The future of retail is something that fascinates me. It's not just about the latest gadgets or advanced technology, it's about the overall customer experience. One that is omni-channel and consistent.
Consumers are more sophisticated than ever; we expect more than just a transactional experience and we expect to receive what we want, when we want. Amazon have just rolled out their one hour delivery in certain UK destinations, exclusively for prime customers. The amazing thing here is not only have Amazon's obsessive focus on the customer led them to achieve customer satisfaction through instant gratification and the ultimate convenience, they have achieved another consumer goal, the feeling of exclusivity. The feeling that this service is only open to us loyal customers who pay for the privilege, makes the service look and feel so much better, and in turn it will be no surprise that our loyalty continues to grow. Through a click of a button on my smartphone, tablet or computer, I could have what I want at my door. And it's made to feel great.
On the other side is Fenwick - they have beautiful department stores, and ones which do offer a great customer experience (shopping and dining). However, if you go online you are faced with a static website. If I wanted to continue my shopping experience, I would have to go to the brand's personal e-commerce site, in the hope they have what I want, and the customer experience will feel completely different. I feel uneasy thinking about it. Fenwick also decided to launch a beauty loyalty card - or cardboard rather. It still requires the use of a pen, and I've probably lost 3 already.
Bricks and water retailers who decide to join the e-commerce world by purely uploading their entire catalogue online have completely missed the point. At the same time, purely e-commerce retailers need to join the high-street (pop-ups will do), and create an exceptional offline experience. The new consumer (Millennials and Generation Z especially), don't just want to transact with you. They want to shop online, on mobile and in-store all at the same time. They want convenience, to receive what they want instantly. They want to be made to feel special. They want to be rewarded for their loyalty. They want to interact with open and honest retailers. They expect exceptional customer service, 24/7. They want their experience to feel personal and completely seamless. I could go on, but you get the gist.
Retailers in 2016 need to be asking themselves: When my customer walks through the door, how can I create an interactional experience for them, which continues seamlessly when they go online, on mobile, and on social (and vice-versa)? How can I create convenience? How can I encourage loyalty that feels exclusive, is easy, and fits through all of my channels?
Start-ups are answering all of these questions, and are fulfilling them so well that they are going to outperform large retailers who are failing to keep up.