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Retail is one of the industries most affected by the influx of technology, changing consumer behaviors, and enhanced customer expectations. Looking toward retail’s future, we compiled some key steps to staying on top of changing trends in the industry.
 
  1. Live a Customer-First Philosophy
There’s no doubt the brands set to flourish in the future are those that put their customer at the center of their offering. In an industry that evolved from telling the customer what they needed, the brands are asking empowered customers what they want and catering to those needs. According to Loyalty360, customer-centric companies are 28% more profitable than brands that don’t place customers at the center of their business plan.  To create a customer-first philosophy based on convenience, experience and value, brands first need a top-down buy in from stakeholders.
 
  1. Investing in a Customer-First Data Hub
Being fully committed to removing friction from the shopping process means managing each touchpoint on a continuous basis and understanding the changing needs of each customer across time and space. To support this customer-first philosophy, retailers must invest in a digital data platform that puts customer data at the fingertips of all decision makers across the business. The greatest sin in data collection, however, is just letting that information sit on the platform. The revolution will be delivered by brands with the skill to interpret, not collect, the data. For marketers with limited resources, outsourcing or partnering with a martech provider may provide this solution.

Permission, protection and trust are key elements in the collection and use of customer data and the value exchange principle will be essential here. We should all retain sight of the fact that ultimately the customer data always belongs to the customer, and its use can only continue with the trust of the customers themselves.
 
  1. Evolving a Customer First Offer
To remain relevant, retailers need to balance their value proposition through a clear understanding of where they sit in the “golden triangle” of offers—with price and convenience at the base and shopper experience at the apex. It is our opinion that for most retailers the answer lies in offering a differentiated and valued shopper experience, which deflects attention away from price and convenience—two areas where competition is steep.

Aimia believes the key to differentiation is enabling friction-free shopping, which can be achieved by aligning a shopper’s online experience with their in-store experience. We recognize “one you” is a powerful engagement tool that guides transition contact between the physical and virtual retail worlds. Non-invasive personalization will ensure the customer feels special without making it creepy. You may have the knowledge that John or Sue is in your store, but that doesn’t mean your customer service representative needs to greet them by name as they walk past. Create moments to savor, not moments of discomfort.

If a retailer can deliver value, convenience and a sought-after experience – while transparently operating with a heart and a conscience – then their future should be assured. By tying into social and charitable causes, retailers can give customers confidence that their spending is creating a real difference, beyond the normal redistribution of profits.
 
  1. Breaking the Mold with Customer-First Retail Design
As retailers strive to become fit for purpose in the future, we have seen considerable investment in removing legacy IT systems to enable advanced customer analytics, but now this must be supported by a commitment to remove ingrained legacy thinking from retail board rooms, and legacy design from the shop floor.

The new retail will not be built by tweaking current store design—stores must be rethought from the customer experience perspective and designed around customer retail journeys, not product categories. The design must incorporate radical solutions to “endless aisle” and click-and-collect while moving toward a touch-free checkout. This will require a focus on the customer journey, as the shopping trip becomes embedded within a wider social experience, and entertainment will be as much to the fore as products.  For grocery this may mean incorporating social spaces, running interactive sessions and a focus on food that speaks to the senses and has local, community, health and exotic appeal.

Aimia envisions the continued growth of super malls as lifestyle destinations where retailers work together to deliver an enhanced and self-contained social experience, built around the need to keep the shoppers entertained and fulfilled. Get the full Building a Customer-First Retail Future whitepaper now, or email [email protected] for more information.

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