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I buy, therefore I am: challenges and trends for the retail sector

By Ana Moliner — June 19, 2019

Technology is another lever. It must be paired with strategies that improve our customers’ quality of life

The retail world is evolving at lightning speed, with changes that are aligned with what we observe in society and go beyond the use of technology. The industry’s challenges are linked to social trends because, for the first time ever, we are veering away from the goal of “selling more” in lieu of “selling better.” This text describes the retail trends that will drive the biggest transformations:

  • Your values, my values

One of the main goals of any brand is for customers to identify with them. To achieve this, it is logical to believe that both the brand and its consumers must share the same values and, above all, the same purpose. When a customer connects with you on this level, their loyalty will be established. Have a clear vision of your values and purpose, and align all of your actions (marketing, communication, sales process, customer service, etc.) with them.

  • Imitate me

The chances of giving a good gift are directly correlated to how well we know the recipient. Therefore, you must understand customers based on their behaviors and patterns, and how your brand makes them feel.

Brand, product and emotions go hand in hand. Hyper-personalization is not enough because we also need a real-time strategy that adapts to changing customer patterns. Since their preferences and latest clicks change, it is important to observe customers in every channel. They must be monitored globally and continuously.

Identifying where and how the buying decision is made is a basic part of understanding customers in order to interact with them one on one. Therefore, attractive and natural language should be used.

The role of emotional factors and how they are managed are essential in having the most efficient impact on customers, who are actually the boss.

  • Apostles

Take care of employees in the same way as you take care of customers, because their satisfaction is completely tied to that of your team. One of a brand’s biggest achievements is for employees to take ownership over the brand so they can promote and convey its essence, as if they were the company’s CEOs.

Employee involvement, enthusiasm and affinity with the brand’s values will result in exquisite customer service and team members who are the best ambassadors a company can have. Achieving this engagement is one of the industry’s challenges: employee recruitment and loyalty policies must be fully revamped to create a corporate culture that is aligned with the company’s purpose.

  • You matter

Everyone likes to feel loved and to receive kind words and gestures. Customers are humans with emotions, and they must be treated as people who are unique and special. This idea should be used to create strategies based on human interactions, with a focus on identifying what emotions your brand produces.

Although the offline channel is transforming, it will not disappear altogether. To bring customers to your point of sale (or experience), you must treat them professionally. Your advisors should be passionate experts about their field because they must convey what customers want to feel.

The idea is to go beyond customer centricity and instead focus on creating emotions and, above all, understanding how customers want to feel when they buy your products or services. When you show that someone matters to you, they do the same in return, and even more.

  • 100% natural

A concept that has created a great deal of awareness is environmental conservation and protection. The thousands of movements aimed at reducing plastic waste, increasing water savings and promoting efficient consumption throughout the world show no signs of wavering. Retailers are taking note, which helps to build strong, transparent bonds.

Another strategy that is gaining traction is to create products designed for multiple owners, with a longer service life and using fewer resources. Some of the major trends that are on the rise include recycling clothes and eliminating plastics.

Once again, the goal is to establish a connection with social awareness. You should take on a leadership role in matters that concern customers instead of waiting for government regulations. Be creative and proactive, and think ahead.

  • Creating synergies

The relationship paradigm between companies has changed. There is no place for those who compete with others and evade their surroundings. Today, successful companies have reliable technological partners that help them to improve their offering. Having multiple travel companions will exponentially increase efficiency at these companies and sink those who try to go at it alone.

Partnerships between traditional offline retailers and purely online retailers will enable the two worlds to share the best practices they have learned over the years. The experience acquired by everyone will make these alliances more effective.

If we also think locally by supporting the regional economy, finding nearby partners and building alliances with small businesses that create jobs, then the results will be even better.

  • My time is gold

Nobody likes to wait, even if we tend to arrive late. Resolving last mile logistics to shorten delivery times is one of the greatest challenges faced by the industry. It is difficult to lower shipping costs without affecting prices. With this in mind, customers are willing to accept alternatives, as long as they save time. Self-checkout is one example.

The time factor plays a key role in the buying experience. Processes that reduce the number of steps between the buying decision and its execution should be defined in a fast and simple manner, saving time that can in turn be invested in new purchases.

  • Better late than never

Sometimes, the digital transformation discourse for the retail sector is centered around rising generations and analyzes their behaviors and habits to design specific strategies. In the midst of all this, we must also consider the group that will represent the strongest driving force in the coming years: senior citizens.

By creating products for an aging society and the types of services these customers will be willing to pay for, our success ratio will grow because they are the future.

  • That’s not all, folks

Certain retailers follow the strategy of keeping committed and potential fans continuously focused on their brand. Others, in turn, opt for mystery and discretion. One thing that is clear, however, is that the element of surprise and the creation of new content are two initiatives that must be implemented. Breaking out of the routine, away from what is expected and foreseeable, is a way of keeping alive the level of excitement and the bond between brands and consumers.

Continuously creating new content is a popular strategy used by purely digital retailers, and it should also be adopted by traditional channels.

This completes the summary of the challenges we wanted to highlight, of which some were presented at the first edition of the Retail & Brand Experience World Congress held in Barcelona. Why has technology not been mentioned? Because it is another lever. The IoT, AI and big data will make all of this a reality, but the use of technology should be combined with strategies that improve customers’ quality of life. We also benefit from making their lives better and connecting with their purpose.

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