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Helen Merriot of EY on 2030 customer expectations: “Buying will be about AI, shopping will be about experience”

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“In the future, there will be a split of the way consumers shop: buying will be about artificial intelligence (AI) enabling automated services and shopping will be about actively seeking for experiences,” said Helen Merriot, partner, of EY.

Citing new research by EY titled ’The future consumer 2030 frame’ at the WIRED Smarter event this week, which analysed customers in cities including the UK, Shanghai, Mumbai and San Francisco, Merriot said that the study looked at how customers will evolve with the rate of technological advancements.

Merriot said the analysis took a holistic approach to have a full picture of a ’future customer’ to help businesses structure their strategies accordingly.”We’ve asked a group of futurists and retailers about how consumers’ behaviour will evolve including their eating, spending habits to reflect the wide frame of their habits.”

The 2030 customer

“The new decision tree will not be online or offline shopping – it will be about ‘do I buy’ or ’do I look for more’ experience and convenience?” continued Merriot.

Will customers have more power over retailers?

“Yes, they will. In the last ten years, we’ve seen consumer become incredibly powerful, with transparency enabling consumers to see whether they can buy a certain product or proposition cheaper or better from a competitor.”

How to keep a balance: Customer engagement and cost management

“I think there are great examples of retailers offering fitness classes and cookery demonstrations. And many of these examples are not necessarily relying on the tech.”

Merriot argues that each retailer needs to take an individual approach that fits their business and their customer proposition. As she said: “There are also many online pure players who managed to create online experiences whether that is through delivering frictionless information. All of these [examples] are not right for everybody but it is certainly about picking which path you want to take to engage with your consumer because of all this takes time and effort.”

“One of the great questions [that retailers’ should ask themselves]-how do you reduce costs that are unnecessary and re-divert that into your growth?”

“[Retailers need to be] increasingly ruthless. Businesses that are growing incredibly quickly, those that are younger have a slightly different dimension than traditional players. What I’m seeing is a ruthless determination to do take costs down. There are many businesses that have announced big changes to take headcounts down to in order to invest in innovation.”

The future of digital is human

“Will there be stores in the future?” Merriot asked. “Yes, there is an absolute place for physical store locations to be part of retailers’ propositions. It will be very important to make it a special place and that it offers something important, different and targeted to consumers that you’re trying to reach.”

Automated experiences

“The technology that we have today is going to increase,” added Merriot. “Our research suggests that a high percentage of families in the UK now have a home assistant. But, what they use them for is to simply listen to Radio 2.”

“In the future, if we can get a personal assistant that knows our wants and our intents, then we will begin unlocking these platforms to automate our lives as much as we want to.”



Image credit: Fotolia

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