Retailers must evolve customer experience to prosper in current market – Shawbrook

by: Rob Lankey, director of commercial investment at Shawbrook Bank
  • 18/06/2019
  • 0
Retailers must evolve customer experience to prosper in current market – Shawbrook
If you were to listen to everything written in the news about the UK retail sector at the moment, you would conclude that it is in terminal freefall and decline.


However, this is not the case and it is more accurate to describe the retail sector as going through a time of dynamic change and adaptation.

While what follows may sound harsh, one of the main reasons for the high profile failures of retail businesses is the inability to remain relevant and to adapt to today’s consumer demands and expectations.

We have become a nation of consumers that demand convenience, but with quality, in the things we shop for. We also want a shopping experience.

Take for example fast-fashion retailer Primark, which opened its largest shop worldwide in Birmingham earlier this year, featuring a Disney-themed café, a barber’s shop and a beauty studio.

Primark is providing shoppers with a more immersive experience by housing several different outlets in one place. It’s a clear example of a retailer that has yet to go online adapting its offering in other ways to continue to stay as relevant as possible.


Tackling commerical headwinds

The need to adapt to remain relevant has never been more important due to the headwinds the retail sector is leaning into.

On top of the well-publicised economic and political turmoil the UK is currently experiencing, we also see issues such as the rising minimum wage, increased business rates and pension costs.

Retailers coping best with this maelstrom of challenge have addressed several key questions, including:

  • Where should I be located?
  • How do I mix an online and store experience?
  • How can I create greater convenience and rapid execution of the sale for the customer?
  • What in-store innovation can be introduced to improve footfall?

Those leading the way in the sector have adapted to answer all or most of these questions.


Adapting, responding, reinventing

Another great example of being proactive to retail market dynamics is Pret A Manger agreeing to acquire Eat.

The cited rationale is “in response to growing consumer demand for more vegetarian and vegan options on the high street, Pret plans to convert as many of Eat’s shops as possible into Veggie Prets”.

To some extent, Pret’s move is no surprise. According to the Vegan Society, the number of vegans quadrupled between 2014 and 2018.

Despite this increase, vegans still make up less than 2 per cent of the UK population, but does this not demonstrate the size of the opportunity and add weight to the rationale behind Pret’s move? Yes, it does.

What Pret’s move demonstrates is a retail business adapting and responding to an awareness of what its consumers want.

After all, that’s what it’s all about. Successful retail enterprises are masters at reinventing themselves to remain aligned and in tune with how consumers want to shop.


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