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DAY 2 of FOST - How Retail Evolved From XL to CX to ME Julie Vens - De Vos - October 12, 2017

Tours Once Upton A Time

This is a snippet of insights of day 2 of the nexxworks Future of Shopping Tour. Stay tuned in the coming days for the sequels or check out day 1 here.  

The visionary Jon Bird, CEO of Labstore, kicked off a sunny day in New York with a trip down retail memory lane. Back in 1992, Walmart was killing all statistics and digital wasn't even a topic on any strategy agenda yet. In 1995 Amazon still had an eighties look styled homepage and physical retail wasn't being questioned. Jon took us on that wonderful journey from XL to CX to ME. 


Back then, it was the XL era of retail. It meant you were successful if you could brag with numbers: the amount of stores, the geographical expansion, bigger and bolders outlets, ... Assortment management equaled making sure you had as many products as possible so your shopper had a choice.

Unfortunately, it turned out people absolutely hate unlimited choice.

But the most important job for a retailer is not making sure you have anything you can imagine for your customer. It's minimizing the energy your shopper needs to use when buying from you. One of the most beautiful examples is (yet again) Amazon. They have the world's first bookstore where you can actually see every front cover of the books. Space is scarce, so it implies they might not have the largest collection in-store. It needs no context that they tackled that particular need differently and successfully. It's funny when you go to Herald Square in New York and look up to Macy's billboard stating: We're the world largest department store! The truth is: nobody cares! Tragically, that very specific building is worth more than the company itself due to that strategy. 


Today, customer experience - CX - is the new currency that pays a retailer's bills. Yes, Amazon got that right but they're not the only one. Tommy Hilfiger created a solution that allows shoppers (or swipers) to buy on Tinder. Warby Parker revolutionized eyewear retail by introducing the Try At Home routine. Aday is another wonderful store that started online but turned offline a few months ago with a pop-up shop. What should have been a pop-up for a month became a huge success that got extended by weeks. Popping up in different neighbourhoods allows them to avoid geographical saturation. Given that their story is so compelling, shoppers fall in love with the brand and become loyal online anyway.

Read again btw: this is not pure techie-stuff or complex at all. It's just designing an experience that starts from your customer's need. When you do this and THEN you add the power of technology, it becomes extremely interesting. Technology is thriving so let's look forward to a world of visual search for example.

The world is really about to become buyable.

Our current surrounding is even just the starting point as augmented reality is around the corner waiting to exponentially pimp how we try and buy.


Now is the time to craft your story. If you don't write it starting from your customer, you won't be able to survive in the tech-driven world of ME. No success story has been built on strategies only. Ideas are good but also require rock solid execution. Technology and the data it generates fuel a new elevated standard of execution. A standard where you as a retailer have the ability to know your customer and engage with him on a 1 to 1 level.

Gen Y and older might still be tolerant in this period of transformation but Gen Z won't be. This next buying generation is in a constant state of partial attention so you better grab your time to shine. Nevertheless, it's not the only group where opportunities are. Wholefoods is sexy but less than 1% of all Americans ever buy something there. Differences in ethnicity, age, lifestyle, ... will remain relevant to craft your strategy to, but whichever demographic you chose, you'll need to execute it on their personal ME level and use the technologies that are available today to do so. 

Once upon a was about personal contact and having an authentic experience. A 'me' moment. Today, for some people it seems like fairy tales do not last as technologies blend in too visibly. This Future of Shopping week however shows a bright next chapter. The story will continue, but powered by technologies that became invisible but which make sure the good guy wins at the end. 

Julie Vens
Julie Vens - De Vos

Julie is CEO and Partner at nexxworks. As a natural communicator with 5 years of experience in a corporate FMCG environment, she fully understands how customers are the true...


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