?It’s December - the "trends" season. Although I look forward to the several trends predicted for the following year(s), I try and refrain from the same. Considering a lot of talented people already do this, I‘d rather not, at least for now. Instead, I look out for signs that corroborate some of the trends I observe – and this post is one that retailers should take a note of.
Why signs, you may ask? Since trends are like currents, they don't just emerge on 1 January. They are constantly evolving, are not definitive, and most importantly are not necessarily actionable. However, I find signs give a sense of certainty of things to emerge, and act as guide posts urging those affected to take action. Here, we look at those signs that make it imperative for retailers to be cool - in order to succeed and in some cases survive.
For the first part of this post, let me elaborate on what it means to be "cool" and why retailers struggle to get there.
The Definition of cool
Let’s set some context here. As a customer experience (CxP) professional, I have relied on several frameworks to evaluate experience; with Jakob Nielsen’s (Useful, Usable, and Enjoyable) and Forrester’s (Customized, Aggregate, Relevant, Social) being my favorites. However, in most cases the word that I have found people using to describe a delightful customer experience is "cool" (as in "they are so cool") and this is not an adjective that is found as a part of the frameworks I rely on. The appeal of "cool" for me is that it is empowering for the "cool" entity, for everyone wants to be associated with it – a business’ dream in my view.
So how can we define cool? For this, I coined ICE (yes that was intentional). A customer would say the retailer is cool, or their experience of the retailer is cool, if they are:
- Innovative: Addressing customer needs in ways not available before
- Captivating: Fascinating the customer and grabbing his/her attention
- Effective: Valuable from a customer and business standpoint
The Struggle for coolness
Retailers understand "cool". This is evident from the experiments they showcase during tradeshows, and the futuristic retail design concepts highlighted in "Future of Shopping" media productions and lab experiments. The issue retailers struggle with, in spite of the technology being available, is the last mile problem. The "last mile" is where these technologies can be deployed on a large scale, where staff can be easily trained to use them, where IT has the remote capabilities for maintenance and where costs / ROI can be justified. Lastly, retailers are also plagued by the bureaucratic challenge of business units collaborating and being agile.
Look out for the signs in part 2 of this post.
What do you think are the reasons retailers struggle for coolness? What does "cool" mean to you?