What is the Future of Retail?

John Krautzel
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The future of retail isn't necessarily dictated by e-commerce giant Amazon, but other companies should heed the call of creating the best possible customer experience when it comes to wooing customers. During Retail's BIG Show in early 2017, a keynote presentation focused on how customers want a good experience beyond just shopping for items.

The keynote speakers at the conference noted that the future of retail offers personal, social and valuable experiences for anyone. When sellers create an exceptional customer experience, people remember that and want to return to the place that gave them the opportunity. When more and more people share these ideals with others, a retailer's loyal customer base grows because people crave the unique experiences again and come back for more.

Mass Customization

As an example, Shoes of Prey allows customers to design their own shoes through the company's website. Buyers choose the material, color, heel type, toe shapes and other components to make a shoe unlike any other. Suit maker Indochino allows shoppers to input their measurements, and choose a suit style and the type of fabric. In two weeks, a custom-fitted suit arrives at the customer's door, and it costs less than going to a traditional tailor with a suit shop.

Both of these retailers show a relevant customer experience using technology to win the day. Online tools allow for customization, payments and shipping, while on-demand manufacturing techniques and 3-D printers produce mass customization for anyone who buys products. Rather than one size fitting all, mass customization exemplifies one process that makes all.

Selling the Experience

Drew Green, CEO of Indochino, believes his company sells the customer experience just as much as it does suits. Indochino is continually adapting to customer needs; the company opened brick-and-mortar stores with style guides that help a client make the perfect suit. Jodie Fox, co-founder of Shoes of Prey, states that mass customization reduces her company's inventory. Rather than uploading thousands of SKUs to an e-commerce website, the unique experiences of creating a custom shoe give buyers a reason to return while Shoes of Prey saves money on warehouse costs. Of course, the supply chain remains vital to this business model, but the strategy works for Shoes of Prey at this point.

Challenges

Although Amazon has set the bar high with its customer experience, other retailers should try to invent their own special ways to sell their items. Amazon has a lot going for it, with the interaction of customers who leave their own reviews, Amazon Prime free two-day shipping and one-stop shopping for millions of items.

Fox says a combination of fun and convenience, coupled with listening to the needs of customers, leads to innovation in retail. She sees a future of on-demand manufacturing within people's own homes to create custom outfits from scratch, but companies must perfect the production process before that happens. This model may take away from traditional stores and warehouses but focuses on technology and software to achieve relevant results for buyers and sellers.

The customer experience within retail is as singular as each individual buyer. Retailers that master listening to customers and adapt quickly to changes have the advantage moving forward within the retail industry.


Photo courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  • Brenda B.
    Brenda B.

    The world of retail is changing quickly. Creative and innovative thinkers and leaders will embrace this brave new world and thrive. This well written article has this thinker ready to thrive not just survive. Thank you.

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