Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Diary of a Digitally Disrupted Consumer: Looking Ahead – 2017 Resolutions for Retailers

December 28, 2016

magic glass Christmas ball happy new year 2017

If astrology covered industry, UK retailers would be reading their 2017 horoscope with trepidation. Upcoming increases to the personal tax allowance, minimum wage and higher rate tax threshold should, in theory, increase disposable incomes. However, inflation is already impacting on grocery, with other categories sure to follow and the minimum wage increase will hit the bottom line for retailers who rely on small armies of workers both in store and behind the scenes.

These are uncertain times for retailers and for consumers, who cannot be relied upon to demonstrate Dunkirk spirit by spending away the Brexit blues indefinitely. If 2017 is likely to spell tougher trading conditions, what should retailers do to protect their piece of the national purse?

Here are this consumer’s top 5 resolutions for retailers looking to ensure the UK keeps on spending in their stores:

#1 – Stop spamming me with irrelevant offers (and tell me more about the ones I like)

I can’t be the only one who sometimes despairs at the targeting of retail marketing offers, or the apparent lack of it. Supermarket vouchers that find their way to my door inevitably offer money off pouches of baby food (which has never once been purchased) and never prosecco (which is purchased rather too much).

Please, retailers, make 2017 the year you use my online and in-store browsing and purchasing data wisely and tell me about products and offers I might actually want.  I’m happy for you to use my personal data, in fact I’ll sell you the soul of my firstborn for a free coffee and cake or a 20% off voucher, just make it relevant.

#2 – Help me to help myself (not literally – I’ll still pay for my goods)

Stores aren’t uniform in layout, so please find a way of helping frazzled shoppers to find the click-and-collect area, or the toilets, or indeed the exit without feeling like an extra in the Great Escape. And let me check stock levels in store – it would be helpful to know whether a new batch of Hatchimals has arrived before I’ve battled the car park queue.

In summary, I’d like retailers to help me to navigate their stores and make shopping a less painful experience. It’s easy enough on a smart phone outside the store, so why not within it? I’m sure your store associates are lovely and very well-trained, but I barely want to speak to my children, let alone Linda in lingerie when I’m on a mission to find control tights before closing time.

#3 – Help your employees to help me (and fast)

While we’re on the subject of Linda, please, please, please can you make sure she’s got access to the product information she needs to help me when I need it? I don’t want to take a guess at sizing, I’d like to be told if an item comes up small and if it’s not in stock, it would be hugely helpful to know if it’s available online, or 5 miles down the road.

It doesn’t help either of us when she can’t access this information where we both need it – on the shop floor – and it’s frankly embarrassing for her to have to tell me to check my smart phone as I can find out better on the website. Please give her access to the mobile technology and joined up information she needs, either via her own BYOD device, or one you provide. We don’t need more Lindas, just better equipped ones.

#4 – Make shopping worth leaving the sofa for

On the whole, the UK likes shopping online, with at least 20% of orders made from the warmth of home, the car, the workplace. My own household spends the equivalent of a budget compact car with a supermarket each year, and the majority of that is done in front of the TV with a couple of clicks. But as a nation, we’re still pretty committed to shopping as a pastime, in fact recent research by City AM has shown millennials positively prefer a physical shopping experience.

But retailers, you need to do more to make shopping an experience worth leaving home, and the sofa, for. In addition to the above points about navigating the store more easily, it would be great to see more happening in-store and more opportunities to interact. Digital displays, personalised offers, more theatre in the form of demonstrations, giveaways or themed offerings would have many more of us beating a path through your revolving doors.

#5 – Find a cure for checkout choke

Part of why online shopping is so appealing is the simplicity. What consumers miss out on in terms of being able to fully see and touch an item is often made up for by the simple – industry term frictionless – experience. Want it in a different colour, or size? Just click on the dropdown and select the option you want, safe (usually) in the knowledge that if it’s available, there’s stock. Ready to check out? Just enter your credit card details or, better still, if you’re a regular shopper then click once or twice and you’re done.

Despite advances like self-scan grocery and self-service checkouts, the payment process all too often involves searching for the point of sale and queuing. Behind someone making multiple returns. Please, retailers, look at how to make this process better and even remove the mandatory checkout where possible. Because right now, it’s often quicker and easier to order to click and collect purely to avoid the queues.

Next steps:

  • Learn more about the how digital transformation is reimagining retail
  • Read the previous blog in our Digitally Disrupted Consumer series ‘Fast Forward Food
  • Sign up to the Cisco UK & Ireland blog to make sure you don’t miss the next in the series
  • Visit our Retail industry page to read more about Cisco solutions for retailers (including handy ones that will fix the bugbears listed above!)
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