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How do we Transform Retail for the Connected Customer?

A SHOP.KIWI RECAP

How can we Transform Retail for the Connected Consumer?
March 1, 2016 Anya Anderson

In February, NZ Retail hosted the first shop.kiwi event at Auckland’s Sky City Convention Centre. This event saw international speakers bring in fresh perspectives to the most common problem facing retailers today: ‘How can we transform retail for the connected customer?

Know Your Customers

Yes, customers’ needs and expectations are changing. But bricks-and-mortar retail still holds a place with today’s consumer, with more than 90% of the retail spend in New Zealand still physically in-store. So, while there’s no denying that customers are more connected than ever, and online retail is growing at a rapid rate, a key theme is that connected consumers continue to prefer doing most of their shopping in-store and in-person.

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Customers’ needs should be the greatest driver in any retail business. We’ve posted an article about the importance of being customer-centric before, and the premise still rings true today (perhaps now more than ever).

Possibly the most succinct point of the day came from Sam Shosanya, CEO of Paper Plus. Shosanya said that, ultimately, the retail battle is “capturing the biggest share of shopping trips”, and this can be either online or in-store.

So, how can retailers stand out from the competition?

What’s most important here, is remembering that relevance trumps differentiation. While many retailers are rushing to differentiate themselves through new technology, unless it’s relevant to the customer, it won’t help them stand out. And to this Shosanya warns “don’t differentiate for the sake of differentiation.

Know Yourself

The goal for any retailer implementing new technology should always be ease. If you make it easy for your customers, you will sell more. So make it easy. Whether it’s online or in-store, make your customer experience easy.

Thinking about ease, Shosanya warned retailers need to beware that implementing new technology, in order to remove barriers, can often introduce new ones. Choose wisely.

The thing that will help you choose the right technology for your business is knowing your business and where it sits on the retail spectrum.

Stop thinking of shopping as an ‘online versus offline’ experience, and more as a spectrum; where online retail and bricks-and-mortar are constantly sliding along the scale in response to consumer trends. Understanding where the company sits on the spectrum and assessing it against where it should be, will influence how you approach the next step.

Know Your Team

Give your team the authority to serve your customers.

NZ Racing Board CEO, John Allen drove home the point that retailers need to “…give [their] people information.” Retailers need to tell their teams about their business. Tell them why it is that they  do what they do. Even tell them how to do it.

If retailers don’t give their people the capacity to change, then change can’t happen. Jonathan Elms, Associate Professor at Massey University notes, “your people create your experience.”

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Retailers are becoming increasingly aware of their team’s importance in the customer experience. Findings from the ‘Big Issues in Retail’ survey, conducted in partnerships with Monash Business School, Retail NZ, and Massey University, highlighted that retailers are placing greater importance on training their team. According to the survey, the main ‘human capital challenge’ facing companies in the next twelve months is staff training and development. Put simply, retailers want to train staff to confidently interact with customers.

In the same survey, when asked to rank four factors in the retail mix on importance, customer service was ranked most important. This ties in with a majority of respondents who identified the in-store experience as the biggest driver in customer loyalty.
In the retail industry, knowledge is power. Retailers need to know their customer well enough to provide them with an experience that meets their needs. Retailers need to know their business model well enough that they don’t introduce technology which can become a barrier to business. And, retailers need to know the importance their team place in creating their customer experience.