Building An Experience Led Retail Business: Convergence of Physical, Digital, Augmented and Virtual Worlds

A dra­mat­ic shift is tak­ing place in busi­ness as we all adjust to cus­tomers’ new pri­or­i­ties. Across the globe, cus­tomers are demand­ing per­son­alised, con­tex­tu­al­ly rel­e­vant, and real-time expe­ri­ences from Retail­ers. You might say that every retailer’s new brand is sum total of expe­ri­ences they deliv­er and their new prod­uct is the ‘Cus­tomer Jour­ney’. They are all now in the ‘Expe­ri­ence Business’.

In anoth­er blog post, I dis­cussed the first step a busi­ness could take to embrace this shift by adopt­ing design-cen­tric think­ing. While such design-cen­tric think­ing was first applied to the cre­ation of phys­i­cal objects, it is now increas­ing­ly com­mon for lead­ing organ­i­sa­tions to apply it to the more intan­gi­ble, such as how a cus­tomer feels about their inter­ac­tion with their brand across all touch points dur­ing the aware­ness, pur­chase, deliv­ery, ser­vice, returns and loy­al­ty journey.

The evo­lu­tion to the Expe­ri­ence Busi­ness mod­el is very vis­i­ble in the retail sec­tor. Retail­ers have invest­ed sig­nif­i­cant­ly over the last few years to trans­form their busi­ness across online, mobile and in-store chan­nels, but now it is time to turn your atten­tion to the next phase – lever­ag­ing ‘expe­ri­ence’ as a com­pet­i­tive dif­fer­en­tia­tor. As you cre­ate your roadmap for turn­ing your busi­ness into an expe­ri­ence led retail­er, reflect­ing on your past, present and (poten­tial­ly) future jour­ney, may be help­ful.

Phase 1: Let’s bring my cat­a­log into customer’s home. Online.

In the ear­ly days of the World Wide Web, retail­ers start­ed to put their prod­uct cat­a­log online. In some cas­es this was a straight­for­ward exten­sion into the dig­i­tal realm for com­pa­nies who used to mail cat­a­logs to cus­tomers. The pri­ma­ry objec­tive was to dri­ve traf­fic to store, but very soon it became appar­ent that cus­tomers want­ed to shop from the com­fort of their homes and NOT come into the store.

**Phase 2: Let’s enable cus­tomers to shop for our prod­ucts from the com­fort of their home with home delivery.
**Wide­spread adop­tion of eCom­merce by retail­ers took place in response to cus­tomer demands. Online retail sales in Europe over Novem­ber and Decem­ber last year were huge, with our lat­est Adobe Dig­i­tal Index data show­ing that over £19.16bn was spent online in the UK, €24.45bn in Ger­many and €14.97bn in France. Plus, near­ly half of that online spend in the UK was on either a tablet or a smartphone.

**Phase 3: Let cus­tomers shop online and pick up their goods wher­ev­er they want.
**Retail­ers realised that cus­tomers want the con­ve­nience of shop­ping online and receiv­ing their goods at home, at office, at a third-par­ty col­lec­tion point or at a store.

Retail­ers accept­ed that mobile devices have tak­en over and the cus­tomer now shops at home, work, in the store, or wait­ing at a traf­fic light! The emer­gence of mobile web and apps became clear. In the U.S., 90% of the time spent online is done through apps. Glob­al­ly, that num­ber is 52%. An amaz­ing 42% of all mobile sales gen­er­at­ed by the lead­ing 500 busi­ness­es comes from mobile apps.

Phase 5: Let’s digi­tise my store experience.

The store has the poten­tial of becom­ing an excit­ing exten­sion of the dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence and oppor­tu­ni­ties abound that could bring the cus­tomer back to the brick and mor­tar shop. Retail­ers expe­ri­enced the rebirth of the store — a space which has been left alone for quite some time and regard­ed as a lia­bil­i­ty for retail­ers with dig­i­tal­ly-focused ambi­tions. A num­ber of stores are already imple­ment­ing a vari­ety of expe­ri­ences that merge the phys­i­cal and the dig­i­tal (or the “phy­gi­tal”, as it is pop­u­lar­ly known).

Phase 6: Let’s bring the entire store to your home along with an immer­sive retail experience.

The emer­gence of vir­tu­al real­i­ty will like­ly bring a whole new dimen­sion – lit­er­al­ly — to the cus­tomer and retail­er expe­ri­ence. The customer’s liv­ing room could be trans­formed into your store or your cus­tomer could try out your prod­ucts vir­tu­al­ly from the com­fort of their home. See what Mer­rill is doing in VR.

It is real­ly an excit­ing time to be in retail as this indus­try con­tin­ues to progress towards seam­less stitch­ing of the dig­i­tal, phys­i­cal, aug­ment­ed and vir­tu­al worlds for their customers.

While online and mobile buy­ing habits dif­fer world­wide, the gen­er­al trend is clear. We are liv­ing through a retail gold­en age, and it will be those retail­ers that ful­ly embrace a cus­tomer-cen­tric approach, deliv­er­ing the dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal expe­ri­ences that today’s con­sumers expect, that get a share of the jackpot.

While some retail­ers will still be debat­ing whether they should adopt an expe­ri­ence-led busi­ness mod­el or con­tin­ue try­ing to com­pete with a trans­ac­tion-led strat­e­gy, the sim­ple fact remains that brands are com­pet­ing in terms of cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, whether they like it or not.

Thank­ful­ly, it isn’t too late for retail­ers to start mak­ing real strides with their expe­ri­ence in a bid to keep pace with the com­pe­ti­tion and the cus­tomer. As the next dig­i­tal dis­rup­tor in retail pon­ders its strate­gic move, the pres­sure will be on estab­lished and emerg­ing retail­ers to make sure they’re meet­ing the next wave of expec­ta­tion from their cus­tomers. Because as long as the cus­tomers are sat­is­fied, your busi­ness is ahead of the curve.

If you want to hear from your retail indus­try peers regard­ing their trans­for­ma­tion jour­ney, do not for­get to attend the Retail Super­s­es­sion at EMEA Adobe Sum­mit 2016_ at the Excel Cen­tre in Lon­don on May 11, 2016._

And learn more about the new Expe­ri­ence Busi­ness in Adobe’s Insight Report 2016: Cus­tomer Expe­ri­ence Man­age­ment in Retail.