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EDITORIAL M&S, Joules, Burberry show how Top500 retailers are starting to meet the needs of shoppers across the generations

Generation game: retailers need to learn from GenZ to deliver what everyone wants

Generation game: retailers need to learn from GenZ to deliver what everyone wants

Shopping has changed. Shoppers have changed. As a result, retailers are having to change and, following an almost universally dire Christmas, many are starting to pick themselves up and adapt to what shoppers want.

And many retailers could do worse than to look at how Joules and Burberry have managed to weather the storm and deliver above average performance across the Peak season.

Joules, which logged profits before tax up by 14.7% to £10.7 million, puts its success down to its ‘total retail’ model, which sees the company making it a central pillar of its strategy to make sure that the interaction between in-store, online and mobile are seamless and efficient.

And it seems to be working for the fashion retailer, which has seen not only increasing online sales, but has also managed to keep the store portfolio working well as well.

At Burberry, too, focussing on a customer-centric strategy is also bearing fruit. While it didn’t manage the relatively stellar performance of Joules – it grew by just 1% – it is in the midst of driving consumer engagement both online and in-store through building ‘brand heat’ online and on social to reap rewards across its portfolio.

M&S – which didn’t do so well at Christmas – is making good on its post-Peak promise to invest in the technologies that shoppers want, has now rolled out visual search on its mobile site.

Here the retailer joins a small but growing cabal of retailers that offer the technology as a means of making both online and in-store shopping more straightforward.

Again, this is the right strategy to tap into what shoppers want today. While there is much research about how GenZ shops, what they do today, the rest of us will be doing by Easter.

In fact learning what GenZ does is key to shaping the above strategies and those yet to come. According to retail research from Conversant, millennial and Gen Z shoppers are increasingly browsing and purchasing online while in-store, with 78% of younger generations shop both in-store and online simultaneously, and are 34% more likely than older customers to use a mobile device in a store.

This comes as welcome news: the caveat being that technology has to be involved in making that in-store experience one that actually works. This is what M&S and Joules are proving – and which the likes of Amazon Go are predicated on.

But tech can be expensive, which is why the story this week that a US start-up is looking to offer the kind of easy experience that Amazon Go offers, but using smart trolleys rather than a massive investment in tech woven into the fabric of the store – something that makes this tricky for established retailers – is interesting.

The trolley allows shoppers to take stuff off the shelf and pay at the trolley and leave – the trolley doing the scanning and checking that Amazon Go uses an extensive array of sensors to facilitate – is a beautifully simple and retro-fitted solution.

The smart trolley can also link to the shoppers smartphone shopping list and guide the shopper round the store, make suggestions as to what to buy to go with what you are getting and more. It also allows for direct interaction – and advertising – to take place there and then in the shopping process. Personally, I am smitten.

Taken together, M&S’s visual search, smart carts and Joules ‘total retail’ approach offer the answer to many of the issues facing the High Street and retail in general – and all this before January is out. Maybe 2019 isn’t going to be such a bad year for retail after all?

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