Guest column: Retailers, are you ready to service the shopper of the future?

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November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By Wes Dillingham

 

I recently learned about a company called Enjoy, a 100% online reseller of consumer electronic products such as Apple TV, GoPro, etc. I know what you are thinking: another Amazon, right? The difference is Enjoy—which currently operates in New York and San Francisco—takes online retailing to the next level. When you buy a product from the company, they have someone deliver it in person, set it up for you (if necessary) and teach you how to use it. All this for the same price as buying the product on Amazon or at Best Buy.

Love it or hate it, this is a glimpse into the future of retail. Now, don’t stop reading because you think you aren’t ready. That’s OK—no one is entirely prepared for the future. But while no one can say with any certainty what the future will bring, there are things we can do to prepare and plan for the future.

Here is what we know about the future for sure: First, the population is changing; therefore, the way people shop and buy is changing. In illustration: millennials (those born between 1980-2000) will soon account for 30% of consumer spending. In recent months, millennials became the largest generation in the U.S., surpassing Baby Boomers and becoming a major force on the future of our economy.

Second, technology is changing the way consumers shop and buy as well as how businesses operate. This means having more mobile-friendly websites and a strong social media presence.

As a retailer you need to ask: Does my business accommodate for the technology expectations, shopping behaviors and communication needs of millennials? If not, it’s time to retool and learn more about this powerful demographic and how they will change the future of retail.

Following are some trends you can count on to change your business in the future followed by advice on how to “future proof” your business.

Adopt an omnichannel strategy. In essence this means combining all of the shopping channels your customers use into one integrated experience. For example, if they shop on your website they may want to buy online and pick up at the store. Or they may decide to research online, come into the store to purchase and then have the product shipped to their house. This means your online, mobile and in-store experience must be seamless for the consumer.

Data is king. Thanks to the Internet and the cloud there are numerous technologies capturing real-time, consumer and business data. Lucky for you, this information is more and more accessible to small businesses. More important, this information can assist small- to medium-sized businesses in making educated, real-time, strategic decisions the same way large companies have been doing for years. It used to be you had to buy this information from large research companies, but now you can get information from Google Analytics and other software programs right inside your store.

These programs capture valuable data to help you evaluate your business. A good customer relationship management system (CRM) will capture and provide valuable business data. This will allow you to monitor your business from anywhere and make key business decisions. Those who capitalize on this data have the ability to adjust to market conditions quicker than their competitors.

I suggest spending an hour or two each week Googling trends and learning about different business resources. This research will uncover key trends that will keep you in the know in terms of what is coming and give you ideas on a few things to implement into your business. Lastly, reach out to cutting-edge operations and leaders you admire, not only in your industry but in other sectors.

 

Wes Dillingham is vice president of customer success at Stock Systems a Cincinnati-based CRM startup. He writes frequently on matters related to online marketing and retailing.

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Volume 32, Issue 11

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