Komal HelyerKomal HelyerJanuary 14, 2020


With January comes the opportunity to refocus and set goals for the year ahead – even more so when this coincides with the start of a new decade.

For independent retail brands, delivering a better experience to customers will be front and centre in 2020 and beyond. The pressure remains fierce for brands to ensure they are one step ahead at outshining their competition and demonstrating a deep understanding of their customers through hyper personalised interactions every stage of the journey.

With that in mind, we’ve looked at how independent brands can hit the mark when it comes to the customer experience in 2020.

Make yourself useful

Whilst consumers are in the lucky position of being spoilt for choice in the retail environment, the always connected and ever-busy customer can also be left feeling a little overwhelmed when it comes to making purchase decisions.

Whilst consumers are going to engage with the brands that are relevant to them at that moment and demonstrate a rich understanding of them, they are also in search of ways to make their lives easier. For independent brands, being considered useful in the eyes of the consumer can be hugely beneficial to growing a successful relationship. Our recent study revealed that almost three quarters of consumers like it when brands remind them via email that contracts or subscriptions are coming to an end. In a similar vein, we discovered that 63 percent of consumers want more brands to give them the option of receiving a notification when an item that is out of stock becomes available again at their local store.

These are just two examples of how smaller retail brands can provide convenience to the customer, and ultimately give them one less thing to think about. 

Don’t neglect the opportunities to personalise

No matter what the brand or product, there is no longer space for delivering a generic experience to a customer. One of the main reasons a consumer might opt for shopping with an independent brand over a larger, more established store is due to the expectations that they will receive a better experience.

A Pure360 study found that 43% of shoppers would consider buying from an independent over a larger retailer to feel treated like a valued customer rather than just a number. Smaller brands should remain mindful of this in 2020, and recognise that they can serve a real purpose in the lives of the consumer and the retail experience they provide to them.

Whether it’s through the exemplary customer service, making product recommendations that are hyper relevant for that individual or sharing important information about a customer’s local store, there are now endless ways to make an experience more memorable.

Consider how Brexit might impact customer behaviour

The Brexit deadline might have moved on more than once occasion during 2019, but it looks as though the UK will now be leaving the EU on January 31. For retail brands of all sizes, consideration must be given to how this could impact consumer behaviour so they can adapt quickly and avoid potentially negative consequences.

We found that for almost a third of consumers, there is an expectation for brands to make the country of origin clearer for the items they are buying – particularly online – so they avoid paying additional taxes on their purchases. Delivery times are another consideration for consumers, with a quarter wanting clarity around the country of origin when they are making purchases after Brexit.

For homegrown independent brands, Brexit could actually create a real opportunity to build deeper relationships with existing and new customers. Putting transparency at the heart customer experience will be critical, so that consumers have clarity around areas like taxes and delivery times, and have the confidence to make a purchase.

As the new year begins, it brings opportunities for small, independent retailers to refresh their marketing strategies to ensure customers are treated to the best possible experience in 2020. From finding new ways to deliver more personalised interactions to adapting to the possible impacts of Brexit, independent brands that can create experiences that are relevant and contextual to customers, their behaviour and the world around them will reap the rewards in the months ahead.

Komal HelyerKomal HelyerOctober 26, 2018


The best thing to come out of this summer’s World Cup – aside from a renewed confidence in a habitually underwhelming national football team – was the boost that England’s good tournament run gave to the British retail sector.

As the Three Lions outperformed the usual expectations, sales of beers, barbecue supplies, and big-screen TVs saw the feel-good factor spread from homes to the high street. However, while the strong summer showing gave retail bosses plenty to cheer about, it has also brought the long-term problems facing traditional British retailers into sharper focus, with a steep decline in sales and serious difficulties reported by an array of household names.

In the last month alone we have had more reports of financial difficulties from the likes of John Lewis, River Island, B&Q and Shop Direct – owner of digital brands Very and Littlewoods – with some seeing as much as a 99 percent drop-off in revenue streams.

This is a worrying, if unsurprising, trend for Britain’s larger, more established retailers, as the results of our latest research conducted with YouGov indicate that 49 percent of British consumers are now unlikely to go to a large retailer first when purchasing a specific item.

While sales are down for larger retailers it doesn’t mean to say that consumers haven’t simply stopped spending their money. Rather, their habits and expectations are continuing to shift.

For instance, 43 percent of shoppers would consider shopping with an independent over a larger retailer to feel treated like a valued customer rather than just a number. With this in mind, it’s little wonder that almost three quarters of British shoppers want the government to do more to back the growth of independent retailers in the coming years.

The challenge for independent retailers – to capitalise on the shifting trends in consumer attitude – is by no means insurmountable. Independents already differentiate themselves from larger retail brands by being the kind of store that offers customers a niche product set coupled with a more personalised experience, and they need to reflect this in the marketing materials they produce and the messages they send to their customer base.

They can go one better by proving that they can adapt quickly to the ever-changing needs of the contemporary consumer, demonstrating a level of agility that is simply unfeasible for many larger high street brands.

For independents to truly maximise the opportunity that has been created by the lethargy of the larger retailers, investing in digital is fast becoming a requirement rather than a mere recommendation. Alongside providing better value for money and a more personal customer service, what customers really want is the ability to shop in the way that best suits them.

The popularity of online retail is rising rapidly, with a record 18.2 percent of all consumer spending in retail made digitally according to the latest ONS figures and 39 percent of customers surveyed by Pure360 preferring to do all their shopping online as it makes their lives easier.

There is a growing demand for an Amazon-like online experience across all brands, an expectation of the kind of personalisation and customer service that comes with it regardless of the size of the brand, which means that even bricks and mortar boutiques need to harness the benefits of multi-channel retail by offering such options as synchronised online-to-offline shopping baskets and tailored post-purchase support. This is something independents can achieve, but only if they invest in the right kind of technology.

Independents must also ensure they are nurturing the right kind of customer loyalty, avoiding the habitual, passive loyalty so characteristic of faltering traditional retailers and instead fostering active loyalty by winning consumers’ trust along with their wallets. This is another area where Amazon is so successful, with a third of customers identifying them as a favourite brand according to a recent report from the Direct Marketing Association.

The value of customers who shop on a ‘heart-over-habit’ basis cannot be understated. Their loyalty is built on trust and bettered through a combination of utility, accessibility and relevance, and retailers need to be careful to communicate their usefulness and relevance in the right way.

Again, the solution is digital; email marketing continues to emerge as a clear marketing preference for consumers, operating in that sweet spot between the inconvenience of a physical mail-out and the invasive feel of a direct message or text. People know where they stand with email and trust it as a channel for delivering useful materials in a timely manner that doesn’t feel intrusive.

It remains to be seen what happens to the high street as we know it, but what is clear is that independent retailers now have a golden opportunity to thrive in this challenging retail climate. It’s possible even for the smallest teams to earn themselves a large, loyal following by exceeding expectations and achieving great results.

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Customer Experience Magazine is the online magazine packed full of industry news, blogs, features, reports, case studies, video bites and international stories all focusing on customer experience.



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