The UK retail sector is changing and there is no escaping the fact that online shopping has significantly disrupted the traditional in-store shopping habits of consumers. The sector is evolving to meet the ever-changing demands of their customers and there has been a huge shift towards offering a unique retail experience - those brands that get it right have seen huge success as a result.
So what are these retailers doing differently and how can this be replicated across other businesses in the sector?
Retailers that are evolving
Despite the many high-street closures that are being reported every day, there are those that are in fact, thriving and there are a couple of key reasons why - customer service and retail experience.
Harrods/Selfridges - Experience stores - These stores have always offered exceptional customer service. This ensures that people go there for more than the products available. Customers visit these physical stores for the experience and don’t just feel as though they can do everything online.
Victoria’s Secret - All VS stores seem to have made sure to adopt the American feel of customer service. The sales assistants in store always make sure that you feel supported, without being overly pushy - which is exactly what the modern day shopper wants.
Apple - Your Apple technical specialist will have a mobile phone as they assist you in store. This allows them to connect you with the right people instantly. They also offer customer training in store.
How can retail meet customer demands?
The retail sector needs to evolve, although, this will mean different things for different businesses. The big name brands such as Harrods and Victoria’s Secret mentioned above, all have their own unique selling points (USPs) with customer-centric business models. One reason that these retailers have managed to stay ahead of the game, is due to the personable nature of their businesses, offering exceptional levels of service that their less focused competition has not. From this, and exploring the market more broadly, it is clear that the customer experience and focus are key.
Today, data is king. With a strong IT infrastructure in place to predict future trends in the market, retail businesses should opt to stay ahead of the curve. Businesses will need to be proactive rather than reactive, using data science to predict what will be the next big thing in the market. If you can beat the competition and be the first to stock on-trend items, you will end up with a very profitable business.
With this in mind, Marks & Spencer has revealed that they have partnered with Decoded to create the world’s first retail data academy to equip their team with the skills to lead digital transformation across the business.
In a press release, M&S highlighted: “Participants will learn to harness the most cutting-edge data analytics tools such as “R” and “Python” and adopt technologies such as machine learning. Learners will finish the programme with a Data Analytics qualification accredited by the British Computing Society.
“The Data Fellowship is fully funded by the Apprenticeship Levy, the billion pound fund created by the Government to help upskill the UK workforce to be ready for the Future of Work.”
An initiative such as this will not only ensure that their existing team is leading the way in innovation but will also attract the best and brightest talent in the market. The Apprenticeship Levy is applicable to all employers with a pay bill over £3m, and following this example, might help drive the retail sector forward.
The retail professional of the future
The modern-day customer now rarely goes into a store on the high street, and when they do, they want a level of service that they never have before. Quite often, they are in store for the overall retail experience rather than anything else. It is crucial that the people on your team have the skills and product knowledge to provide this.
At the beginning of the year, we revealed the most in-demand retail and fashion skills for 2018. The need for these skills increased in response to businesses need to stay ahead of the competition, reduce costs, maximise sales, and improve their customer-brand relationship in the market.
Looking forward, the focus on people and data is expected to grow. Within retail, it has always been the case that people buy people, so to some degree, it is always beneficial that you hire professionals with relevant experience in the industry. However, sales candidates with a true passion for the products will be able to sell and offer an extra level of service and knowledge to the customer. Customer service is key – your team needs to know what they are doing, and what they can do to better support the customer
It is also key to ensure that, while the right customer-facing employees are hired, that you are investing in the necessary technology to keep up with the ever-evolving marketplace. Move with the digital age – support your sales team in creating a unique experience and help your customers to find your products in store using an app or another innovating piece of tech. This will, in turn, boost their overall experience with your brand.
If you are looking for talented retail and fashion professionals to join your team, why not get in touch with your local Michael Page office to discuss how we can help with your recruitment process? Alternatively, you can submit a job spec here and one of our specialist consultants will call you to go through your hiring needs.
Business Manager – Stores Specialist, Michael Page Retail
T: +44 121 230 9390