The struggles of high street retailers are well documented, with stores suffering the long-term effects of deep discounting, lagging consumer confidence and falling footfall. Whilst a report published by Deloitte confirms that confidence has climbed higher in the first quarter of 2019, and the outlook for spending is positive, the fight for every £ a consumer spends is only getting harder and more cut- throat than ever.
It is however easy to forget that online retailers are in the same battle – albeit with slightly different rules applied to them. If a retailer wants to not only survive, but grow their share of this spend, the need to clearly define what makes them different and stand-out from everyone else is crucial, regardless of where they trade.
Whilst every retailer will think themselves different from their competitors, in the eyes of a shopper, retail experiences can become uniform. If two retailers sell exactly the same brands, offer the same services that many consumers demand such as excellent customer service and next day delivery, then why should shoppers be loyal to one retailer over the other?
Amazon is a prime (no pun intended) example here. Realising they could never fulfil the desire and need for shoppers to be able to try on a shade or lipstick before purchasing one, they partnered with L’Oreal’s Modiface2 to enable the first virtual try-ons for cosmetics on Amazon. Nothing new I hear you say, but true to Amazon the uniqueness lies in its photo-realistic results and automatic, AI-enabled shade calibration that deliver truly life-like results. Read more here.
With the market constantly changing, every retailer cannot take their eyes off the competition. They need to be able to offer a truly unique and differentiated customer experience to stand out from the crowd. But where to start?
Well for me, it all starts with understanding your core customer. A bit of a no brainer, but a retailer being able to recognise their core customers behaviours, shopping patterns and more importantly their expectations when purchasing, will allow them to clearly define the basics they need to get right, but also more importantly identify the opportunities for how they can differentiate.
Once they know who they are, they need to put them first. Easier said than done, but a retailer’s ability to change and adapt their business and proposition to react to needs and expectations of their customers, will allow them to stay one step ahead of the competition. This means everything from tearing down functional internal silos, to prioritising strategic initiatives across the business to keep up with these ever-changing needs.
And when going through all this work, it is important that retailers need to be comfortable with the fact that they are not going to please everyone. A hard pill to swallow but creating a unique and differentiated customer experience means that you cannot please everyone. But this brings me back to my first point, you can’t have every customer out there in your core customer set, and if you do, there isn’t much chance you’ll succeed.
Being able to nail a unique customer experience and keep adapting and changing this is not easy, otherwise we wouldn’t have had so many retailers closing their doors. But by making this a priority and landing it well, retailers will drive an emotional response from their customers’; which will not only differentiate themselves, but also hopefully keep their customers coming back for more.