Today we speak about retail with Yazan Hijazin, Retail Consultant and MBA Profesor. Yazan tells us that retail has been in a continuous state of change before COVID-19, and now, where fear and uncertainty is the general state of mind, it is put under huge pressure. Therefore, he sees the death of many mediocre retailers which wont be able to ride the wave of change.
What do you think the post-COVID retail landscape will look like?
I see more emphasis than ever on the establishment of seamless omni-channel strategies, space management, and innovative partnerships with technological firms/high-tech start-ups in order to enrich the client’s experience and therefore maximise his loyalty. There will be more inward focus in their supply chain: Securing more national suppliers along their traditional international peers.
Which are the keys in order to achieve omnichannel retailing?
Detailed customer profiling and sophisticated data analytics are two key investment areas. The customer should seamlessly and very intuitively be able to find what she is looking for online and be able to complete the purchase of her product or service of choice with the least effort possible. Your product should be very conveniently reached via mobile too. One thing to pay attention to here, is that the average age of client that is currently using online services is increasing therefore your UX needs to take that into an account. There is no better example than my mom-65 years old, who is doing here grocery shopping online since last May!
The role of innovative store design would play a crucial role in Retail
So, what should retailers do?
Physically, retailers should rethink their brick and mortar’s layout, for example isles in supermarkets, separate entrance and exit doors, new self-checkout area. Would all changing rooms stay in one zone or will they be redistributed across the store to prevent concentration of the crowd? Same thought about multi-cashier counter. The role of innovative store design would play a crucial role in Retail. Real estate developer would need to collaborate with architects and interior designers in order to create inviting and well-managed spaces, that are pandemic-friendly with easy in-store layout that is scalable, flexible, and takes into account social distancing and customer’s comfort. This applies on infrastructure too like Air conditioning zones. Those who invest in a flexible layout format will be saving money long-term and less vulnerable to future pandemic- God forbid!
Innovative visual merchandising strategies and new solutions that maximise sales per square meter should rely less on product-clustered areas and employ more electronic POPs and digital displays showing their carefully data-curated collection based on their buying history -in store and online sales – and their deep understanding of their target client. Imagine if standard digital in-stores banners are continuously analysing our faces and gestures and communicating, therefore, personalized ads to us benefiting from our purchases´ history. We are close to arriving there.
The average age of client that is currently using online services is increasing therefore your UX needs to take that into an account. My mom-65 years old, who is doing here grocery shopping online since last May!
Human recourses are important in this new reality?
Yes! More than you think. Your personnel should be very wellversed in crisis communication to be able to communicate positively with distressed clients in these times and similar ones. A scared, reluctant, and unassured face drives the customer away more easily than ever. We want salespeople to be more of consultants and brand´s ambassadors conveying positive energy, assurance, and lots of empathy to be able to guide and conclude a sale based on value. Their knowledge should exceed the brand´s products and cover those products of top competitors.
What will be the biggest problem or weakness that the physical store has to deal with?
Being the ONLY channel or platform for clients and potential clients who want to interact with the brand and its products. When that is not the case, would the physical shop be able to be to act as the brand’s incubator; offering an educational, relevant, and efficient space for the brand to tell its story and demonstrate its values in a way that makes it stands from the crowd and therefore increases customer’s loyalty? Let’s not forget that the customer today is more informed about our products and similar ones than our own sales people.
The customer today is more informed about our products than our own sales people
What role will technology play?
Technology has been playing a crucial role in retail and has been shaping our shopping habits for a while now and will continue to be as such. AI and Machine learning would further enhance data analytics and arrive at a more accurate personalised and targeted marketing, self-checkout machine would contribute to a cashier-less shops in extreme cases, and more in-store digital POPs and promotions. VR is and will be playing an important role in product displays en general, enhancing online sales for ever-traditionally selling offline products, and expand space management strategies. Virtual mirror technology slowly replacing changing rooms.
What can retailers do for a safer shopping environment?
Heat-sensors-like mechanisms along with face recognition applications might be able to detect customer’s temperature accurately. Bacteria-and-virus-free industrial materials like fabrics and surfaces are already trending and with time and through mass production could be a basic element in the store interior design- changing rooms and cashier areas for example. In a nutshell, technology would continue to fuel retail innovation through a continuous improvement in the overall client’s experience.
How will customer loyalty be achieved?
A direct short answer would be exceeding your targeted customer’s expectations through a seamless and empathetic omni-channel client experience.
Technology would continue to fuel retail innovation through a continuous improvement in the overall client’s experience
How we can achieve that?
It is a straightforward recipe; first you need to eliminate customer negative emotions- pain pointsacross his journey through detailed customer profiling and journey mapping in order to offer a smooth ride. Secondly, analyse carefully and periodically both internal and external data in order to be able to offer personalised experiences across all channels. And last but not least by realising that your employees are your partners and you need to collaborate with them and involve them 100% with your brand, its values and those objectives that you are trying to achieve.
Are you optimistic about the future of retail?
The retail has been in a continuous state of change before COVID-19, now it is put under huge pressure to reduce cost and maximise sales across all channels at times where fear and uncertainty is the general state of mind. Therefore, I see the death of many mediocre retailers, more on the small and medium size, which wont be able to ride the wave of change.
On the good side, I guess as long as retailers are realising by the day that resilient and robust offering is equally important offline and online, we will continue to see interesting hybrid business models that takes the best of the two worlds benefiting from various erupted technological advancements.
I see the death of many mediocre retailers, more on the small and medium size, which wont be able to ride the wave of change
Traditionally brick and mortar have been expanding their presence online, however, we will see some momentum from the very successful e-tailers getting into a brick and mortar offering by bringing the online experience offline and therefore offering fresh and high-tech in-store experiences that are telling their own unique stories.