the courage to "self-disrupt" themselves — including what may have been successful in the past — to innovate and win new generations of customers.
How to Prepare for What Consumers Will Want Tomorrow
While these are truths of what consumers are looking for today, the sheer speed of the industry means it's inevitable that these might not be relevant for long.
As the industry continues to hover in a state of flux, retailers must take advantage of tools and technologies that help them become (and stay) intelligent, sustainable and transparent. This is easier said than done, but tools like data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud services will enable agile responses to shifting consumer trends. Within the challenges of transformation lay opportunities for growth and new avenues of connecting with customers.
Regardless of size and segment, all retailers now need to be nimble, think digital-first and achieve ever-faster time to market. This is the future of retail.
Embrace Change as the Only Constant
The health of the economy, consumer spending habits and retail preferences will continue to keep life interesting for retailers. There will always be a level of uncertainty lurking in the background and questions around how consumers will spend and what they care about most, whether it be price, convenience, values or something different altogether.
With technology at the foundation and investment in productivity and resilience, retailers can stay one step ahead. They can truly get to know their customers, why they act in certain ways, and begin to anticipate what they will want next. Because let’s face it, instant gratification is no longer good enough.
Chris Hauca is general manager of SAP Commerce Cloud, an ominchannel customer experience platform.
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Chris Hauca is General Manager of SAP Commerce Cloud, an ominchannel customer experience platform.
Chris Hauca joined SAP in August 2018 as Head of Strategy and GTM for SAP Enterprise Commerce within the SAP Customer Experience business unit. In this role, he oversees strategy, go to market, and solution management for SAP Commerce Cloud and other commerce solutions. Chris sees a tremendous opportunity to further grow the commerce business and the broader SAP C/4HANA suite by enabling a truly integrated suite tailored to specific industries.