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Why time is the new currency in retail

Image of a woman looking at her watch.
Image of a woman looking at her watch.

Time abides long enough for those who make use of it.

– Leonardo da Vinci

The role of technology as the great accelerator of consumption and the rapid innovation and adaptation of artificial intelligence and predictive and immersive platforms are having a significant impact on society and, in turn, retail trends.

Retailers that understand the changes in consumer behaviour as a result of these structural changes will be much better positioned to grow their retail strategy successfully because they will better understand the context for growth and the alignment of strategy to real customer drivers.

Some recent trends to be aware of include:

Deliver information in real time

Time starved, yet knowledge hungry, consumers are behind the Catch Me in Seconds trend. Today’s consumers look to business to help them get to the information they need in a concise and impactful way. In 2020 and beyond, business will have to connect with consumers on a more personal and emotional level to engage them.

Private personalisation

Consumers want and expect brands to tailor their products and services to them, however, to do this, they must share personal information.​ This conflict leads to Euromonitor’s Private Personalisation trend. Convenience and experiences are leading to consumers wanting to invest in smart devices, but concerns about privacy means they are searching for ways of controlling access to them and their information. For business it is important to explore new models to reach and deepen their relationships with consumers​ and build trust, or develop products and services that add enough value for consumers to encourage them to share.

The global brain

The Internet of Things is already here and, by 2020, over 30 billion devices will be connected. We see ‘deep learning’ inspired by artificial ‘neural networks’ and evolved ‘augmented reality’. This enables huge opportunities in all areas of life: politics, education, media, health, commerce and leisure. The internet will soon be connected to everything including our brains – enabling fast and accurate decoding of multi-layered information.

Time well spent or time well used

Retailers will increasingly need to be very clear on the investment they want consumers to make into their business offer and address this very simple question: Is the offer fundamentally a service or product base?

Some brand offers are predicated on range, convenience, speed to market, price, fulfilment, such as online, high range and value. Perhaps it’s a service offer such as Uber or a marketplace offer such as eBay. Here, trends of personalisation, information in real time and the global brain rise to the fore.

Conversely, the high touch experiential human experience of shopping and associated community experiences that provide the avenue for time well spent create more social and engaging contexts in which to provide theatre and entertainment in the visiting/shopping experience.

In both instances, time becomes the currency of retail, and knowing which currency to call on is the domain of smart retailers. Naturally, these are not mutually exclusive customer segments, rather, time is dictating how they wish to connect with your brand increasingly.

Time well spent or time well used? For you to decide.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group, a retail advisory and consultancy group and the Australian elected partner member of the global retail expert’s alliance Ebeltoft Group.

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