Retail evolution not extinction

A ‘seamless customer experience’ appears to be the current obsession for retailers – mobile, desktop, in-app – a preoccupation with working out what customers want, even before they do and they’re getting pretty good at it.  But Bricks and Mortar retailers have the added pressure of the in-store customer experience and this is where it’s all change.

I’ll continue to rant about the merits of brick and mortar retail (someone has to) but not because i’m old fashioned but because statistics say we should care. According to the ONS, while online sales continue to rise, e-commerce as a percentage of total retail sales in March 2018 was still only 17.4%.

I also read an interesting stat from Murphy Research in e-marketer that 69 percent of U.S. internet users make a retail brick and mortar purchase in an average month while only 22 percent make a retail purchase online in an average month (and 9 percent buy something online for in-store pickup).  Our own research conducted last year ‘shopper influencers’ also supports this hypothesis.

The importance of brick and mortar retail to a local economy and a town’s dynamic cannot be underestimated. Fewer shops equals fewer jobs, which increases instability and deprivation.  Fortunately, traditional retail isn’t dying it’s just changing and I personally don’t think retailers are keeping up with this pace of change and consumer demands for format, feel and functionality.

So, we had a look at smart home tech one of the fastest growing consumer categories – according to EY some 59% of UK households are expected to own a smart home device by 2022 – to see how or if retailers were capitalising on this surge in interest and the results were pretty insightful.

The study found that whilst 56 percent of adults have bought the latest must-have smart home tech including WIFI controlled security cameras, heating systems and speakers most have little idea how to use what they’ve bought.  To the extent that over 30% said they regretted buying at least one or more items of smart home technology because it proved so difficult to get up and running and many said they couldn’t get all their devices to connect – which is the whole point of having a ‘smart home’.

Coupled with this, nearly a third said they never read instructions or manuals when they buy a new piece of kit and 21 percent admitted that although they have a love of tech, they are intimidated by the complexities of it.

Of the most popular smart home tech items forty five percent said the trickiest bit of kit to install was security equipment including app-controlled doorbells, motion sensors and CCTV, followed by smart lighting (28%) and smart heating system (35%).

And despite its current popularity, 30 per cent of adults that have purchased a smart speaker such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home don’t understand or use all its functionality.

Smart home tech is popular, but people don’t know how to fully utilise it to meet their lifestyle needs – whether that’s convenience, money saving, leisure time or learning. Maybe the learning is lost for the majority of these customers because they chose to buy online but there’s clearly a customer need and experience that’s not being fulfilled by brick and mortar retailers.

We can talk endlessly about multi-channel integration, increased personalised experiences, fluid shopping between on and offline but ‘experience-centric’ shopping where consumers can ‘play’ and be served by a retail team that understand each product in detail and can match consumer need to product performance, is surely where brick and mortar retailers can always win?

We’ve seen huge strides in ‘experience’ shopping but there’s still a long way to go for brick and mortar retailers to make every customer visit worthwhile by fully utilising their USP – the fantastic team that meet and greet their customers every day.

Article by Daniel Todaro, Managing Director at Gekko

 

Read the full article here

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