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EDITORIAL Experiences, videos and AR: the keys to retail success

Retail is now a complex business

Retail is now a complex business

No clearer demonstration of the changing face of retail is needed than the fact that when looking for consumer electronics, shoppers are more likely to turn to Amazon and even YouTube than Curry’s and Argos.

Yet that is what s recent study of Google shopping search results reveals. It shows that how shoppers shop is changing and what they want from the online and mobile experience is very much different to the old world of retail.

And it isn’t confined to consumer electronics. The health and beauty market is also seeing some dramatic changes in how its customers shop. There, too, shoppers are searching for videos, images, discounts and reviews first when looking for what they are after.

Similarly, two-fifths of UK consumers also now admit to relying on augmented and virtual realities (AR and VR) to help them visualise and try out new products before buying and, with the sale of VR headsets falling, they are doing it on their phones.

The reason is that shoppers now know they can assess things before they buy: just like they may have done in a store, where they could pick up, smell, touch and even taste what they were buying. This has been online’s missing link – until now.

This all adds up to delivering experiences that not only delight and impress the shopper, but also which are useful.

The power of these experiences can’t be underestimated. According to more research out this week, nearly two-thirds of shoppers (65%) would change their shopping behaviour if more shops on the high street had an experiential element, rising to 82% of Millennials and 80% of Generation Z.

However, don’t be misled by what Gen Z and Millennials do – there is real ecommerce growth coming from oldies like me; the original Generation X – the generation whom remember the band Generation X and certainly watched the Marvel movie of the same name, probably with their own kids in the 1990s (watch it, it’s awful!).

These too also want experiences and are very much into the idea of checking things out on YouTube while assessing what to buy. In fact, when it comes to looking at how to cater to the changing way consumers shop, it is worth not getting hung up on age and generations anymore – we all want the same thing.

OK, the research shows that Gen X aren’t that bothered with rapid delivery times – that is something those impatient Gen Z whippersnappers want more – but essentially, online shopping has now morphed into a different shaped purchase funnel where shoppers want a new kind of useful experience.

This doesn’t mean that traditional retailers are finished, far from it: they just need to adapt. Rather than worry about the impact that, say, YouTube is having on the purchase funnel for your goods, you should embrace it.

Similarly with leveraging AR and VR: while they may be technically challenging, as a result, expensive, they not only are where shoppers are turning for information, they also present new ways to market your goods.

Change is often scary and disruptive, but currently retail is in the grip of such change that it is actually quite exciting to see how it develops.

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