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The future of Retail: challenges and trends.

Posted on November 3, 2017

Let’s talk about the future of retail, starting with one example. Nike made a big statement last week by telling investors that it is changing its business model to move away from ‘mediocre’ retailers. Is this another hard blow for brick-and-mortar retailers in the wake of the digital age?

In a word, no.

Before we all start to despair, yet again, at the future of physical stores, I want to draw our attention to the keyword in Nike’s statement. And that word is: mediocre.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal’s article, ‘Nike plans to continue working closely with 40 partners, ranging from brick-and-mortar standbys like Foot Locker Inc. and Nordstrom Inc. to newer partners like Amazon (…) on new apps and in-store experiences.’

So yes, Nike is pushing its digital selling strategy. But, vitally, not at the expense of brick-and-mortar retailers. What it is really doing is recognising the importance of in-store experiences, and being more selective by no longer partnering with ‘undifferentiated, mediocre’ retailers.

Which is fine right? Because who amongst us would want to be ‘mediocre’ anyway?

So how can we ensure that people will describe us in a different way?

How to avoid mediocrity by putting customers first.

As Nike and so many other retail giants are doing, we have to focus everything on customer experience.

As I reported last week, 82% of millennials still prefer to shop in-store because of the experience. So the first, fundamental action item is to re-assess your associates’ training and knowledge to ensure that it exceeds your shoppers’ expectations.

The second step? Mystery shopping and customer feedback

We may think that we know how our stores are operating. Our associate training program may be second to none. Our sales may be through the roof. But the only way to ever be certain is to see your business through your customers’ eyes with a network of professional, unbiased evaluators.

Through hiring a mystery shopping company, you can identify any missed opportunities and get the feedback you need to drive change across your stores.

You can also supplement this by asking your real customers for feedback through short questionnaires or pop-up surveys on your website and social channels.

This brings me to the third step.

Future of retail: data and business insights.

The real benefit of the last decade’s surge of technological innovations is the ability to track, analyse and optimise all of your business data.

Beyond sales, stock and the bottom line, we need to track every element of operations- from each associate’s skill levels and the insights gathered by evaluators to supply chain logistics and footfall. So let’s embrace the technology and platforms that enable us to do that.

This data is what really empowers us to innovate and drive exceptional customer experience.

Combined with a motivated and high-performing team, an openness to change, and a stand-out store design, this can ensure that we avoid mediocrity, no matter what sector we are in and what goods we are selling.

So, don’t be disheartened by the headlines. Be inspired about how the change brought about by eCommerce is actually driving better customer experience in our stores. We can all be a part of this, and part of the future of retail, as long as we are smart about it. Because, let’s face it, none of us were born to be mediocre.