Meeting Rising Consumer Expectations

Chris PetersonBy Chris Peterson, Retail Keynote Speaker

One of the greatest challenges all retailers face is the rising expectations of customers. Not only do consumers expect to shop anytime and everywhere, they expect their experience to be “seamless”, with multiple options on how and where to take delivery.

Indie retailers face similar challenges with more of their customers cross shopping more ways and more places. Even though independents are more store and experience driven, options like click and collect and shipping the last mile still play crucial roles. At Fat Brain Toys in Omaha, the physical store experience is essential in differentiating the unique value of their product offering, but their web site and delivery are differentiated services, and reach an extended customer base.

The greatest challenge for independents will be to expand their historical scope and develop economic ways to engage their customers earlier and at more touch points across the customer journey. From social media, to email and texts, independents have an advantage of building local relationships with core customers beyond the traditional “store”.

There is a reason Amazon is racing to acquire stores and build stores – the power of customer experience in physical space. Brick and mortar retailers need to realize that the most powerful medium of experience is in their physical space.

Results count – everything else is conversation. There is a lot of talk, not enough “do”. Brick and mortar retailers need to double down on investments that are customer centric. They need to realize that qualified, engaging staff is an asset that differentiates, not a labor expense.

Physical retail needs realize that the most important “sale” is not the last transaction at the cash register, but the development of a customer relationship that creates lifetime value. This year, retailers need to focus on the following trends:

Mobility – Mobile devices play a role in 69% of all sales. Smartphones are the preferred portal of entry as customers begin their journey of search and research.

Seamless – For customers it is no longer ecommerce. They have dropped the “e” and it is just commerce. Retailers are still focusing on channels, customers don’t. They are format agnostic.

Relevancy – Most retailers, especially independents, cannot afford to compete with the retail giants on price, product and promotion. Independents need to focus on creating relevancy that provides value before, during and after the sale.

While the US is still “over stored”, independent retailers need to realize that physical retail is not going away anytime soon. What they need to do differently is shift their focus away from selling products at a price, and move toward providing solutions and services that differentiate their value.

The locally owned hardware stores are a prime example of being the “place” where customers go first because they get assistance in finding solutions that fit their lifestyle and homes.

Independent retailers need to shift their focus from the traditional 4Ps of product, price, promotion and place to a more customer centric focus on the 4Cs:

Customer – Personal value over features

Cost – Cost of acquiring customer relationships over promoting products @ price

Convenience – Taking the “pain out” through offering services & choice

Communication – Engaging early, often and staying connected

Shopping is a process, not an event. The customer literally has become the new POS. They choose when, how and where they will purchase, and take delivery. They do not even think about omnichannel … they just do it.