Retailers, you provide an experience, not just products

22 December 2014

Jamie Brown

Jamie Brown


In this series, I’m sharing what I took away from Wired Retail 2014, and explaining what in the retail industry is changing, why, and what retailers can do to survive.

In this last post, I would like to explain some thoughts as to how retailers and consumer goods organisations can look beyond the traditional ways of marketing and selling products.

You provide more than just products

Let’s take the example of Polaroid. It wasn’t just about manufacturing cameras. It thought it was but failed largely because it didn’t see past this. As the success of Instagram has showed, Polaroid should have realised they were about creating and sharing memories.

Similarly, Audi has invested a lot in changing the way it appears to customers. Through its Audi City initiative, Audi has repositioned car-ownership as a service and an experience: selling a product is just one part of making a customer happy.

Think about your organisation’s real purpose. This advice applies to retailers too, and not just consumer goods companies.

Large retailers, such as John Lewis, are not just providers of products, they are much more than that. John Lewis is a lifestyle and homeware service which provides many quality products to improve people’s homes and lives.

Everything you do should be done with your real purpose in mind.

Invest in the customer experience, and close the loop

Because customer experience is key, it is wise to invest in ensuring you make things as easy as possible for your customers.

Too many organisations do not go the full mile here – and miss some great opportunities to drastically improve customer experience. In my post Can the internet be the high street's saviour? I explained how Jumia used alternative ways to contact customers. Another example could be around delivery.

Some retailers believe that delivery is best left to someone else, and so delivery is often outsourced entirely. Handing the final stages of an order to someone else is missing an opportunity to directly close the loop with the customer. The American bricks and mortar store retailers who have signed-up to use eBay Now, the likes of which is seeing rapid expansion, could be missing a trick.


Some of these themes discussed at Wired Retail 2014 may appear dramatic, but without changing, many retailers could face extinction. Retailers cannot just supply on top of customer demand anymore; retailers must always offer something more, and must adapt internally to remain competitive.

Technology should be used wisely (see How retailers must reshape their technology in 2015), high street stores should be used to their full advantage, and retailers – and consumer goods companies – should remember their real purpose, and act always with this in mind. Without doing so, many retailers will find themselves extinct by the end of 2015.

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