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The Visible Value Blog

What does the future of retail hold?

Posted by Mark Thomson

October 12, 2016 at 6:06 AM


Does anyone enjoy shopping for wedding gifts? When there isn’t a registry to follow, the pressure of searching high and low for a present that offers the class and practicality to meet ceremonial expectation is enough to make anyone skip out on the event altogether. Unfortunately, I found myself faced with this very problem. 

Searching for gifts online, I was left confused and frustrated, just how do you identify what’s the ‘right gift’ to give? How do you avoid the risk of duplicating what others have bought and preventing the dreaded Noah’s Ark of kitchen appliances? As I searched for what seemed like hours across more chinaware websites than I cared to count, I started to notice a pattern emerge across large and small e-tailers. Everywhere I looked there were options to customise and personalise the products on display. Each item was presented as a blank canvas ready to be turned into a masterpiece.

This got me thinking, progressive retailers have finally recognised the demand from customers to make their own choices and buy the products that match their personal preferences. As consumers, we absolutely expect variety. Businesses now not only appreciate the importance of offering choice in the buying decision, but also have the economic and technical means to offer a diverse range of customisation options. As the technologies enabling this diverse ‘service offering’ develop, the trend will only grow and expand, with personalisation and customisation being the next chapter of this evolution.

Personalisation, now there’s a thought! I began to find myself toying with the idea of gifting a personalised item, but then the inevitable doubt popped up, ‘Do I really know the couple well enough?’ Similarly, this is a question retailers are also asking themselves “How well do I know my customers”. We are now at a period in time where retail companies have a basic understanding of who their customers are based on a historical view, but they lack either the data or the means to pre-empt our desires. We’ve all experienced Amazon recommending additional products, but it’s no secret that as of this moment, many companies struggle to successfully up-sell or cross-sell. But this will change – and it must change, if retailers want my purchase they must create, pack, ship and deliver that personalised crystal decanter as I wish, when I wish!

It’s clear that as we move towards a more digital future, retailers will continue to develop their offerings to meet our needs at an increasingly personalised level, and we’re welcoming this evolution with open arms. According to Zebra’s European Shopper Survey, personalisation is both accepted and increasingly expected. In fact, almost half of consumers (43%) are already happy to receive a text message with an offer that matches what they are looking for now, based on previous purchases. These developments look set to continue, and eventually, ensure our every want and need will be fulfilled by retailers that have full access to a comprehensive profile. This will be constructed with information from multiple touch points that not only plots our historical actions and purchases, but accurately predicts future behaviour and builds a customer centric game plan for each and every one of us. How do I shop, when do I shop, where do I shop, what’s the weather doing and what else is going on in my life? The idea of data-driven customer activity has the potential to revolutionise the way in which retail operates and engages with customers and redefine the way people shop. As long as mutual trust is built and nurtured, there are exciting times ahead, but right now, they still don’t help with my wedding gift dilemma!     

Learn more about the One Store, One Experience vision for the future of retail.

Topics: Retail, Future of Retail, e-commerce