It is the most challenging period in modern retail, with economic turmoil and technological advances combining to reshape the retail landscape faster than many are able to react. All manner of players are delivering products and services across multiple channels, and savvy consumers are comparing prices and posting reviews across social channels. The relationships between producers, retailers and consumers are being reconfigured as technology now allows these parties to engage further.
Consumers are taking charge of their own shopping experience - identifying and leveraging different sources of information and actively bouncing between the digital and real world in the quest for convenience and value. As we follow trends, switch allegiances and make smart decisions, shopping has become a skill. Today’s consumer is more empowered than ever, navigating the world of retail on their own terms, making decisions to purchase whenever and wherever they want.
While efficiencies in retail supply-chains are no doubt essential for survival in today’s market place, long-term success lies beyond operational competency to a completely new way of thinking: customer centricity. The industry must adapt from a product and sales focused model to a more creative process, combining insight and imagination to deliver experiences that tap into the motivations of customers, no matter what channel they opt to engage in.
Bridging the creativity gap
In a world that is socially and economically in constant flux, brands need to innovate and adapt their offer to remain top of mind. However, innovation is only successful if it is based on genuine insight that delivers relevant solutions. Luxury fashion retailer Burberry is an example of a brand that was suffering from depleting consumer perception, with attempts to update its products and stay modern. As its reputation dwindled, profits fell and it became clear that serious transformation was required to ensure that the iconic British brand didn’t crash and burn.
Digital innovation has been fundamental to its newfound relevance amongst the modern luxury consumer, leveraging the efficiencies of digital and social media to put the brand where its customers are. The recent initiative, Burberry Kisses, is a visually immersive and interactive experience that allows users to send letters sealed with a virtual kiss to friends and loved ones across the globe. As one might expect, some dubbed the campaign a digital gimmick with little use or relevance to the brand, but to some this is a clever and charming example of humanising technology in order to create a meaningful brand experience. Even supposedly small and trivial gestures can have a positive impact of an individual’s perception of a brand. By prioritising content over commerce, Burberry are once again a symbol of British elegance, sophistication and style, but more than that, they have a 10 million + Facebook following and reported revenue of £2bn last year. Creativity really is the goose that lays the golden egg.
Novelty needs to add value
As irrefutable pleasure seekers, human beings crave sensory and intellectual stimulation to avoid boredom, which is why imagination combined with insight is crucial in terms of social and economic progress. In 2012, Tesco implemented an interactive digital screen at Gatwick Airport, allowing people in the departure lounge to choose from their most popular items and have them delivered to their home upon their return. This was fun to use – scanning products with a smart device to add to their basket; it entertained people whilst they waited in the departure lounge; and positioned the brand as one that understands consumer behaviour – visiting a supermarket is the last thing you want to do when getting back from a holiday.
The past decade has seen relentless digital innovation, leaving retailers and business models by the way-side if they are not able to adjust and develop new strategies to suit the modern consumer. However, recent brand activity such as Burberry and Tesco, suggests that retailers are becoming more and more confident to embrace technology amidst an improving economy. Despite the increasing number of devices and platforms, the focus is, and has always been, the consumer. Brands need to embrace the opportunity that technology presents and combine consumer insight with imagination to excite consumers with experiences which were previously unimaginable. A sharp focus on delivering authentic and engaging experiences will result in deeper engagement between brands and their consumer.