People will always choose choice
Want a three-course dinner delivered in 30 minutes? There’s an app for that.
Fancy a new TV and sound system for tomorrow? There’s a site for that.
Looking for the definitive album of Peruvian nose flute anthems? There’s almost certainly somewhere to go for that too.
These days in retail, it seems, technology has an answer for everything. Every want or need, no matter how obscure or far-fetched, can be catered for.
And superficially, it all sounds great. We get exactly what we want, when we want it.
There’s no touch like the human touch
Yet as we all know, technology is an enabler, not a goal in itself. The human touch is still regarded as critical for today’s businesses and it’s important to stay focussed on people – not the cold, hard technology behind it.
As we heard from industry experts at the 2019 O2 Blue Door Conference, we don’t talk to stakeholders about IoT or AI. We talk about business cases and look to appropriate tech. It’s never about technology for technology’s sake.
Because in this era of magical solutions and one-touch-does-it-all, it’s easy to forget that whatever business you’re in, it’s still a people business. Somewhere along the line, there will be human customers that you need to keep happy if your business is to thrive.
Change is coming
Humans like to have a choice. Some people love the idea of till-free stores for example, but Holborn Circus Sainsbury’s – the UK’s first supermarket with none at all – was an experiment that showed that when asked, plenty of customers still wanted the reassurance of a till and a member of staff somewhere.
Managing change like this is a real art. But one that has to be mastered since there is only one constant – change itself. And you need to be prepared for it.
Data can help you be as prepared as it’s possible to be, helping you react fast, in ways that can give your business a genuine advantage, and in ways your customers can relate to.
Use your data right and it’ll give you some superb insights into how best to serve your customers and improve their experience. O2 Motion for example, uses anonymised, aggregated network data to measure things like crowd sizes at a particular time and place. This data can be used to understand what factors influence the number of people visiting a location at any time – which can help businesses inform critical decisions like where to place new sites.
Finally, whilst it’s tempting to be drawn in by cost or saving alone, use your data and insight to look at the role and purpose of any new outlet. Try to understand the role your store is playing – is it experiential or transactional for example? And it’s worth remembering that data can also give you the tools you need to manage that store profile upwards to key stakeholders.
Just one piece of a big, complex puzzle
However, like technology itself, data doesn’t solve every problem on its own. It is, in fact, just another ingredient in your recipe. Other, more traditional communications have their role to play in delivering excellent customer experiences – Arsenal FC for instance, uses pagers to provide discreet information for tighter safety and more effective crowd control.
There really is no one-size-fits-all here. In an age where everyone is looking to the next biggest, freshest, shiniest thing, the technology and data choices you make should depend on your objectives. How your customers behave. And how best to engage them.
But whatever you decide, it’s all about putting your customers first. Giving them a choice in how they interact with you. And letting them choose how you deliver.