Positive disruption – The golden age of retail

Positive disruption – The golden age of retail

One of the most entertaining and engaging speakers at the NR Summit was leading consumer and shopper behaviourist Ken Hughes.

The next five to 10 years will see a fantastical transformation – but the most disruptive force in retail is the consumer, he told delegates.

This era is the first time there has been six generations of consumers co-existing – the traditional, the baby boomers, the Gen x, Millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha.

“It’s like consumer jenga,” he said. “But Gen Z will be the most important consumers in the next five to ten years. We need to have a conversation about ‘relevance’. Old ways won’t open new doors.

“Attention spans are split. The YouTube generation means attention must be caught in seconds. Retail needs to be more fluid to capture and hold attention.

Gen Z and Millennial culture continue to disrupt and technology catalyses that change,” said Ken Hughes. “Today’s consumers have a different value system. This Uber, Airbnb, Snapchat generation demand things that are instant, frictionless and seamless.”

He coined a term “Phygital” – physical and digital. The future is here – happening, now, he said.

Physical assets are only one part of the modern consumer equation. Flexibility is essential – remember Xtravision and Blockbuster? Now there’s Netflix. He described the new “Blue Dot Consumer” – whereby they expect everything to revolve around them – for example Uber comes to the ‘Blue Dot consumer’.

In the US, trybooster.com is a thing. Ordering online, the car is filled up and charged while you’re at work. Coming to a city near you soon no doubt. In just two years’ time, the car will order its own fuel using AI, he predicted. In time, RoboMart will be the ultimate convenience store – a non-human service point that uses technology and facial recognition only.

Ken talked of injecting creativity in to your brand – like Frankenstein needing a jolt of electricity to bring it to life. “In an instant world, give them a story to tell,” he said. “It’s now, now, now, it’s Generation Me – you can even buy your own selfie toaster! It makes toast that is the image of you.

“The days of the mass market are gone – it’s the era of experiential retail. The mode of engagement is emotional engagement – experiences are the new social currency. Focus on people and moments, not assets.

“To be relevant today, you need to know your consumer – it’s called hyper-personalisation. Be authentic and real, communicate to the consumer in context, create experiences that emotionally engage and that the consumer wants to share on your behalf.

“We need to build brand advocates. We need to build better in-store experiences, and brands that consumers talk about.

“Disruption is everywhere and a belief that the old ways of working and planning will succeed in the future is flawed.

“We will win by working out from the consumer, placing their values at the centre and delivering a brand and shopping experience to match.

“Doing that faster and better than the competition is the way to win.”

Ken Hughes 2
Bill Penton (left) with speakers at the 2019 Neighbourhood Retailer Summit; Frank Gleeson, Will Stratton-Morris, Hilary Ross, John McHugh, and Ken Hughes

Survival of the fittest in the future of retail –  top  10 tips from Ken Hughes

To survive the coming decades of the 21st century Ken Hughes offered his top ten critical insights for consumers.

Attention – consumers do not have the attention spans they once had. Retail space needs to become more of a fluid entity to hold interest. ‘Static retail’ is gone. Use your assets in a more attention grabbing way.

Phygical – Today’s consumers are the first to grow up in a completely physical and digital world. Their norm is ‘omni-channel’ – retailers need to be omni-present and omni-potent, he said.

Authentic – Be authentic, give them a reason, tell them a story, a narrative to remember. CX (Consumer Experience) is about creating moments that bring a brand to life in an authentic and genuine way.

Automate – Are you ready for B2M – Business to Machine? Someday, sooner than you know, the virtual assistant and algorithm will take over. Are you ready for VOICE? Voice search allows users to verbally ask a question on a smart device or a computer rather than typing the question into a search tool. A query then is answered by a search engine or a digital assistant.

Flexible – The Blue Dot consumer is key. Mass market and mass appeal markets have gone. The consumer is at the centre of their own universe.

Personal – Find ways to creatively engage customers in a way that makes them feel special, where they are treated as an individual.

Instant – Instant gratification is not just a value held by the Gen Z and Millennial generations. It is the social norm. Speed is essential.

Expectant – Push past ‘customer satisfaction’ and replace with ‘surprise and delight’. Make your customers smile.

Experiential – Today’s ‘value shift’ means customers are more engaged with the ‘experience’’ rather than materialism. If their experience is special, they will ‘share’ it.

Emotive – Relationships are based on emotional engagement. Brands are brought to life by engaging emotionally. Technology helps with process but it will never replace the creative genius that is the human mind.

For more information on Ken Hughes please visit: kenhughes.info