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A look back at The Big Ask event

By Rob Sandford, O2 Business


After months of preparation and refinement, I was so proud to finally present the findings from The Big Ask report on 22 July.

This was a piece of research O2 commissioned with Retail Economics, taking a detailed look at the behaviour of the modern, connected customer. The findings are detailed in The Big Ask report, and were presented to retail leaders from across the UK at the launch.

Early in the year, when delivering the event in a physical space became impossible, we had to pivot to doing it virtually. It was exciting, but it definitely made for a few nerves.

The most important aspect of it, though, remained reassuringly constant throughout. We knew that whether or not it had all the bells and whistles of a traditional event, the real value was to be found in the research and insights uncovered by our friends at Retail Economics.

Before I go through some highlights from the report, I’d like to thank Richard Lim, my co-presenter on the day who oversaw the research from Retail Economics. Thank you also to our retail partners who contributed their experiences and use cases.

You can access the complete report by clicking here.

Starting with the customer

One of the big discussion points was the idea that traditional models of customer segmentation in retail were, if not obsolete, in need of some renovation.

That’s why, as well as talking through the five stages of the customer journey, from awareness to returns, we introduced three new customer groupings based on their appreciation for being connected online.

Some of you may be familiar with these groups even if you haven’t read the report, as we mentioned them in the four articles that we published leading up to the event. They’re summarised as follows:


  1. The Connectivity Assumptive

When asked, this group of typically younger shoppers said that being connected online wasn’t that important. However, their behaviour indicates otherwise, with the assumptive spending more time browsing online for products. Nearly half had even bought a product online while in a physical store.

This gave us our first big major insight – appreciation for connectivity doesn’t always correlate to real behaviour and usage.


  1. The Connectivity Acknowledgers

This group stated that being connected was fairly important. Typically slightly older, falling broadly into the Millennial category and therefore technologically literate, if not native.


  1. The Connectivity Appreciative

Of all customers asked, this group said that being connected was of the highest importance. This was despite being generally older customers, who typically make use of that connectivity less while shopping. They were, for example, five times less likely to use a smartphone to browse products while in-store than the other two customer groups.


The transformation of retail fulfilment

For me, the most eye-opening part of the event was the discussion about how changes in customer expectations and preferences have impacted product fulfilment. Of all the stages of the journey, this one has perhaps been most overtly impacted by the lockdown, as online fulfilment has been increasingly relied on by customers of all types.

One interesting finding, though not necessarily surprising to me, was the overall preference (53%) for physical channels like the high street (13.6%) and shopping centres (13%) over digital ones.

O2 works with retailers across the UK to discover and analyse the way people move between physical locations. So I’ve seen just how reductive ideas like the ‘death of the high street’ can be – even if footfall has fallen in some locations, customers still see stores as places to experience products and connect with brands.

It’s also clear that barriers to digital fulfilment still remain even after widespread adoption and development of sophisticated logistics. All consumer groups said they’d shop online more if there were cheaper, faster delivery options and free returns, for example.

One emerging answer though could be partnerships. Specialists like Deliveroo have teamed up with retailers in lockdown to provide speedy fulfilment, while freeing up retailers to focus on stores and product lines.

As someone who works in tech, I’m also excited about the new fulfilment solutions we’re seeing throughout the industry. From robotic autonomous deliveries to in-home delivery enabled by secure AI and recognition technologies, brands are being increasingly innovative in the way they use connectivity to provide exceptional, connected experiences.


More to uncover

I’ve already been hearing from some of those who attended the event about what they found most interesting. The effect of digitalisation on differentiating between brands at the research stage clearly left a big impression on some attendees.

I’m curious to speak to more retailers, and see whether there are any questions you’ve got, either about the findings or how you can put them to practical use.

The full report goes into much more detail on all five stages of the customer journey, as well as examples of how different retailers and technology partners are attracting increasingly interconnected customers.

You can download it here – have a read through, and let me know what you think.



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