This article is part of Raydiant’s new Future of Retail series which interviews the world’s leading retail experts to better understand how the industry has evolved and most importantly, where’s it’s headed.
The following is from a recent interview with Shep Hyken, Customer Service and Experience Expert and NY Times Bestselling Business Author.
What personally excites you the most about the retail industry?
SH: The focus has gone beyond just selling merchandise to building a relationship with the customer. Merchandise is a commodity and the experience is what is differentiating one brand from another. When people suggest that Walmart is all about price and selection, I respond with an emphatic, “No!” While you don’t get Nordstrom level service, you do get good people being friendly to the customer. And, speaking of Nordstrom, their value proposition is all about customer service. Amazon sells confidence with price, selection and messages to customers the moment they buy, when the item shipped and more. Furthermore, their experience is all about convenience. If we look at these two retail icons, you can see the focus has turned from selling merchandise to developing long-term relationships. In short, retail is more customer-focused than ever before.
What has been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?
SH: The customer is smarter than ever and now expects great service and experience. They don’t compare a retailer to its direct competition, but to the best service the customer has ever received from any brand. That’s raised the bar. While some retailers are still lagging, they are still improving the experience. When great brands set the bar for service and CX, they raise the tide. And, like the old saying goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
What are the top trends you see shaping brick and mortar retail in the next 3-5 years?
SH: Brick and mortar retailers are recognizing the importance of the experience. They must focus on the in-store experience by delivering excellent service and a convenient experience. Take a look at what Ace Hardware has done. They are convenient and they have the most helpful and knowledgeable employees to support their customers. Smart retailers are recognizing that the in store experience is key to getting a customer to come back.
What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the retail industry in the next 3-5?
SH: Retailers will find the balance between brick-and-mortar and digital. (Some already have.) The digital experience will become more lifelike. The brick-and-mortar experience will incorporate digital. The ability to recognize the consumer once they enter the store will give that consumer a personalized experience. Much of this will be fueled by AI, recognizing the consumer, knowing their buying habits and making personalized suggestions and offering promotions for that individual. Data will support AI, and AI will help the retailer deliver a better experience.
What’s the future of brick and mortar retail?
SH: The future is bright for those that understand their customers. Know what they want and give it to them the way they want it. Brick-and-mortar has the capability of a more personalized human-to-human interaction. They can be more involved with the community they reside in. They can deliver a “local experience.” The right location is also key. When a smart retailer understands their customers, they can not only survive, but thrive. Not all brick-and-mortar retailers will be able to stay relevant. It takes agility and adaptability. All of this leads to retailers focusing on their customers. Done right, the retailer and the customer win!