With consumers continuing to drive change in retail, is your technology fit for the future?

Fresh from the 2016 Drapers Fashion forum, we summarise the key themes that emerged from the K3 retail roundtable session. Chaired by Tony Bryant, Business Development Director

The Store of the Future
One of the biggest trends in retail over the last couple of years has no doubt been the rapid and continuing convergence of digital and physical channels. Done well, channels merge into a single, seamless, branded shopping experience for consumers. Done not so well, it devolves into a convoluted, frustrating customer experience, and one for which new shopper generations like Millennials have very little patience.

Many of today’s customers already expect retailers to provide consistency across touchpoints, with integrated promotions, delivery and return policies, etc. And retailers are under pressure to deliver products anywhere, at any time. We all agreed that tomorrow’s customers will place even greater demands on retailers. Our group discussion led us to talking through the store of the future which is ultimately about creating shopping as a ‘destination’. Technology is able to drive and enrich a customer experience as store staff are more empowered with real time, complete access to information. Retailers are now combining predictive decision making with machine learning and smart analytics.

Key takeout – As a group we agreed that tech can only take you so far, it’s still the skill and intelligence of the retail people that ultimately makes the best decisions.

Order orchestration
Managing stock across channels is a great challenge for many retailers. Accurate allocation and replenishment is critical to customer satisfaction and the connected customer journey. Accuracy is vital in producing a unified vision of the entire purchasing process, on demand to model replenishment down to store level, prioritising locations that need stock quickly – to reduce shrinkage and increase stock turn. Increasing inventory accuracy drives revenue, and generates a greater return on investment. One of the positives of change over the last few years is that with access to data, retailers can use software and tech to anticipate what will happen in store and are therefore able to be more proactive.

Key takeout – It was agreed that increasing inventory accuracy would drive revenue and generate a great return on investment but that more could still be done to identify, analyse and stock and in some instance, the data was overwhelming.

Customer is King
The omnichannel era has dawned. Consumers want to shop with you at their own convenience and retailers want customer contact to be efficient, cost effective and revenue enhancing. Through this, we know that the quality of customer service is a major driver of business success. During our workshop, some of the UK’s major fashion retailers discussed how ‘Product is King’ was once the mantra, today it is ‘Customer is King’.  Of course transparency of product available is important, but moving the product through a channel in the easiest way for the consumer is just as important and often where it can go wrong.

Key takeout – The basic principles of retail still apply; you plan, you move, you make and you sell. For some retailers, this has become so over complicated through all the channels available today.

Who owns the customer?
This was the curve ball question that opened an interesting debate. Who in our multichannel world owns the customer?  Is it the CMO? Is it Retail Operations? What about Ecomm? In a market which is being relentlessly squeezed by the discounters and challenged by the continued growth of omnichannel retail, brands need a forensic approach to gaining insight on their customers to be able to survive. Through clever marketing, retailers can reach the panacea of success for example Public Desire pushing out promotions through social media rather than discounting and see and 800% increase in traffic in the first hour or promotion, keeping the brand fresh and exciting to their growing customer base.

Key takeout – The overwhelming consensus was that the consumer is owned by marketing.  Retailers need to find new ways of engaging with customers in a way that benefits them with information, convenience and entertainment therefore, the customer is and will always remain king.


So what did we conclude?
The successful retailers are those that use technology intelligently to connect and transform their ability to respond to the growing demands of the customer now and in the future to deliver an enhanced customer experience with technology as the enabler. Retailers have the opportunity to leverage technology to transform your customer experience   – embrace the new world.