Retail Crisis or Evolution: Connecting with Your Customers


Modern Retail are proud to share the ‘Retail Crisis or Retail Evolution’ series, by Naeem Arif, Vice Chair of the Midlands Retail Forum. Naeem shares the ways in which successful high street retailers are adapting to overcome new challenges and thrive, proving the importance of evolution and experience in retail.

To read from the start of the series, click here.

Shopping is often more than fulfilling a need; it is often how many people spend their social time. Many go shopping to unwind and relax, so in addition to the products on your shelves, you have to give an all round experience that is enjoyable. A typical Saturday for many British families could involve walking around a few shops, having lunch, visiting a coffee bar and maybe watching a movie. 

We have so many choices available today that customers can choose where to spend both their hard earned cash and valuable time. Importantly, it is not just spending cash in stores, it is also time and money in social activities that can be wrapped into a shopping experience. 

It is important to understand the difference between the customer and the consumer, thinking about the customer experience you are giving each, because attention needs to be given to each. People may forget what you say or the price you charge, but they will always remember how they felt. Emotions are extremely important when making buying decisions – how can you create a desire to pick you? This happens best when you create a brand identity that speaks to your target customer. It is not just about the product, the whole brand should speak to someone on a personal level. It is why brands tell their stories and talk about their ethics as they are creating something more than the products they sell. 

If we look at the Lego Store, Hamleys or Build-a-Bear store, each offers something a bit more than the product itself, but an experience to be enjoyed whilst instore. There is an atmosphere and something to see and do whilst you are there. Sometimes parents will take their kids into the store, just to entertain them and not even to buy anything. 

I think back to shopping at Mothercare, it certainly was not a memorable experience. I know I was there 4 years ago to get something for my niece, but I can’t even remember how I felt whilst there or even the type of music being played in the store – the experience was very forgettable.

“New parents want advice and support – whether they are buying a baby-grow for the first time or a bottle – and their sales assistants just weren’t trained.” 

Kate Hardcastle – Retail Consultant, Insight with Passion

Many businesses and shopping districts are bucking the trends and not closing down. There are lessons to be learned here and we conducted a survey asking shoppers; ‘Why do you shop at a Local Community Shopping area,’ with having friendly people and good service scoring particularly highly. When asked why shoppers visit a city centre or retail park, the top reasons given included ‘Quality Product and Wide Range’.