World Retail Congress – no surprises, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing
Returning from Paris and the World Retail Congress last week left me with a strange feeling upon reflection. Yes, there was the usual array of fantastic, intelligent and charismatic retail leaders offering inspiration across a variety of platforms. There were bold predictions aplenty too and the term omni-channel certainly justified its newly ensconced status within the Oxford English Dictionary – the hottest of hot topics and a constant fixture amongst each seminar, panel and presentation in some way shape or form.
However, what struck me about WRC ’13 was that much of the content was familiar.
And do you know what? That’s not cause for concern. In fact, quite the opposite.
While some of the themes were largely the same as previous years, what was both striking and inspiring were the strides retail is taking towards achieving the realities we’re aspiring to. Mobile, big data, technology, globalisation and personalisation – not the headline-grabbers they once were, but to see how close we now are is truly exciting; far more so than the far-away promise of something eye-poppingly futuristic. What we’re seeing is the convergence of creativity, technology and data – which means more ‘inventivity’ within the retail space. More tangibility and more ways in which brands can identify and articulate those exact points in space and time that yield the precise answer needed to achieve real cut-through.
Four Key Lessons from WRC ‘13
As Nicola Mendolsohn succinctly put it, “there are now more mobile phones than toothbrushes in the world.” Far from an observation as to the state of global dental hygiene, it puts immediate perspective on the commonality of smart phones. Considering the first iPhone was only introduced to the market in 2007 (and even then, many do not strictly define it as a Smart Phone), the pace of evolution continues at a remarkable pace and mobile continues to be a key tool for retailers across the entire purchase decision journey. Believe it or not, the era of the Smart Phone is already nearly finished. The Smart Wallet era is impending and therefore where we need to be focusing.
Likewise, personalisation is transitioning from aspiration to reality. Retailers are demonstrating more and more ways to increase personalisation in all areas; whether it is recommendation, couponing or customer service, consumers now expect and demand one-to-one interactions.
It’s a return to the community-based corner shop mentality (where the shopkeeper knows your name, newspaper preference and weekly milk order) replicated on a global scale. Through data, measurement and real-time in-store analytics, retailers are increasing conversion rates and optimising the customer journey with each passing day.
A return to customer-first
It’s the end of pure-play online retailers; the delivery and ordering mechanisms are now irrelevant – it’s about going back to your customers and what you sell that counts once again.
The phrase ‘mid-life crisis’ was used more than once to describe the current pains brands are experiencing. With the process no longer a tangible USP, the focus shifts back to the consumer, the products and the wider experience. The future is multi-channel (or even better Omni channel); for
e-commerce is another distribution channel for people to buy brands, faster and track them, whilst current pure-play online retailers like ASOS will soon want their own physical presence in some capacity- whether as a showcase or an experiential space. The key to success lies in delivering customer-centricity across all channels, requiring brands to exist in more places than ever.
Evolution of Private Label – new Curated Collaborations
One of the most interesting insights came from Ken Murphy, MD of International Health & Beauty and Brands at Boots. He spoke of the reduction in like-for-like private labels (effectively, the copycat store-brands mimicking the branding and packaging of their well-established counterparts), and the growth in exclusive private labels (such as Soap & Glory and Royal Botanics Kew Gardens), with consumers demanding more value from retailers. Marketers often fear a race to the lowest common denominator, but the power of the brand still holds incredibly strong if demonstrated in the right way.
Sarah Todd, CEO, Geometry Global UK