Matilde Ricon Peres, innovation researcher at London-based retail trends consultancy GDR Creative Intelligence, attended The FUTR Summit in London (formerly the Millennial 20/20 Conference) to hear industry leaders give their take on future trends in retail, marketing and commerce. Surrounded by alkaline spring water cartons and Drinkfinity popping pods, she learnt how retailers can make sense of their data and how they can compete with Amazon by not competing at all.
The recurring topic across the two days of the conference was how crucial it is for companies to leverage their data. Rob Bloom, group digital director for McLaren, summed up the importance of this when he stated: 'Data is the currency of our strategy.'
Fundamentally there were two different ways that people were talking about using data – the first of these was as a means to offering a personalised service to each customer. Lana Glazman, VP corporate innovation EU for Estee Lauder, candidly revealed: 'Personalisation is what keeps me up at night.'
According to Christodoulos Chaviaras, senior retail analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, 86 per cent of consumers say if they feel that retailers have personalised the experience for them, they will buy more.
Yet, few brands are exploiting the full potential of what they know about their customers. Spoon Guru specialises in helping people with dietary requirements; find food that is specifically tailored to their needs. This is a level of personalisation that CEO Markus Stripf believes is missing from mainstream retail. 'I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years. It’s crazy that my supermarket of choice is marketing me a turkey for their Christmas newsletter,' he said. 'Data can help us market our customers better.'
Optimising your offering
The other fundamental way that people were talking about data was as a resource for optimising and improving their core offerings.
Ella’s Kitchen founder and CEO, Paul Lindley talked about how brands must understand people’s 'why' and 'be absolutely customer obsessed'. Data is an important factor in this and can give brands unique insights about the needs, expectations and habits of their customers.
Luke Zaki, global client director of Blippar, opened up about how the technology agency worked with Design Bridge to transform Cadbury’s traditional advent calendar. The physical product could unlock access to an augmented reality winter wonderland and each day a new selfie filter was revealed. Not only did this elevate the customer experience and extend the daily interactions between customer and brand, it also gave Cadbury a rich source of data about engagement and ROI, which it will be able to use to inform future executions.
When Richard Gibbons, global ecommerce customer development director for Kellogg’s, discussed the cereal brand’s personalised direct-to-consumer granola offering Bear Naked, it quickly became apparent that data is also the brand’s biggest motivator in this project. The e-commerce offering lets customers choose from a wide range of ingredients and flavours, and even lets them personalise the packaging. As Gibbons revealed, for a global brand like Kellogg’s, it’s not a long-term scalable model. Instead it’s a fun vehicle that gives the brand a useful insight into what individual flavours and combinations its customers want.
Thrive where Amazon can’t
Martin Wild, chief innovation officer at the MediaMarktSaturn Retail Group, explained how the company transformed itself from being the dinosaur of consumer electronics – in 2011 it didn’t have an ecommerce website – to one of the most innovative retail groups in Europe. Wild continued the theme of talking about personalisation by stating that 70 per cent of consumers will want more personalised and unique shopping experiences in the future, and he explained how his company is starting to address this in-store. Over the last year the brand has started rolling out a robot assistant called Paul that can tell customers about stock and guide them to products. It has also started trialling an augmented and mixed reality shopping experience whereby customers wearing HoloLens smartglasses can be shown around its stores by a virtual assistant called Paula.
Earlier this month it also opened its Saturn Express concept store in Innsbruck, Austria where customers can pay on their phones and walk out without visiting a checkout – the company’s response to the Amazon Go store in Seattle. Many of the headline speakers at the conference touched on this need for physical retail to elevate itself and offer customers more. This was positioned as a key tactic for combatting Amazon.
'The high street has lost its way, so now we need to be exceptional,' stated Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods. The consensus was that the emotional potential of shopping must be amplified, allowing physical retailers to compete by using something Amazon doesn’t have: empathy.
Michael Beutler, director of sustainability operations at Kering (owner of brands such as Gucci, YSL and Balenciaga), said most retailers are now just trying to survive and that’s not driving them to an innovative state. Giving a clue about how physical retailers can add empathy to their offerings, he said: 'The retail experience needs to be more and more about where things come from', giving the consumer clear information when discussing provenance, as Arket does.
Speculating about a future where consumers will travel to shopping malls and high streets less and less, chairman of Made.com Susanne Given said: 'As we will be visiting the high street a lot less, we really need to wow our consumers when they walk through the store.'
The overall learning for physical retailers is that they must provide the experiences and the types of interactions that consumers – and specifically millennials and Gen-Zers – want. Harrods’ Ward cautioned, however, that experiences must stay relevant to the target consumers, rather than just showcasing innovation for innovation’s sake. 'Technology is important but let's not forget about the personal touch. Tech is there to perform a task, solely.'
So it all comes back to data. Find out what your customers’ purpose is and match your experiences to their expectations. The retailers that use data to understand their shoppers, and use this knowledge to drive innovation, will be the best setup to succeed.
This article was first published on the GDR Creative Intelligence blog at gdruk.com/blog