Customer support evolves according to the needs of customers. With new retail trends emerging, customer representatives and contact centres need to be aware of industry changes and how they impact on the behaviour and requirements of clients. One of the emerging countries who is continuously experimenting and developing new retail trends is China.
China is part of the avant-garde of experiential retail and retailtainment. China retailers are offering innovative experiences to customers utilising new technology and merging online and offline experiences. Despite, e-commerce is growing in this Asiatic country (as much or even more than other regions), physical shops still remain important for customers of all age groups. Online giant e-commerce sites such as Alibaba or Amazon are much aware of these trends and they have been investing in ‘brick and mortar stores’ to monetize this revenue model all over the world. For example,
- Since 2015, Alibaba has invested over $8 billion in their Chinese brick and mortar retailing adventure (Forbes)
- Amazon Go was launched in January. A ‘brick and mortar’ shop but without cashiers or a checkout line (Gizmodo)
So, it is obvious that online shopping is growing and typical ‘brick and mortar’ shops need to re-invent themselves.
What are the new retail trends to keep an eye on?
Integration of online and offline retail
With the aim of creating a completely seamless consumer experience, retailers are pushing into the integration of online and offline experiences. Different approaches have been followed including:
- Click and Collect: Successfully implemented by multiple brands around the world including Argos or Debenhams.
- No checkouts: With more or less success, using technology all products added to a shopping cart are accounted into the customers’ virtual account and directly debited from their account. Amazon Go uses this technology in their ‘brick and mortar’ shop.
What are the innovations and best practices that retailers should know in order to create their own all-encompassing New Retail strategy?
Shops are becoming experimental centres where shoppers can socialise individually or in a group. Therefore, retailers are focusing on developing experiences and ‘positive feelings’. Approaches used include:
- Photo opportunities: Well-staged scenarios and the use of virtual reality to allow customers to take photos and share them using social media platforms. For example, Sephora uses augmented reality screens that use facial recognition enabling customers to virtually try on different makeup looks and share them online.
- Engagement areas: Chines retailers are paying special attention to the looking feeling of their physical space. Shops are designed to carefully capture and share brand’s DNA providing additional experiences to buyers. Spaces designed to discover, learn, eat, drink… All integrated as part of the buying experience. For example, the South Korean sunglasses brand Gentle Monster provides their buyers with curated art installations.
Higher interaction with Brands and Products
Brand engagement is ever growing for Chinese millennials. They are developing new consumer habits incorporating brand lifestyle elements attracted by novelty in their offering.
- Workshops and activities: By providing an active agenda to customers, retailers increase brand engagement and drive sales. Workshops are carefully curated to capture the interest of buyers and use the expertise of bloggers and relevant personalities. For example, cosmetics brand Lancôme holds weekly make-up lessons for customers at their store delivered by popular Chinese beauty bloggers.
- Retail and Gamification: Smartphones and social media allow us to play everywhere independently of your age. Gamification is being used to drive traffic to stores and interact with brands increasing engagement. For example, UNIQLO launched the “hongbao” (Chinese red envelop) game where they can discover coupons and small amounts of cash by visiting their shops.
Easy access to customer support is a key component of the retail environment. Expectations are on the rise. Customers expect a top-notch support from retail assistants and salespersons.
- Additional Services: Brands that provide additional and complementary services are perceived highly by customers. Typical is the retail shop that offers gift wrapping over the Christmas period. But, some brands are taking a step further. For example, SKP shopping centre in Beijing offers a delivery service where clients’ purchases are delivered to their house immediately and avoid them to carry bags while shopping.
- Virtual Shopping Assistants: Technology allows to use virtual assistance in the retail space. Contact centre agents can be reached through phone or using video conference techniques. Furthermore, full conversations can be maintained with artificial intelligence holograms using voice recognition.
While all these trends are quickly developing in China and bit by bit taking over the rest of the world, there is a key common trend shared by the retail industry: the importance of high-quality customer support. Independently of selling services online or offline, a positive experience with sales and customer representatives have a great impact on the perception and likelihood of a repeat business. In your brick and mortar shop, the success lives on training and team performance. In your online shop, speed and response accuracy are key elements.
At Arema Connect, we provide customer support through our contact centre to the retail sector. Our experience with top brands has allowed us to develop few whitepapers for the retail industry. If you want to benefit of our experience, contact us or download one of our whitepapers.