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In a world of constant change, how can retailers prepare for the future and continue to grow the business? And how has Amazon led the field of retail innovation?
The newspaper industry, as one example, continues to be impacted by the shift to online, although some traditional papers have reacted to this by introducing paywalls and exclusive content on mobile and tablet apps. Similarly, in retail, there is a threat from digitally native players like Asos and Boohoo that thrive because they provide the most convenient and personal service online.
There is no hiding the fact that the retail sector has also become increasingly impacted by technology. Amazon, a modern retail octopus, continues to expand horizontally into different sectors (it recently outbid Sky to stream ATP tennis, while it is also considering the possibility of securing Premier League broadcast rights) and shows no signs of slowing. A shift towards technology is undoubtedly key as it will be vital to engage customers who continue to shop on mobile and online platforms. What’s evident is that in the digital and e-commerce landscape, retailers that fail to meet customers’ shifting traits will not prosper.
So, let’s explore shoppers’ ever-changing behaviours, analyse Amazon’s role in the sector and what retailers must do to survive and thrive.
Shoppers are consistently inconsistent – they embrace new traits almost every day
Retail is fast-moving and consumers themselves are extremely changeable. Technology is fortunately an enabler for retailers and continues to be an avenue for brands to reach out to audiences through entirely new formats. For example, Zero-UI is the shift into an ‘interface-less’ society where platforms such as Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod will see consumers make an increased number of purchases through voice interfaces.
Customers’ appetite for online is evident by the shift towards e-commerce but Zero-UI takes the customer experience one step further. An interface-less society is all well and good, but brands should be wary of a world where individual experiences become less important for shoppers. Amazon Echo is designed to redirect traffic through its dedicated platforms and encourage shoppers to purchase Amazon-provided products.
Brand recognition can often be the difference between successful businesses or stale concepts that fail in their attempts to innovate. Now-defunct retailer BHS was guilty of failing to innovate; shoppers fell out of love with it because it was quickly outpaced by smarter, more agile competitors although its online relaunch was a clever reintroduction. While technology continues to be a driver for change, retailers mustn’t get carried away with what others are doing and should instead create a long-term plan that enables each business model to grow continuously.
Amazon leads the pack: retail innovation courses through everything it creates
The more customers default through Amazon, the more they’ll spend on Amazon-own products. This is the very loud truth that retailers must come to terms with. Our own research recently found that almost 40% of online spend goes through Amazon alone. Amazon has now created a model in retail that has entirely changed how brands interact with customers. Immediacy is now top of the list with Prime delivery, while its stream of new ideas continuously adds layers to its overall offering. From Echo and Prime to its Fresh and Dash concepts, it never fails to create a service that puts the customer’s experience first.
Amazon purchase of Whole Foods could even be perceived as logical innovation. It’s a move that will see Amazon link all its services together, especially as the grocery offering hasn’t matured yet. Amazon Fresh was the first step, but physical stores gives the company the infrastructure to truly compete. It’s also its first ‘non-digital’ mile aimed at getting customers in store first, and then driving them online through Prime (cross-selling and up-selling).
Retailers need a balanced strategy and must start thinking about the vision of the future for their company that places innovation at the very core.
Bright future for retailers that embrace a consumer-first approach
Companies like Amazon and Ocado – the latter is currently trialling the use of robots to deliver produce – will continue to thrive as long as they introduce ideas that help them to retain and further develop a strong customer base. Innovation can come in many forms and doesn’t always have to be technology-driven. Ultimately, any retailer that improves the customer journey, provides greater convenience and improves the overall service will thrive.
We have a love-hate relationship with Amazon because it influences the retail sector, but does so through its transformative business model. Brands must look forward, into the future, and not just copy Amazon’s ideas; the long-term interest of the individual brand itself might not be the same as Amazon. We all still have brands that we love and enjoy, but those brands need to work harder to understand what customers want and how they can improve the service. Transform your own business now or face losing out to a smarter, more forward-thinking competitor that does.
Download Salmon’s 20 for 20 trends book for a view on the high impact trends set to drive change across sectors, touching on experience, society, technology and competition.
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