Can an experience stop the end of “business as usual”?

Posted on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 by

Mobile phones and other social media technology are changing how consumers shop in retail storesIn his new book ‘The End of Business as Usual’ (Wiley, October 2011) , Brian Solis highlights that Social media, mobile devices and gamification are enabling consumers to share experiences with multiple audiences and expand their ‘egosystem’, in which they broadcast their lives 24/7.

Brand identity is now co-created by connected consumers rather than being dictated through tightly controlled advertising and PR campaigns in traditional media.

Not only can consumers ‘talk back’ at brands and spread their sentiments in seconds, but smartphones and other mobile devices enhance their bargaining position, allowing them to compare prices and purchase from competitors on the fly.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I caught myself benchmarking prices on my cell phone last weekend. I was in the market for a non-stick pan, a rather utilitarian purchase that doesn’t carry much emotion. Standing in front of the shelf of a major retailer, I instantly compared prices with Target, Amazon and Sur la table for this exact same item. Had the store manager refused to match Target’s price, I would have walked out and ordered online…to make it even easier for consumers, several smartphone apps enable users to scan barcodes and compare prices for an exact same sku.

For retailers, this is the harsh reality of the world we live in, and there is very little you can do to prevent shoppers from being frugal. (Banning cell phones in your stores, anyone?)

The good news is that you can still differentiate and drive conversion by focusing on delivering an experience that is unique and memorable. Technology is on your side, too: interactive screens enable you to up sell and cross sell (see Ralph Lauren for example). RFID will save you hours at the cash/wrap and will help with reducing shrinkage. Virtual assistants (see Duane Read for example) will add some magic to your store experience.

Now put the technology aside and focus on your unique selling points. Empowering  your associates to deliver a genuine, empathic customer experience is something that no device or social media platform will ever take away from you.

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