What will it take to survive in the future of retail?

In an article written by Doug Stephens, the founder of Retail Prophet and the author of three books on the future of retail, for businessoffashion.com, he describes a future that any retailer will look at and in almost all cases, result in a shudder and deep pit forming in their stomach.

First, let me paint a picture that we’ll all be familiar with. Anyone who has seen the Disney Pixar masterpiece that is Wall•E may think back to it, and recall the story of overconsumption and disregard for the environment. This leads to the abandonment of the Earth, for life aboard a series of floating ‘paradises’ that further drove those aboard toward unquestioning consumption.

But the somewhat overlooked or underplayed element of that story is that it was driven by a single entity. Scattered across the opening scenes are references to a megacorporation, Buy-N-Large (BnL) that play themselves to be the hero’s having evacuated humanity leaving behind the solution that would clean the mess and make it safe to return.

In his article, he references other examples from the likes of Robocop, Aliens and Blade Runner but the underlying causation and resulting symptoms are the same.

You might be thinking ‘That was just fiction’, but life has a funny way of imitating art and what Doug so clearly points out in the article is that we’re on the verge of megacorporation’s taking over.

As he puts it “In a post-pandemic retail landscape, such corporations will no longer reside solely in novels or films. They will become a reality.”

Described as Apex Predators, the likes of Amazon, Walmart and Alibaba will emerge as “an entirely novel, genetically mutated species of retailer that faces few threats.” These businesses have been marching toward this for years, growing at rates that have bucked any and all trends, and Covid-19 has been the ultimate steroid for these businesses, pushing them toward domination whilst others seem to be falling in their wake.

“While many retailers swooned under revenue declines of up to 80%, these giants posted results deserving of a double-take.”

His article is worthy of a deep dive read and I would encourage you all to venture over and take a look at it, but the key takeaway for me was that this isn’t something that retailers should just lay down and let happen. What is required is evolution and adaption to the world we now have in front of us.

 

Embrace The Digital Age

Long before the pandemic took hold the world was on a steady trajectory toward living digitally. Shopping online has been increasing year on year for as long as it has been around, and the adoption of remoting working isn’t new. What Covid-19 did was push these forward at a rate not many were ready for.

Now, this is not to say that retail should shut up all physical shop fronts and put all their ‘eggs into one basket’ by thinking of their digital shopfront as the saviour but rather that the purpose they once served is over and that their place in the buyer's journey is transforming.

“The value of physical stores [are] as community gathering places, brand culture hubs and experiential playgrounds. It is, however, time to stop considering them an effective means of product distribution. Stores must become more about distributing experiences and less about distributing goods.”

What you consider your ‘store’ and what consumers consider your ‘store’ are two very different things. The consumers buying experience starts with the moment they engage with your content. Be that via Instagram, YouTube or TikTok.

And as Doug illustrates in the article “The apex predators have already accepted this reality by building commerce, finance, entertainment and streamlined logistics into every media experience hosted on their platforms.”

And he is very clear about what this means for businesses that underestimate the importance of this change.

“The moral of the story is that if you can’t serve your customers through every media touchpoint, you’re going to go out of business. If your brick and mortar stores are not creating vastly positive and memorable physical media experiences and brand impressions you’re going to go out of business. And if you can’t effectively weave these two, media and store, together in a way that removes buying friction and adds radical experiential value for customers, you’re going to go out of business.”

 

The Way Forward

To define a path to success and survival, you need to remember this. Your products need to be shoppable, purchasable and shippable every minute of every day. Plus, to stand out from these Apex Predators, you need to establish a vastly more distinct value proposition so that customers have something to buy into.

The type of experience you offer and how you offer it is more important now than ever.

 

The Retail Archetypes

In the article, Doug lays out what he sees as the 10 distinct retail archetypes that offer “a valuable and ownable market position”.

He explains each of them in detail, offering the risk and reward associated with their unique position and their points of difference. They are all worthy of consideration and I encourage time being taken to read and fully understand each of them. The one you pick will ultimately drive the strategy your business takes moving forward. I have listed them below with a very brief outline to give you a taster of each.

 

  1. The Renegade

Renegade retailers challenge incumbents in a market by identifying creative product or operations-related unlocks that radically alter the price-value equation.

 

  1. The Activist

Activist retailers use their businesses to support social, economic or environmental causes.

 

  1. The Storyteller

Storyteller retailers are those that grow so large, ubiquitous and iconic they supersede their own product category and spend the majority of their time creating compelling content.

 

  1. The Artist

Artist retailers very often sell products that are similar or even identical to those of other retailers, but through their sheer creativity and capacity for stagecraft they design experiences around those products that are highly unique

 

  1. The Tastemaker

Tastemaker retailers are those whose products or brands are not necessarily unique but may indeed be more difficult to find.

 

  1. The Oracle

The oracle retailer is one who delivers unparalleled expertise within a specific category.

 

  1. The Concierge

Concierge retailers are those that deliver highly personalised and engaging experiences to their shoppers.

 

  1. The Clairvoyant

The clairvoyant retailer is one that uses both technology and human intuition to actually predict needs, preferences and desires on the part of its customers and proactively present products on that basis.

 

  1. The Engineer

Engineer retailers figure stuff out. They use technology to solve product or service design problems that elude other brands.

 

  1. The Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper retailers are those that maintain a position through regulatory or financial barriers to entry.

 

Whichever you think might be right for your business, the underlying principle will be the experience that is being offered to them and as previously stated your products need to be shoppable, purchasable and shippable every minute of every day.

Creating a truly seamless, utterly unique online shopping experience for your business that your customers can engage with is a really good starting point. Because when push comes to shove, you still need to be able to sell your product to a customer and making that an easy and enjoyable experience will be what helps you succeed.

It is one thing to have engaging content that drives emotional engagement getting people on board with the idea of your brand and your products, but then offering them a purchase journey that throws them into digital experiences that create roadblocks or barriers, is counterintuitive.

Optimising your existing journey through Conversion Rate Optimisation or designing an entirely new one with User Experience Design are investments that can’t be ignored. And the use of the latest advancements in technology like Augmented Reality all cement your place in the market and offer experiences that allow you to stand out from the crowd.

In the same what that you might spend time and money investing in store fit-outs or training of staff to offer a better in-store experience for customers, the same thinking needs to be applied to your digital store. Just sticking a website up with all your stuff on it isn’t going to cut it. And trying to fix it by spending huge money on well-crafted marketing campaigns is a road to nowhere.

Although it isn’t an example of a digital store, the Fyre Festival is the prime example of what happens when you talk an excellent game with marketing and then fail to deliver on the other side.

 

We’re Here To Help You

At Eclipse, this is what we do. We’ve been building digital experiences for a long time and we pride ourselves on making them beautifully simple.

We unlock your trading potential, creating and supporting beautifully simple sites that are functionally rich and continually perform way above expectations.

Our clients enjoy seamless access to the best analysts, experts and technical resources in the sector. We’re proud of what we do and we’re incredibly good at it (and it’s not just us saying that).

We’re here to support you and help make sure that your business lives long into the future. No matter your size or specific industry vertical, our mission is to see you succeed.


Understanding colour meaning and its symbolism

What's in a colour?

We're surrounded by it and it makes up everything we see, feel and touch but most people don't take a great deal of time to stop and think about it. Colour is fundamental to our everyday life and it means more than what we just see on the surface.

There have been numerous studies on how colour alters our mood and directs us to take action, be that for fight or flight. In a study by the University of Winnipeg, Colours influence up to 90% of an initial impression. Other research has found that:

  • Users form an opinion about a product within 90 seconds. People base that assessment mostly on its colour.
  • Colours alone are responsible for 60% of users’ acceptance or rejection of a product.
  • People read ads in colour 42% more compared to the same ads in black and white.
  • The logo colour is the first thing a customer will notice when they see a brand.

We've done a little research and pulled together a bunch of information on different colours and their meaning and symbolism. This will help you when it comes to picking colours for your brand, product or even your next promotion. But, you can do some much more when you understand how people react too colour. Using it correctly can lift your conversion rate, keep people on your site and ultimately help you sell more.

Getting people to take action on your website can be enhanced with colour, as part of an effective CRO programme.

We’ve got specialist teams that advise and then action Design, UX & UI for your digital storefront. We’ve also got geniuses to work with you on how to drive brand engagement, solicit positive sentiment, strengthen your content marketing, SEO & PPC plus work with you to boost your conversion rate through CRO or help you learn more about your customers through user research as a first step. You can reach out to us and we can help you make the most these insights.

Click the picture below to take a look at what we found.


Eclipse UX - Why you need to invest in it Preview Image

The ROI of UX & why not investing in it is a huge problem for you.

Good user experience (UX) is the difference between being part of the best and worst online. That’s why Facebook, Apple, Google and other world-class companies invest heavily in UX. They know UX is the secret weapon for growth. While they are exceptional examples, the vast majority of companies today do not invest enough in UX. As a result, CareerFoundry found a trillion dollar UX problem in the making- and this is looking at e-commerce alone. Their discovery called for a thorough investigation of the true impact of user experience design on the world. They interviewed more than 60 of the world’s leading UX experts to get their insights into the return on investment (ROI) of UX design.

Our report compiles highlights from these insights that make the case for investing in UX design. We’ve taken all our experience in the world of UX and done some reading of the Comprehensive Guide to the ROI of UX, by the team at CAREERFOUNDRY, to bring to you a high level overview of why you need to be paying it a more attention and how we’ll be able to help you achieve that.

Click on the image below to take a look at the report.


Design Sprints for Validation

How to Use Design Sprints to Rapidly Validate Your Ideas

What is a design sprint?

In short, it is a time boxed exercise and it’s all about collaboration. A 5 day process that helps answer critical business questions through prototyping, design and user testing ideas and it was first developed by GV (Google Ventures) who studied over 300 different business strategies. Sprints allow your team to reach well planned out goals and gain key learnings as well as test ideas out, but fast.

The process is there to help spark innovation and bring your team together under one shared vision, and to help you reach your goals quicker. It is advised around bringing on no more than 7 members to a design sprint. For instance you may be wanting to bring everyone together to see how you can make the user's journey on a website better.

There is even a publication on this business strategy, Sprint by Jake Knapp, that aims to help business owners to improve that claims to help  you “fast-forward into the future”.

How does a design sprint work?

There are three times you may need to use a design sprint and these could be; when you’re trying to reach a goal or do something quickly, when big challenges need solving or when you’re stuck.

Before the sprint begins, you need to have the right team there. Someone from different parts of the process. It could be your tech person, your design person, your marketing person, whoever you’re bringing together make sure you have someone from each field who is responsible for the final product.

You and your team will then get together for an uninterrupted 5 days to work together to create new ideas or products for your brand and begin by reviewing everything you know about the problem, to end on not only a solution but a prototype.

Planning your sprint

There are several things you need to make sure are prepared and planned before you can conduct your design sprint. Firstly, it is crucial to do some pre-sprint research before you begin your first day. This could be in the form of interviews with current or prospective users. The goal is to plan ahead and set the stage without overwhelming the team with too much initial information.

Prepare your working space, the right room is important. It may sound obvious but a big, well equipped room is important. Make sure there are enough windows, whiteboards, pens, computers- whatever you need. Remember to stock up on supplies and organise the days well so that everything is ready to commence with no glitches or interruptions. It is also recommended that sometimes an off site location is a good idea, not the same place you work daily.

Assemble a plan together that you will distribute. It doesn’t have to be thoroughly detailed as things to should flow naturally as ideas develop, but should still give people a sense of what they’re going to be doing and what the agenda is for each day.

Why should I use a design sprint?

In many cases, a Design Sprint will lead you to something that gets initial user validation, where the next steps are defined. You’ll have reduced risk by doing some validation early, and develop next steps faster than would have otherwise been possible. What makes the Design Sprint approach most effective is the structured, time-constrained framework with the right exercises.

A design sprint can stop you from creating the wrong thing or wasting precious time going back and forth with other people. Instead, all the stakeholders (those that have a steak in the project) are together in one room. The purpose of the Design Sprint is to get answers to a set of vital questions, not to produce the prototype for the next version of your solution.

The other question is, do you really need 5 days? Different lengths of sprints were tested. From 3 days, up to a month long. The best results were found with the 5 day sprint. This is because it allowed people enough breathing room to focus and not feel overly stressed, while also maintaining the factor of urgency to get things done.

One of the most valuable things about a design sprint is that it saves precious time. Though it can sometimes be difficult to set aside a whole day, let alone 5 whole days, in the long run it’s very valuable. It is also a great way to test out big ideas. Low-risk ideas with high confidence usually don’t need the attention and structure that a Design Sprint provides. So even though it may sound like a high price to pay, it will be worth it.

Final round up

One of the most important parts of it (if not the most important) is your team. If you have the right team it will work. So spend some time when picking members to be involved and make sure you have an expert from each area.

The results tend to be qualitative and focus on perceived value. Design Sprints are not a substitute for usability testing and should come much earlier in the process.

Design sprints initially cost you money and the fact you have to clear out 5 days to conduct one may seem daunting but in the long run they actually save you a lot of time and money over the lifetime of the project.

As long as you have your goals, your schedule planned, your team and a good working environment, there is no reason why you cannot have a successful design sprint. All the back and forth and the ‘middle men’, if you like, are removed from the normal decision making process to allow you and your team to come up with important changes.