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The Revolution will be Digitised

posted: 14 October, 2016

Retailing is founded upon customer interaction. This stands to reason – how customers engage and are engaged by a brand, product, or service, and what impression they are left with is the defining and constant battle for any retailer.

Recalling traditional pre-Internet era fashion stores, the customer may be initially greeted at the door before being approached by a sales associate proffering advice. After being directed towards a fitting room, another member of staff brings alternative sizes, styles, and colours, before being whisked on to a point of sale. From ‘hi’ to ‘bye’, every step in the customer journey is managed by the store.

Nowadays things are a little different. As retailers strive to create consistent, high-quality experiences in-store, online, and at home, the number of customer touchpoints has increased exponentially. From payment (PayPal, Apple Pay) to click-and-collect (Tesco, Argos, CollectPlus, Doddle), and delivery (Yodel, DPD, Royal Mail), third party specialists play a crucial role. The opportunity of piggybacking on domain expertise is enormous, however placing your reputation in the hands of others is a risk, so choose your partners wisely!

This loss of control may be scary, but through the smart implementation of technology retailers can gain an understanding of their customers’ shopping habits like never before. In the hybrid online/offline world of today, customer acquisition and the building of sustainable relationships depends on it. From Amazon’s AI-driven product recommendations framework to Target’s, well, how to put this delicately, prescient understanding of consumption patterns, it is talent in the fields of data science and predictive analytics that will likely separate this retail generation’s winners and losers.

That said, in a recent survey, Omnico found that “only 4% of consumers believe retailers know what they like when shopping via a particular channel”. Clearly this race hasn’t yet been run.

Retail has never been more complex, but there’s still time to catch up.