Change is the only thing that you can count on in the retail marketplace and in addition to this, the rate of change is quickening. The velocity of change is what retailers are scrambling to address in the marketplace through development and acquisition activities over the last couple of years. I see the changes in operational and transportation stabilizing now to a low roar and the change in shopping and purchasing increasing as the relationships with the consumers continue to change at a very high velocity. I believe that it is a bit of a no-brainer to say that retailers and their entire extended chain of partners must not slow and continue to change through improved methods and practices to sense and respond to change in the marketplace. These sense and respond capabilities will identify the winners and losers in the future market and will drive dramatic new capabilities in collaboration with consumers to meet the changing consumer demands.
The difficulty in this retail marketplace and the reason for the velocity of change is the experimentation by consumers to test their demands against the retailer capabilities. In other words, these changes are the result of experiments by consumers to support their needs in better ways. Its something like furniture in a room; I’m comfortable with the way the configuration supports my living needs but ‘what if’ I moved the couch to another place and the easy chair to another place, do I like it better that way? Technology as made this practice available for consumers in their shopping and purchasing practices; if I’m in the store and I see and item I like but the store doesn’t have my size, can I order online and deliver to my house, or does another store have it, for instance. The combinations are like a Rubik's cube in possibilities and there are so many customers shopping there is a good chance that you will need to support multiple combinations for each option.
This is where consumer collaboration and relationship development practices become more important. It is important that retailers develop the relationship with their customers through collaboration so that these customers will first experiment with you before jumping to another retailers to purchase. You cannot stop, or block, consumers from expanding their shopping to other retailers because of the availability of technology and improved networks and apps to support the shopping. You can though encourage shoppers to first search your opportunities to address their questions and meet their desires. In the past, this is where the sales clerk played an important role and now the retailers must fill that gap of the personalized relationship with the consumer through strong collaboration and virtual interaction with the consumer.
The way to encourage shoppers to return first in their search is to provide them with a reason to return. This reason to return is generated in a variety of ways, including but not limited to collaborative engagement with the individual consumers, embrace of changing technologies to support improved features, and change itself to ensure that the interaction and the face of the retailer to the consumer is vibrant and continuously changing, whether virtual or physical this change will give reason for consumers to explore. All of these things really come as a package deal for retailers because if you settle or slow your support on any one of these the consumer will sense the change in the support for change and while that is not a reason for them to not return, it is a reason for them to return less frequently. In addition, this is truly an omni channel change model that must be supported across all channels.