In the last 5 years, the words CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE have come to define the future of retail. Trend analysts forecasted that by 2020, CX would be the key differentiator in business. In our opinion, we are already there.
During this same time, the retail world has been in a state of panic. First, Amazon was going to destroy the world of brick and mortar. But then, Amazon opened up a brick and mortar store. And in 2017, more stores were opening than were closing. So what now? The long and the short of it is, retail – in all its many forms – is here to stay.
A Look on the Bright Side
TDC&Co’s Top 5 Retail Trends for 2018
As we grow more and more tech obsessed and minimising screen time almost merits a trip to the rehab, we become more starved for human interaction. As a purely customer-facing industry, retail is well positioned to fill this void.
It comes as no surprise, then, that one of the top buzzwords that has emerged in retail in 2018 is community. People are constantly sharing their interests and values on multiple platforms. Think local. By bringing likeminded people together, you’re creating an environment they want to be in. And isn’t that just great for business?
But here’s the trick. You have to extend that community into the online space with tailored communications. In other words, no “Dear Valued Customer”, but Jason, Mary and Lebogang. And you have to be consistent across all channels or the spell is broken.
We are living the era of authenticity. Having any part in plastic islands, gender discrimination and unfair trade practices can make or break a business these days. Consumers are going to more trouble to educate themselves on the origins of everything from materials to ingredients to who-said-what-to-whom.
This means that the more transparent we are about our supply chains and other business practices (without boring our customers to death), the better we’re leading the conversations around our brands. Afterall, isn’t it better to be upfront than to do damage control later?
We don’t need to guess anymore. Thanks to the measurability of online, we know exactly what our customers like and don’t like. But we have to know what to look for. What is working (really working) and what is not. Above all, data helps us personalise the customer experience and informs the way we design the customer journey.
But it comes with another caveat: you have to stay on top of it. Just as we’re hell-bent on crafting authentic experiences to keep our customers coming back, so too are the behemoths of the tech world, Google and Facebook.
As they continue to improve their algorithms to figure out the best attribution model, ROI becomes more difficult for us to determine. But in the end, authenticity will always trump clever loopholes and tactics.
Back to Amazon. At one time, they were the single biggest threat to the tactile, in-store experience. But even they have realised the value of human interaction. Experience goes beyond a binary division of store vs. web. It’s about blurring the line so that the customer almost doesn’t realise the difference.
The key in all predicted retail trends for 2018 is creating an omni-channel customer experience – not only reaching the customer in store, but on every channel on which they interact with your brand, both online and off. To do this, we have to think big picture. Not every point of contact can be about a sale. And if your data reveals a customer need for more facetime or they want to chat to you on Facebook Messenger, look into it. Someone else already has.
The history of retail is rife with stories of people who got greedy, from hot chocolate companies wanting to cash in on the Himalayan salt craze to scores of celebrity brands churning out perfumes.
By collaborating with compatible, leading brands rather than milking the cow for all it’s got, you are crafting a better experience than by going at it alone. For instance, if you’re creating a selfie booth in store, work with a brand who has the leading-edge technology to help you create something unforgettable. Similarly, if you’re a shoe retailer and want to link your brand to wellness, work with a brand that specialises in wellness, so your customers feel like they’re getting the best.
We have to be clever about how we design our customer journeys, spending more time and resources on observing customer behaviour and less on aging systems and processes that don’t speak directly to their needs.
Retail design is no longer defined by space alone. It’s about the holistic experience. Talk to us to find out how you can amplify your customer experience by designing a space that considers all touchpoints in the customer journey. Get in touch with Tanya Manterfield at firstname.lastname@example.org.