"Sometimes this-sometimes that"
how to meet the needs of today's multifaceted customers.

11 September 2018

Tantôt-tantôt

Design stores which combine function and experience: that's one of the things – possibly even the thing – that retailers will have to deliver if they are to meet the expectations of the complex 21st-century responsible consumer.

In this era of big data and micro-targeting, the be-all-and-end-all for retailers is no longer simply to sell everybody the same product, but instead to provide each and every individual with products, experiences and services specially tailored to meet their needs. The ultimate definition of a one-to-one relationship: everyone would find what they needed from amongst the plethora of offers being sold by a plethora of retailers – either on the Internet or in physical stores. But what if we’d got the wrong aim? What if this one-to-one relationship actually had the same properties as a one-to-few relationship? The answer is yes. I’m convinced of it.

Because there is a common denominator, a behaviour type that transcends country, culture, gender and generation: the "sometimes this, sometimes that". I realised that this was an obvious phenomenon while visiting a shopping centre in Montréal. A shopping centre mainly made up of luxury boutiques, in the middle of which stood a Dollarama, the archetypal low-cost store (if there is such a thing). So, after several minutes spent watching customers coming and going, I noticed that the same people shopped at the dollar store as at the neighbouring premium retailers. Although this may seem paradoxical, my belief is that this behaviour represents an underlying trend.

Sometimes money-saving, sometimes extravagant; sometimes impatient, sometimes obstinate; sometimes casual, sometimes demanding: the 21st century responsible customer has many different faces. And nowadays, we have to meet the needs of each and every one of these faces.

 

We are all Mrs Jones

There can no longer be any doubt: Mrs Jones is no more. Or at least, she is no longer embodied by a single person, since fundamentally, when confronted by a particular product, we can all be Mrs Jones. Or at least, we can all behave in a way that is supposed to characterise her.

We are all housewives under the age of 50. We are all millennials. We are all passionate. We are all indifferent. We are all experts. We are all ignorant. Henceforth, our interest in such and such a product is no longer determined by who we are or by the socio-demographic category to which we belong, but instead by the relationship (long-lasting or transient) that we have with the product or with the category to which it belongs. The consumer categories that have prevailed over the last 30 years are well and truly outmoded. Nowadays, there are as many targets as there are relationships at a given moment that each individual has with a given product.

So how can we satisfy these "sometimes this-sometimes that" consumers?

What if, ultimately, the answer did not (only) lie in data and in infinite numbers of customer analyses and the micro-targeting that they can be used for, but (also and above all) at the retail location itself?

 

A functional and experiential store meeting the needs of each and every one.

Every retail location – from single-product boutiques or hypermarkets to shopping centres – will henceforth need to provide customer experiences that meet the needs of purchasers in a hurry for instantaneousness, as well as the more complex needs of passionate responsible customers. In other words, stores of the future will need to make customers' lives easier through their architecture, the services that they deliver and the means that they use to communicate. They will need to shield customers from even the smallest amounts of stress while, at the same time, creating friendly atmospheres where they can enjoy new and original experiences. A constant necessity to adapt to customers – something which most well-established retailers are intending to satisfy.

Launched on 22 June with the opening of a new pilot store in Paris’s 11th arrondissement, Franprix Darwin, the Casino group's new (and very aptly named!) concept is highly symbolic of this evolution. The food services have been widened and segmented, and include a new breakfast area; the emphasis has been placed on services, which include a parcel pick-up point, newspapers and magazines, a photo printing service, a mobile phone top-up facility, etc.; there is an Airbnb module with all the main day-to-day products available in a "mini" format; payment terminals have been dispersed through the store, reducing waiting times at the checkout: the most recent Franprix content store will definitely satisfy many of these "sometimes this-sometimes that" customers!

Some of the many initiatives that retailers have recently implemented to meet customer needs include having shopping delivered within the hour and an increase in the number of pop-up stores in hypermarkets (Carrefour), as well completely doing away with the need to queue in order to pay for goods and creating a "Beauty drugstore", with the emphasis on digital technologies, a friendly atmosphere and experience (Monoprix).

These examples are just some evidence of this desire that retailers now have to meet the needs of their customers as effectively as possible. Proof that the store is not finished it has only just started! to surprise us.

 

 

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