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Consumers drive change

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Retailers must communicate with their customers

The retail sector is rapidly changing and if businesses want to survive and ensure sustainability, they must evolve.

This was a key message delivered at the 2019 South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) annual congress, which heard consumers are largely responsible for the industry transformation happening now.

Consumers have the buying power and are becoming increasingly defiant. Michael Hinshaw, McorpCX president, said embracing the rapidly changing customer-driven environment can help businesses compete better and make profits.

“Businesses need to make decisions through the eyes of their customers.”

However, 11% of business decisions are made without considering the customer and without customer input.

A common theme running through many presentations at the congress was the need to deliver to customers’ relevant experiences, integrated across channels and interactions. Digital helps to engage the retailers’ community, connecting with them in relevant and creative ways.

The sweet spot for retailers is where digital transformation overlaps with customer experience. Embracing digital transformation means meeting customers where they are with what they want, and interacting with them on their terms.

Research shows 78% of customers use different channels, depending on where they are, what they are doing and when they are doing it, and Hinshaw maintains retailers must focus on being relentlessly relevant to their clients. The results it yields are astounding:

91% will be more likely to shop if you recognise and remember them.

79% believe retailers must actively show they care and understand them.

70% say understanding their individual needs drives their loyalty.

80% are more likely to buy when they are offered personalised experiences.

Research by Broll Property Group, which sponsored the congress, indicates competition within the local retail market is rife. New offerings within centres, new retailer products and unique experiences for customers are vital to attract market share.

Coupled with this is artificial intelligence (AI), which is a critical feature in the digitisation of in-store retail, personalising the customer experience and creating more engaging retailer-consumer interaction. It creates new opportunities and bridges the gap between virtual and physical.

Using AI, apparel brands can create virtual racks and try-on rooms with gesture walls and touch-free monitors. This helps shoppers find the right style without shuffling through piles of clothes. It enhances the shopping experience and helps customers choose. AI enables more in-depth insight into consumer behaviours, optimising their product portfolio for better retail experience delivery.

With the help of virtual try-on rooms equipped with digital mirrors, customers can try on clothes without having to physically change again and again.

AI enables the study of behaviour so retailers have a better understanding of engagement levels with current store layouts and can optimise operations for higher engagement and revenue.

Video analytics can improve in-store security, reducing theft. It is all done in real time so store owners can take immediate action.

The retail industry is evolving and will continue to evolve. Retailers at the congress learnt how to optimise the blend of the shopping centre experience and use technology to create a greater return on experience with the customer and so gain a competitive advantage.

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