Retailers may reach a tipping point where friction may need to be reintroduced to the customers shopping experience

In the world of the technological revolution that is not restricted by many physical hurdles, the introduction of new technology invokes dramatic changes that can be brought about relatively quickly, as a result technological trends are taking up faster than before. Retailers now continuously adopt the technological component as they seek to erase the line between digital and bricks and mortar to have a more seamless shopping experience.

As retailers expand into the omni- channel approach of business they introduce more effortless ways of shopping in every aspect where the customer interacts with their brand, from online to the second they walk into their stores. The reduction of friction in transactions may appear to be adding to value but could it be taking away from the customers shopping experience? A question lodged by Trevor Hardy (CEO of The Future Laboratory) as it moves towards the reduction of human interaction, from self-service to refrigerators that predict and buy your grocery list for you. Frictionless commerce, now the new buzz word amongst retailers is driven by new technology, innovation, digital devices and apps which have made the shopping experience easier, faster and more convenient says Trevor Hardy.

Hardy feels that this may reach a tipping point where retailers may need to reintroduce friction in a way of giving the customers something unexpected, something of interest and surprise, something more human. By taking away the negative friction retailers have the opportunity of introducing positive and interesting levels of complexity to the shopper experience.” The most forward looking businesses are ones that are using tech, not to help them become more tech driven but those that use tech to help retail become more human. What I am saying is how can technology make service a thing that differentiates shopping again and the retail experience; how can it be emotional rather than efficient, unexpected serendipities rather than an easy journey to just get you to buy something” adds Hardy.

Hardy highlighted key learnings on new ways to define the consumer but not confining them to these consumer tribes. Generation I ,born between the years 2000-2010 in the tech revolution have tremendous pester power, Generation D born in the years 1990-2000 have a huge focus on social media ,Millennials born between 1980-1990 want retailers to show their ethics, focused on the experience rather than the product. Generation X born between 1965-1980, retailers have to rethink how they approach this consumer and forget about the traditional notion of families. Generation Jones, born between 1954 and 1965 and the Flat Agers born between 1946 and 1954 remind us to cater for the older demographic as they feel forgotten in spite of their abilities, willingness and large disposable income – Trevor advises that retailers should design for all considering all demographics, emotions, attitudes or psychographics which will help retailers design products with intergenerational appeal.

Hardy says the future of customer service should have retailers be more in touch with what is happening with people, more in touch with cultural zeitgeist for example Siri, Cortana and Mark Zuckerburgs Jarvis which are digital assistants will have evolved considerably in the near future. And the success of these products is through the better understanding of the consumer to help elevate the customer experience.

Trevor Hardy recently spoke as one of the international speakers at the South African Council of Shopping Centres 21st Annual Congress in Cape Town. The CEO of The Future Laboratory covered the topic of the New Retail Consumer where he unpacked the process and the results of examining the attitudes and preferences of a new kind of consumer, and took a cross-sector look at what this will mean for retail in the coming years. With a fresh take on consumption and ownership, digital native; experience-hungry teenagers and the demands and desires of older demographics.

The Future Laboratory is a trends forecasting and consulting business that helps businesses be more prepared for trends and forces that may shape the future of their industry.