Craig SummersCraig SummersNovember 9, 2018
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5min374

With high street stalwarts dropping like flies, traditional retailers are on the wrong end of a raft of increasingly harsh criticism from both customers and analysts.

Yet in far too many cases it is fear of failure – of making the wrong technology investment or delivering the wrong in-store experience that is at the heart of the problem. Traditional shopping isn’t broken; retailers are simply failing to recognise or deliver the new expectations of today’s consumer.

Retailers cannot hope to compete with the disruptors unless they stop playing inept catch up and instead celebrate the value of the in-store interaction with truly empowered store associates able to deliver something far more engaging and valuable than any online experience.

Lost cause

As long-established family favourites vanish from the high street it appears the pure play disruptors have won the hearts and minds of customers and the writing is on the wall for old style retail. But is that really the case?

Pure play retailers are essentially tech companies; they live and breathe technology innovation. In contrast, far too many traditional retailers remain inherently scared of technology. They talk agility and responsiveness, but then spend upwards of two years assessing and deploying a solution.

It is this fear of failure, such as creating the wrong in-store atmosphere, that is destroying the high street. The result is a catch up approach to technology investment that is always years behind the competition. What is the point of attempting to emulate pure play competition – but to do it badly?

From price match offers that take 24 hours to confirm to compelling customers to complete time consuming and irrelevant customer surveys during check-out, the high street is littered with examples of ill-considered attempts to copy slick online models in-store. It doesn’t work, especially when the technology deployed is years behind that of the disruptors. It is all wrong and it fundamentally misses the point.

Golden egg

Online retail has not removed customers’ desire to buy in store or interact with sales assistants; what it has done has been to raise customers’ expectations of that experience. It is incredibly simple: people still want to come in store and be served; they want to interact with an enthusiastic and engaged individual, someone who not only knows the products – and can share experiences – but is also able to locate any item anywhere in the supply chain in real time and get that item to the customer quickly, in any location.

They want frictionless returns, a slick journey through click and collect and they want the checkout process to be smooth and quick. But they also want the whole experience to be enjoyable. No one wants to travel into the high street only to receive a bad version of what they can get online at home. They want something different and they want something better.

And that is where high street retailers have a massive advantage over the pure plays – if only they could harness it. Rather than complaining about the pure plays’ low cost infrastructure and lack of real estate overhead, traditional retailers need to stop viewing the high street as the Achilles heel and think of the retail store as the golden egg.

And that means investing in technology that delivers the complete supply chain visibility and mobile point of sale that ensures store associates can be continuously engaged with customers anywhere on the shop floor. It means investing in high quality sales staff.  And it means doing it fast. Not over years.

Attempting to ‘become Amazon’ in two years; or replicate the model of the pure play competitor over the next 18 months is never going to work: the competition is too fast, too slick and too tech savvy. Playing catch up will result in the end of the high street. What is required is a willingness to disrupt the disruptors, to leverage the advantage of a tangible personal experience and quickly exploit relevant technology to deliver an outstanding in-store experience.


Craig SummersCraig SummersSeptember 3, 2018
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5min884

The summer might have just ended and Christmas may seem a million miles away, but as is customary in the retail world, brands far and wide will be setting up their plans to survive the busiest time of the retail calendar.

However, as the high street continues to evolve – despite claims it is dying – social shopping and e-commerce continue to boom and consumers are more demanding than ever. Let’s face it, peak season is not as we once knew it!

The key peaks

Peak is no longer confined to the high street, nor the months of November and December. The more than pleasant weather, the hype around this year’s World Cup, and other spikes in national activity such as the royal wedding have all played a part in the ups and downs of this year’s retail trends.

All of these factors, coupled with the emerging use of technology in retail, means that brands must now take learnings from the entire year to help them manage any peak, not just the one that happens around Christmas.

An analysis on last year’s festive period will no longer be enough; peaks are now based on culture, lifestyle, weather and even political change. Retailers should have their businesses set up for this throughout the year so they won’t need to worry about how they manage the traditional peak, as it will just be classed as another busy period.

Survival kit

The key retail survival tactic during traditional peak season is often to hire a plethora of Christmas temps to help deal with demand and then let them all go in January. The admin headache and cost implication is a nightmare and most of the staff are not as efficient or knowledgeable as they could be as they have a very quick onboarding period.

Instead, retailers should arm themselves with tools that combine the traditional workforce with the workforce of the future: technology. Gone are the days of clunky, eye-watering updates, which take up time and put systems on hold – retailers don’t have to put up with this anymore.

The best cloud-based tools can be flexed to accommodate busy or quiet periods at any time of the year without having to panic-hire an army of new staff, allowing both man and machine to work together and better manage the resources available.

It also means that retailers don’t have to dread the IT blackout that often occurs when stores and online channels can’t cope with an increase in demand. Simply put, the retailers that are still running on their own physical servers are falling behind, especially when it comes to managing peaks. By adopting the latest cloud technologies, retailers will open up a new found flexibility to seamlessly manage an increase in demand whilst still driving a better Customer Experience all year round, without risking brand damage or impacting revenues.

Surviving the climb

The challenges faced around any peak in demand or sales can spell disaster when not managed correctly. But those retailers that take note of customer behaviour, key trends, and the kinds of demands that are being made throughout the year, will be the ones that handle Christmas peak without a concern. In today’s ever demanding environment it’s no longer just about surviving the peak, it’s about learning from the entire climb.




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