The next era of retail disruption: Experience

As technology continues to advance, we see a shift in consumer expectations, which, in turn, leads to retailers rethinking their in-store strategies. This morphing of the retail landscape isn’t anything new. Every 50 years or so, retailing undergoes this kind of disruption.

With each change, the retail landscape is redefined in order to meet consumer expectations. Retailers who don’t embrace the change eventually die out, forgotten, lost amongst the more innovative companies who are driven to meet the rising consumer expectations.

A century and a half ago, around the 1850s, the growth of big cities made possible the modern department store. Fifty years later saw newly formed suburbs being lined with shopping centers and specialty retailers, challenging the city-based department stores. The 1960s and 1970s saw the spread of big discount chains — Kmart, Walmart, Coles and the like.

Now let’s jump ahead another 50 years to today, where we are seeing yet another disruption in retail. These shopping centers, specialty retailers and big discount chains have been fiercely competing on price, especially since the introduction of e-commerce in the 1990s. Consumers have the ability to source a cheaper option efficiently; therefore price is no longer the only key factor in the consumer decision-making process. Consumers are now willing to pay more for an experience. Take note, the key word here = experience.

Addressing this latest disruption in retail, the experience, requires the right mix of new technologies, processes and strategies designed to address the changing marketplace of consumer demands and needs.

Technology is the key enabler for meeting today’s consumer expectations.

Think about it. Smartphones, smart watches, smart TVs … everyone has one. So let’s think about how these products are being marketed to the consumer in-store. The three-by-three video wall in the window grabs attention of passersby. The Kinect interactive game on a portrait video wall entertains them while they wait. The touchscreen configurator allows them to compare products, find extensive information and even build their own product.

But what if you’re not selling a technological product?

Technology can still assist in your sales process.

A video wall can attract attention of passers-by, no matter your brand. The Kinect interactive game can still entertain your consumers. Or a touchscreen configurator can allow your consumer to visualize your product, build their own product or view your extensive range. The technology also will be of assistance to your staff in the sales process, providing extensive product details and handy hints — leaving your staff to focus on providing the human side of the consumer experience.

Basically, the possibilities with technology are endless and are continually being developed.

And, your consumers are embracing technology at a faster rate than ever before. It is now expected to not only see digital solutions everywhere, but to interact with them. The consumers of 2015 are demanding an interactive experience that engages and empowers them.

Retailers need to embrace this latest disruption in retail — the experience — in order to keep up with ever-growing consumer expectations. And technology is a key part of doing so.