We all need Organic Mango’s from Finca Los Pepones! Purpose is the new digital in Retail


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Purpose is the new digital in Retail

We all shop and spend our hard-earned cash, so everyone can relate to this, so thanks for opening and having a look, I thought I would share my thoughts on:
– the changes in consumer behaviours
– the trends for 2020 and beyond
– my views on these, and why they matter
– 5 things to add to your basket

Lounge suits are the new business dress, our lounges are for lunges

2020 has seen a step change in consumer behaviours, due to convenience or really not having a choice due to restrictions, whether that be food shopping, clothes shopping or choosing a new car. For some, spending has reduced or been paused due to worries about what the future holds.

For others the last few months has been a time to change: in wardrobes – more ‘comfy’ clothes as we spend our lives on video conferences; new cushions, or adding a few more pictures to make the house look nicer – as we are sick of staring at the same ones every day; and gardens which have been our staycations to replace vacations.

There are various predictions about what 2020 will look like post the retail peak, with suggestions that the whole of UK retail will be down 4.6% versus 2019, and it will take to 2022 (for most) to recover to 2019 levels. I am sure this will be a similar picture around the world. Online has increased (no surprise there) by circa 17%.

There’s no going back – this shift in our spending and our behaviours won’t revert

It’s become our new norms, some wish it would all go away so we can go back how it was at the start of the year, it won’t, but what is changing is our expectations. We have experienced those brands that have really stepped up to the mark and given us great shopping experiences, our tolerance is now very low for ‘out of stocks’, ‘poor delivery’, ‘dreadful customer service’– businesses have had enough time to shift the dial, and in fact in the main, it’s the ones that were far behind the curve pre Covid that appear to have gotten worse and still using Covid as the reason for poor standards.

Quite simply consumers won’t and don’t need to put up, as there is a vast array of choices and brands fighting for our money and I am sure like me, many consumers are really thinking about who and where they are spending the cash and the value it brings.

So what are the shifts? The re-inventions of retail?

According to the recent report published by Deloitte they refer to 3 trends:

– Sustainability is the new paradigm shift
– Re-invention of retail
– Purpose is the new digital

Here’s the link if you want to read more on their report: Deloitte

KMPG has also shared their views and research too with 4 trends which are:
– Business Models will evolve
– Purpose to the forefront
– Rethink the cost of doing business
– Customer Choice is changing

Here’s the link if you want to read more on their report: KMPG

So, some similar themes between the two reports.

It’s interesting, as I have reflected on an event that we chaired with a number of retailers over 6 years ago at Fortnum and Masons in London. A fantastic graphic artist sketched some the themes that came out of this – it feels a little bit sometimes like groundhog day, as some of the same themes, issues, trends are still being discussed today – and we can say this, as myself and my co-founder have come from many years working in retail and we have continued to work with many retailers over the last few years.

Retail Trends
Purpose is the new digital in Retail

Here’s my take on what the shifts are for consumers and how businesses need to react.

#1 Purpose is the new digital but why?

As a consumer, digital is a given, it’s not new, it’s old news for us all and especially for millennials it’s all they have really known. We expect to be able to do what we feel like doing today: to shop online easily; or see what they have in stock, buy it on line and pick up at a store or somewhere near to home; or pop into a store and browse and buy what we want or need (wearing a mask, with hand gel, and all the other normal daily routines now) and pay using our phone. So, when this doesn’t work, we don’t understand why, nor really care that the retailer has some big digital transformation that they are 5 years through.

So why do we now think Purpose is important? 2020 has caused us all to re-evaluate, to look at our own lives and how we live them, which includes what we buy and where we spend that money. Purposeful retailing should include social responsibility and sustainability as a given.

“Brands that have a cause have more meaning in the eyes of consumers. As retailers start putting purpose at the core of their business, they will have to rethink what they stand for and define the commercial model required to deliver it.”

Or put more simply Purposeful Retail is where a brand or retailer’s values and actions create and accelerate positive change that benefits society and the planet; in effect their commercial remit is bigger than merely drawing profit from transactions. This is more relevant now, as we react to a Pandemic that has impacted the world.

Rethinking Purpose – it is important not only to Customers, it’s important for your own Colleagues, your Supply Chain and Partners. Ask yourselves these questions:

1. What is your Brand’s true purpose?
2. How does it deliver value and meaning to everyone?
3. How do I contribute to this purpose? So that I feel better about myself

Some examples of retailers that have shown Purposeful Retailing are Interface (Global flooring retailer) who have released a carbon negative carpet that actually removes carbon from the atmosphere.
Their purpose: Creating a Climate Fit For Life
“In 1994 our founder and visionary Ray C. Anderson set our company and our people on a path to Mission Zero® with a pledge to reduce our negative impact on the environment and live zero every day.”

And closer to home founded in the UK is the growing Beer company BrewDog which now has bars across the world with their mission to revolutionise the beer industry and completely redefine beer drinking culture. Determined to make a stance for independence, a stand for quality, and a stand for craft. If you haven’t already seen what the founders and team at this company are doing check them out, there are too many to list here …

..and why my reference to Mango’s? checkout this brilliant business Crowdfarming with a very clear purpose and emotional connection with consumers as you can ‘virtually’ meet the growers of your crop. How cool is that !!

#2 Rethink and Really Own the Customer Experience – it’s not child’s play

There are lots of new applications, whizzy new things we can be doing, innovations with data science, AI, robotics etc and these are incredibly powerful things designed and deployed well, but to customers these should be INVISIBLE! What a customer sees, feels, hears – their experience in their interactions with your brand is what matters to them most.

“Don’t become distracted from what’s important, by Innovation”

There’s lots of discussions about the use of innovation as an alternative to sorting the basics out – perhaps because sorting the basics is actually incredibly hard and/or not the type of work that gets a lot of profile or reward. But basics, the core stuff is what is really important to everyone, so it’s easier and we can spend time doing more important stuff.

It is a bit like developing an ‘app’ so the customer can self serve a product from the shelves of your store, only for them to get there to find it’s:
a) gone or is out of stock
b) been moved
c) waiting for the replenishment team to come back from a COVID update briefing

This might sound daft, but I bet we can all recall the dumb experiences we have had, with brands who simply aren’t close enough to how we interact, or the processes that we have to go through.

Truly understanding how a customer interacts with you across any channels, often using multiple channels to browse, buy, or query something is crucial. Does it feel the same if they standing in the store and looking on your App for other colour options of the product in store? Is it joined up if I start a buying journey on an APP, then switch to my laptop as my eyes are tired from staring at my small phone screen ?

Obsessing about how a customer interacts with you across every stage of the journey is crucial as is fixing issues quickly! The use of innovative products or solutions can help when understood, applied right, designed and tested well and measured for their impact.

#3 Create more emotion

Following the events in 2020, this will become more and more important in the retail experience. People still value, more than anything else, an emotionally engaging experience.
Emotion is a powerful thing and emotional bonding with your products and services to create a key differentiator with your brand — it can make or break a company. As consumers increasingly eschew advertising, it becomes more difficult to establish that connection. This includes the social media advertising campaigns too, as millions who have watched ‘Social Dilemma’ who are now spooked or traumatised and many have deleted their apps.

“Emotion is how retail adds value – which retains & increases customers interest & investment with them”

Emotion can be created through a variety of different ways and channels – whilst social can play a huge role in this, don’t forget your other channels or touchpoints. It’s not just about when customers Browse or Buy, but emotional connections across the end to end journey. Just recently I bought some tops from an online retailer
Vegan Outfitters – their confirmation email was brilliant with all the usual content but at the top a video clip embedded of Tom Hanks in Forest Gump running with a message saying ‘don’t worry we’re on it’. Sometimes it is these little things that make all the difference.

Emotionless Brands are simply products/services. This has always been the case, but it is now more important than ever.

So my 5 key things to add to your basket

1. Everything has a Purpose – work out what yours is and see if that is what you want it to be
2. Brand without emotion – is a product or service that adds no value to people – so how can you add more emotion?
3. Think of digital in terms of how it can enable your purpose to reach to people who want it most
4. Colleagues who deal with your customers (store, contact centres, delivery colleagues) understand most what’s not working, where
investment needs to be made – so Listen to them, involve them in designing the changes
5. Retail isn’t dead – it’s just the Old ways are, big adjustments (fast) matter

I hope you enjoyed this post, now let’s go and buy some mangos!

Norie Collister
Nicola is the Founder/CEO of Custerian with 25 years Senior Executive experience having worked with UK & Global companies across industries including: Financial Services; Retail; Logistics; Education; Pharmaceutical; Utilities and Technology. Operating on or with Main Boards to transform businesses profitability, by identifying, refining and refocusing the entire business on delivering the customer brand experience that creates the greatest level of sustained competitive advantage – often funded from OpEx savings. Worked with PE companies / PE backed businesses on M&A strategies & plans.


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