The new golden rule for retailers

The retail climate in Australia has long been a concern, but could there be a secret sauce to help brands reclaim valuable real estate in the minds of their consumers?

Let’s face it — which brand doesn’t want to be like Nike? Its mass market, appeal and unique ability to stay relevant throughout its 50-year history have made it one of the most valuable brands amongst sports organisations. If Nike hadn’t already cemented its position as one of the biggest culture catalysts in the world, Colin Kaepernick has definitely made sure it has now.

Commentators have waxed lyrical about the Kaepernick campaign and marketers have taken to it big time. But retail businesses too can take a leaf out of this book. You can’t fault the way Nike engaged with consumers on the basis of what motivates them, summed up by the campaign’s tagline: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

This is the crux of value-based engagement: engaging consumers on the basis of what they want to do, not necessarily what they want to buy. Australian retailers need to think beyond the product, and instead provide experiences and solutions that support and enable fundamental consumer needs, desires and aspirations.

Between the brand and consumer, the latter now has more influence over the other. The growth of online shopping means the challenge for retailers to surprise and delight is getting harder, and thanks to technology, consumers are more informed and more in control at every stage of the purchase process. They are more aware of what they want and don’t want, and their attention span depends on how well you can teach, entertain or guide them at every given moment they interact with your brand.

Consumer loyalty and advocacy is won and lost through the quality of experiences that retailers can provide. Whether your consumer comes to you to be inspired, be motivated to do good, alleviate frustrations, fulfil desires or solve a problem, retailers now need to create and invest in experiences to retain their customers.

There are four main types of in-store experiences:

  • Convenient: These involve removing unwanted friction and inconvenience in the shopping journey. Amazon set a new standard for frictionless retail with Amazon Go, where consumers can walk in, shop and leave without ever going through a checkout line. With time as the new currency, the retailer that removes the most painful features of the shopping journey and increases overall convenience can go a long way towards building consumer loyalty and trust.
  • Communal: Turn the store into a destination for loyal customers to gather, who orient themselves to particular causes, affinities or cultural distinctions. In Tokyo, Adidas’ RunBase concept stores work extremely well as a local runners’ hub on which customers can test new gear and receive customised training ahead of purchase.
  • Curated: The future of retail will not be about having a proliferation of choices as it has been in the past; rather, it will involve winning consumers over with thoughtful curation of products and experiences. With OPSM reminding you to order more contact lenses for the next three months, would you consider moving to another optometrist? No!
  • Immersive: While this type of experience is still in infancy, it’s a safe bet that more retailers are going to invest heavily in this space as the need for experience-based differentiation becomes paramount to survival and future growth. To promote Deadpool 2, 7-Eleven launched its first augmented reality (AR) in-store experience, which consisted of different points of engagement and encouraged customers to spend more time in-store. Deadpool could be seen through the app as guiding users around the store, and a selfie filter was available, plus scannable codes that unlocked in-store activities and loyalty points.

The next frontier of retail will have shopper demands and desires be foreseen, processed and fulfilled before they are articulated or even consciously realised. The creation of unique experiences represents a chance for retailers to achieve true, meaningful engagement with their consumers. And by committing to helping them achieve what they want to achieve, retailers will ensure their relevance over a greater period of time.

Gaurav Sharma is head of industries business at Cognizant ANZ.

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