Thoughts from the 2018 Retail Innovation Conference

Today I had the opportunity to attend the 4th Annual Retail Innovation Conference hosted by Retail Touchpoints. In today’s ever-changing retail environment, this year’s theme, Embracing Retail Disruption, is more relevant than ever.

The event kicked-off with a keynote from Ken Hughes. Ken is one of the world’s leading Consumer and Shopper Behaviouralists and has dedicated most of his career to answering the question: Why do shoppers buy and how can we make them buy more?

For Ken, the real challenge facing retailers is, simply stated, a race for relevance. As he describes it, this is the first time in consumer history the consumer market spans 6 generations and has the unique challenge of trying to satisfy 6 different value sets. But while we’ve all been focusing on the Millennials, it’s really Gen Z that are quickly becoming the generation with the most influence and buying power.

Ken spent much of his presentation talking about the 8 values of Generation Z and how we will have to think differently as retailers to win them over.

The first value is Freedom. This generation was raised without conflict. They were raised to believe they can do anything and expect your retail experience and policies to set your customer free. Omnichannel isn’t just a benefit – it’s the price of entry.

The second value is what Ken calls the “Weconomy”. It’s a sharing economy and a sharing culture. Gen X thinks, “Why own it, when I can borrow it”. Home ownership, car ownership, etc are seen as burdens not goals. This is evident with the success of companies like Uber and Rent the Runway. Consumer collaboration is key.

The third value is Flexibility. Gen Z expect you to be completely consumer-centric and adapt. As Ken states, “process kills flexibility”. This is probably where engaged and empowered frontline associates is critical. Process is critical to scale and to grow, but your associates need to feel empowered to do the right thing for the customer in front of them.

The 4th Value will of no surprise to anyone – it is the desire for instant. Gone are the days of consumers willing to wait 5 – 7 days for shipping. This generation expect immediately delivery on whatever your brand promises.

Coupled with the desire of instant is the incredibly high expectations of Gen Z. They are inundated with brand, and your brand promise. They expect you to get it right the first time. This is another instance of where in-store experience is critical. You will lose a Gen Z customer is there is any discrepancy between your online experience, your Instagram, your marketing and your in-store experience. And we all know, in-store is where the most volatility lies.

The 6th value is what Ken refers to as Phygital world. There is no distinction between the physical and digital world. They expect the same thing in the same place every time – again, a consistent consumer experience is key.

#7 is all about personalization, or Customize or Die, as Ken refers to it. This generation knows how much data you collect. They expect you to use it to create a personalized experience. They want to be treated like a person, not a transaction.

Finally, Gen Z values authenticity – being real. They will seek out food trucks over 5-star restaurants because they know it’s “the real thing”. They love the energy and authenticity that comes with the new and not yet established.

For me the key-takeaway is that as retailers the in-store experience becomes paramount to delivering on the expectations of the Gen Z client. Our opportunity to connect with our customers is greater than ever. We can reach her through 100s of different channels, at all hours of the day. We are with her wherever she goes. As a result, when she does cross-our threshold every person representing our brand needs to be ready to meet that brand promise. We need to leverage technology not only to market to our clients, but also to our Associates. We need to engage them in the brand as well as we do our customers and empower them to bring that experience to life.

Ken’s keynote set the tone for an exciting and engaging few days that provided thought-provoking and actionable information for how retailers can embrace this current state of retail disruption.

For more information on the Retail Innovator’s Conference, click here.

For more information on Ken Hughes, click here.

AUTHOR: Erin Oldershaw

Tracey Wells-Schneps

Author Tracey Wells-Schneps

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