I read Next’s latest results with great interest, in particular, their open and detailed store portfolio review.
It referred to the continuing trend of our customers’ preference for experiences over “things”, and the impact that will have on the high street.
Experiences are of course the richest social currency, inflated with likes and loves from our Facebook friends. When you reflect on your year just lived, it’s much more satisfying to recall the family trip to see Beauty and the Beast than that top you bought in the Sale.
“Whilst seemingly the world is happy to share pretty much anything and everything on social media, apparently there is a line over which some people won’t go”
The opportunity for retailers is to make the things that we sell integral to the experiences our customers are happy to share: an Abel & Cole recipe box that turns dinner into MasterChef at home; Red Nose Day noses for your Comic Relief fundraising event, or an Ann Summers dress up outfit for a memorable night out with the girls.
However, whilst seemingly the world is happy to share pretty much anything and everything on social media, apparently there is a line over which some people won’t go.
Retail data tracking
The Internet of Things and the technology that can connect pretty much any object, ie, one that can carry a RFID (radio frequency identification) chip or label in store, is at the heart of the problem.
“The information gets richer still when we combine the things we sell and how they integrate with our customer’s experiences”
This tech can be used to track our products from warehouse, to stockroom and onto the shop floor. At it’s most basic this should improve our merchandising efficiency, ensuring that the right product is in the right place at the right time.
It can also track the movement from shop floor to changing room. Why is that garment being regularly tried on but rarely bought? How long is it sitting on the rail waiting to go back on display?
The really interesting or intrusive information comes if we could track the product in our customers’ homes.
“At what point does that technology, being helpful to both the consumer and the business, cross into more invasive territory?”
We could discover that she bought that dress three months ago but it hasn’t moved from her wardrobe since. Or that she’s wearing that blouse and skirt together, exactly as we suggested on the website – let’s email her the same combination in a different colour.
The information gets richer still when we combine the things we sell and how they integrate with our customer’s experiences – a T-shirt may have been worn out 5,000 times on Saturday night and featured in 4,000 social media posts.
This then becomes an interesting topic for discussion. At what point does that technology, being helpful to both the consumer and the business, cross into more invasive territory?
Clearly interconnected technology is becoming genuinely useful, for example, Hive, Nest or some of the smart home security gadgets – but there are definitely some things you want to keep secret, especially from that Alexa: I hear she’s a terrible gossip!