Preparing for an uncertain future is something that keeps many CEOs awake at night. In a world where uncertainty is all around us, we have seen billions of dollars removed from the value of companies overnight, and where household names in Banking and Retail disappear in the blink of an eye, what can be done to ensure your business does not fall victim to the ‘new world order’.
There once was a fear amongst some (not me by the way), that online would replace bricks-and-mortar, and physical stores would vanish with the future being a place where just about everything would be done online. That is not going to happen, in fact, bricks-and-mortar stores are projected to account for 85% of retail sales in 2025. As traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, along with online retailers realise that the future is not about serving customers through a single channel (online, or off-line) it is about creating retailing eco-systems that are multi-channel (or even, dare I say it, omnichannel) where customers have the choice of how to interact with their chosen brand, through the channel that gives them what they need, when they need it.
The near future will see an increasing move toward multi-channel commerce, where human-to-human experiences are an extension of all the other touch points customers have with brands. Brick-and-mortar businesses competing with online channels is old thinking. Business should be asking itself ‘how can I incorporate online into my business?’
Constantly changing technology, increasing competition, and changes in consumer behaviour create challenges and opportunities for all businesses and the only way to succeed in this world is to understand:
who you are, what you do and why you do it
why customers love you
how you can put customers at the heart of your business and make them advocates for it
Does this sound overwhelming? It shouldn’t if you are in business and do not know the answer to the first two points above, you are in trouble… so let’s presume you do. Now to point three, there is an abundance of tools available to help. Here are some:
Every forward-thinking discussion about retail will include some element of technology. As advancements are made every day, new tools emerge that business can use to be smarter, enhance customers the experience of their brand, and run business operations more smoothly.
Customers and retailers can be online at all times, in fact, research suggests that approximately 50% of customers conduct online research to gather information on the product or service they are considering, and check the price or rate they are being asked to pay to make sure it is competitive - whilst in the store or branch.
Clever Banks and Retailers realise this and offer promotions and discounts to mobile users who are in the physical vicinity of their store or branch. The technology required to do this is simple, easy to implement and delivers staggering results.
In-store advisory services, payments, instant ‘know your customer (KYC)’ and powerful ‘customer relationship management (CRM)’ tools are all now possible - and more than 50% of consumers are open to this trend - and this gives companies a fantastic opportunity to gather more and more data on customer behaviour too.
Staff members should also benefit from mobile technology. By putting your organisation's products and services in the palm of your staff members hand, on a mobile device, they are no longer shackled to a desk, can move around the store or branch, serve customers better, remove friction points and focus on delivering a unique and compelling experience. Research has shown that customers are more than 45% more likely to purchase products and services if staff members are mobile and empowered to have friendly, ‘side-by-side’ conversations at the convenience of the customer, wherever and whenever they wish.
With technology comes data and with data comes power. Power to know your customer better, the power to remove uncertainty, the power to identify what is really happening in your business, not what you think may be happening… and most importantly, the power to identify and predict trends. Moving forward, Banks and Retailers are not only going to have to figure out how to capture and organise data but also how to use it. Doing so will enable them to (presuming their staff are properly prepared and their business model is sufficiently agile), to act quickly enough to capitalise on them
As more data is more abundant, so are potential privacy and security breaches. Privacy is a big deal to today’s consumer — about two-thirds would no longer purchase from a brand after their private information is compromised in a data breach - make sure you respect your customer's privacy, keep their data secure as even the smallest breach can destroy your business overnight.
Initially, this means that you must design your store or branch for experiences — not just for displaying products. Incorporate your brand identity into your physical space to bring the experience to life. Remember that whatever business you are in, wherever you are in the world, consumers are increasingly buying into a brand versus just purchasing a product. So, help your customers buy into a specific lifestyle your product or service facilitates through immersive branded experiences, pop-up shops, event sales, content marketing, or other targeted efforts.
Almost three-quarters of consumers want to have personalised Banking and Retail experiences. This means retailers must look at the data, digest and interpret it, and provide experiences that are guided by data-driven insights.
Think Customer Service
Customer service is part of the entire brand experience, both online and offline. Providing authentic, one-on-one customer service in-store or branch is essential, and it’s only going to get more important. This means that your space must be designed to make it easy for customers to find the service they need. Your associates must be trained to provide the customer service which is totally aligned with your brand.
Consumer behaviour is ever-changing, and it’s up to you to anticipate and accommodate these changes. Whereas 10 years ago, the online shopping experience was much more basic, now, 75% of millennials will visit a store or branch to see a product with the intention to buy it online later.
The future presents a massive opportunity for those who are prepared to think openly, be agile, be authentic and use the tools available to help them build a lasting bond with their customers. There are exciting times ahead! Go grab them and succeed.
About the Author
Nicholas Griffin is Managing Director at Principle Global (www.principleglobal.com) Information on how to contact Nick is in the footer of this web site.