Leveraging Opportunities in a Changing Retail Landscape: Q&A with Accenture

The pace of change in retail is continuing to gather relentless momentum. RetailTechNews spoke to John Zealley (pictured below), senior managing director and industry lead, consumer goods and services, Accentureduring FUTR2020 to outline some of the biggest changes in retail and what retailers need to be doing to leverage these opportunities.

RetailTechNews: The consumer path to purchase is becoming increasingly digitalised. How can retailers refocus their efforts to ensure they remain relevant?

John Zealley: The new generation of consumer is looking for every brand interaction to be connected, personalised, and convenient. This means that brands need to focus on making themselves relevant by building a deep understanding and connection to the empowered consumer.

Gone are the days when the path to purchase was linear and predictable. Today, we are seeing that there is no defined beginning, middle, and end to the purchasing journey, making it harder to predict and anticipate consumer behaviour.

Increasingly, we are seeing occasions in which digitally native companies are creating true consumer relevance and stealing market share as a result. We have also seen technology eliminate historical barriers to entry and increase opportunities for companies to directly engage with consumers.

The further development of social media, the growth of social media commerce, and continuing emergence of disruptive technologies are offering even greater potential for brands to reinvent their relationships in the marketplace so that they are front-of-mind at key purchasing moments.

We only need to look at the high street to understand that disruption is here now, and failing to adapt and respond is not an option. In the past, retailers and consumer goods companies have been at the leading edge of innovation. Today, there is an urgency to keep up with the pace of change, or risk falling behind, as they compete with smaller players that are born digital and disrupting the market using data and analytics, incorporating disruptive technologies, and embracing transformative business models.

Voice search is creating huge changes in how we shop. Is the rise of this an opportunity or threat for brands?

With the emergence of new technologies comes fresh ways for brands to engage with their consumers. Voice is latest tech-led advancement that appears to have the potential to dramatically change purchasing behaviour by offering consumers a new way to shop online – although we are yet to see its impact fully demonstrated.

John Zealley, Senior MD & Industry Lead, Consumer Goods & Services, Accenture

When making and selling products and services for today’s consumer, the focus needs to switch from a broad brush, one-size-fits-all approach, to being one that is tailored for every individual. In developing their omnichannel sales strategies, companies should consider what consumers value in their shopping experiences. This means a focus on more than just convenience – it’s about listening to and considering them at every touchpoint.

Voice-driven technology provides a potential gateway into consumers’ homes and an opportunity for brands to engage at the exact ‘purchase moment’. It is likely that we will see voice devices be placed in combination with other channel formats, such as adding a screen, to give built-in combinations for communication and purchasing options.

The rise of voice is likely to create new opportunities for companies to reimagine the products, services, and experiences they offer. Depending on the business objectives they want to serve, companies will need to tailor their voice proposition accordingly.

Successful companies will be those that commit to moving to a modern agenda by harnessing new technologies to create new innovations that engage consumers through integrated channels and deliver a seamless experience throughout.

With so much data being created, how can brands and retailers be making the most of the data available to them?

The rise of data is fundamentally changing the rules of business and will shape how businesses design themselves and their engagement in the world around them.

Instead of the planning for predictable ‘business as usual’ within their own four walls, they will have to be much more responsive to short-term signals in the market – something we define as a 'living business' – in order to release untapped value.

The winners will be those who develop strong data-led strategic and market activation capabilities that allow companies to be more fluid, responsive, and predictive to ever-changing consumer demands and expectations.

Those brands and retailers that are powered by enhanced data and analytics will be well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities for driving growth, but only if the people, skills, and capabilities are augmented with technology. For instance, in the future, we may see companies start to employ hundreds and thousands of people with data science skills who can sit alongside the category experts to enhance decision making – whether it is in promotional planning, creative testing, or developing sales campaigns.

Amazon is king when it comes to customer data. How can brands and retailers hope to compete against their clout?

As with any channel, successful brands have always adopted a ‘winners’ mindset’. In the same way as brands have worked successfully with a range of different retailers in the past, they will need to seek to build new winning propositions that appeal to a range of shopping platforms going forward.

However, these are not conversations you can turn up to ill-equipped. Retailers must bring their broad knowledge of shoppers to the table; and brands will need to come with their deep category insight and understanding around specific consumer demands – earning them both the right to build a competitive business.

With brands and retailers shifting their focus to digital, what does this mean for the future of the high street? How will the role of the store change?

The high street has always been defined as a place where consumers could readily access those items or services that they need or needed on a regular, and sometimes unpredictable, basis. Historically, this might have been the butchers, bakers, and green grocers. Laterally, it might have been the supermarkets and shoe shops. Going forward, they will likely need to refine themselves as part of the service economy.

Whether that service is to the final mile of the online retail world for people who are unable to receive deliveries regularly at home, or whether it becomes a reinvention of the service economy, providing reliable and more niche services that are cost effectively advertised via geofenced social media. All the evidence appears to be that consumers continue to value opportunities to leave their homes. The high street just needs to redefine why they should spend their time there. This content was originally published in RetailTechNews.