Automation is ushering in a new era of retail and eCommerce - are you keeping pace?

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We have come a long way from the corner shop of our grandparents’ world.  We've gone from local grocers, to high street shops, to shopping malls, to out of-town mega centres, to the virtual world of eCommerce.

The landscape is forever changing and retailers need to keep apace to stay in the game

We're a creative agency with many clients at the forefront of innovation within the retail and tech sectors including Vodafone, Yo Sushi! and HCL. But, it’s not about the technology facilitating these changes. It's more the way that tech is changing the way retailers market and sell their brands.

It was only in the last decade we saw the closure of high street stalwarts such as Woolworths, Currys and Habitat. Having been paralysed by the onslaught of internet giants selling it cheaper and buying it better, they couldn’t keep up with the pace that customers demanded.

However, those who thought the high street was dead have watched as retailers have had to change the way they engage their customers through embracing technology.

Give consumers a reason to choose physical

Although technology is seamlessly wired into the lifestyle of the young, it is often the middle generations, juggling work and families, that have adopted online shopping, while the youth head for the social interaction and immediacy of the physical.

The instant gratification and high of being able to take home what you have just bought has been the saving grace for bricks and mortar. But even this advantage is now being questioned with the introduction of Google Express and Amazon Prime piloting same day delivery services.

Therefore, retailers need to up the ante and find a new raison d’etre for shoppers to choose the physical rather than the virtual. And the one advantage that they will always have over tech is the human factor.

With robobosses taking over and automation of daily tasks the norm, the future definitely looks brighter, as the average Joe now has more time on their hands. This means more time to meet, be social animals, spend quality time, and of course to shop.

Where is automation leading?

But the way they want to shop will change. Gone will be the drive to just buy; shopping will be led by experience. Recent research supports this with 60% of consumers saying they having higher expectations of customer experience than they did a year ago

In addition, 89% of companies expecting to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience by 2016, versus 36% four years ago.

Instead of selling one product, shops will need to sell a solution - making their relationships with their customers more relationship-centric rather than transactional.

Online retailers are already doing this to some degree with companies like Thread and Dressipi offering a personalised shopping experience for your body type, lifestyle and style of clothing. However, those that offer this in a physical sense will be the winners of the marketing game. 

Let’s take this one step further and offer customers not only the ability to buy a look or a lifestyle, but imagine a retailer which instead of selling a product, aligned customer lifestyles with its range and then allowed them to rent a different outfit for every day, giving customers an ever evolving wardrobe.

The relationship between customer and retailer then becomes more collaborative than ever - the customer provides the data and the retailer matches it with their brand fit, bringing a greater sense of affinity with the brand, and an increased loyalty and a trust for the retailer, a bit like going to your favourite restaurant and knowing you will always get the best table and service.

The future 

So where does this leave retailers and brands in this tech world of change? In addition, what will the future of commerce look like? With 3D printing becoming cheaper and more accessible, will retailers be effectively designers of their own brands, rather than producers and shops the face of the brand rather than the warehouse of its products?

What about customer service? We already have self serviced checkouts. How far away is the robotic shop assistant and even the driverless bus and taxi to transport us to these shops?

At Platform we believe ultimately it is about finding the things that make a difference to your customer and investing your tech budget here.  The one thing that technology still can’t do is put your customer at the heart of your business and until (if ever) that day comes, brand managers still have the power to succeed.

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