Stirlingretail

Singapore Swing

My current dose of warm weather in Singapore and soon in Hong Kong is mainly about meeting and talking to partners of the University of Stirling in my capacity as Deputy Principal for Internationalisation and Graduate Studies. It is good to be meeting up with old friends and new possible partners.

But in the time honored tradition of academic multi tasking (or spinning plates more accurately) I am also combining my trip with a little retail work. Some of that will be about looking at shops and talking with retailers, most notably at the Awards Ceremony for the Retail Asia Top 500 Awards where I have been involved this year as a judge for the “Best of the Best” award. This should be interesting and informative.

Howver I am not being allowed to get away quietly and am having to sing for my supper a little. One of Stirling’s long term collaborators and also one of my PhD students from last century (sorry, Lynda), Dr Lynda Wee, is hosting a roundtable at the NYCU Media seminar on Retail Revolution: rethink, reinvent, which takes place in Singapore on the 29th October. She asked me to do 5 minutes on three trends to kick off the discussion, before others chip in with their thoughts.

So, what are my three trends for this 5 minute slot? Besides caveating this with the obvious that I am from the UK and thus local Asia trends may be slightly different in emphases, and that despite my travels my knowledge is UK centric, I think these trends have wide resonance.

First, convenience and ease. We are all well used to the notion of convenience and of convenience stores, but I really mean more than that. This is about convenience in people’s lives, whether digital or physical, in time or space terms and about how retailers have to make their offer not only convenient but also easy to use. The store or the offer can not be difficult or it destroys the point for many consumers. But how often is the shop difficult? It is not also only about speed, but these ideas are related and slowness is often a customer killer.

Secondly, compelling and authentic. Retailers need to make ‘statements’ about their position and offer and do this through the way they put together their operations. These stores and offers make the consumer respond and retailers back up this by their actions with consumers. Retail stores need to shout their message and proposition through all that the store or website does and says. But again how often is the offer or store confused and cluttered? Retailers need to be much clearer in their ‘statements’ at store, website, brand and all levels. When this is done properly this translates into a compelling and authentic position of retailers clearly demonstrating that they know what they are doing, operationally and in terms of customer’s needs. Too often this is not the case.

Thirdly and finally, engaged and entertained. Shoppers want to be engaged with the store, website or company, but not for engagement’s sake, but rather because the retailers gets what the consumer wants in their visit. Engagement has many forms covering brand, experience, product, price, creation, market amongst others and not all consumers want the same thing or level or type of engagement. That is why the best retailers are focusing on customer creation of the experience and the level of engagement or in some cases entertainment. Consumers often want this, but on their terms, and to be entertained not by others, by through their own or their group’s activities. This of course is as important in the digital as in the physical space.

So, that’s my starter for three for this Friday. Let’s see how it goes.