How to reach customers not interested in in-store technology

Retail brands make the assumption that all of their customer base want to go with them on the techno journey. This prompts some fundamental questions…

Do we really understand who uses technology and how they want it to operate within a retail environment? Does everybody want their store to have the latest gadgets? Having taken an initial ‘giant leap’ for customer-kind, many stores have become a committed part of the technology vanguard, pioneering in-store solutions that have the ring of science fiction about them: iris recognition, smart changing rooms, near field communications and clothing that can read your moods. They have seen the ultimate promise of ‘big data’ and are working on how to personalise their stores in order to get to know their customers better than anybody had ever dreamed possible.

All this is exciting territory, however, despite the overall trend, it’s inevitable that a significant number of customers will feel disgruntled and even at odds with a brand to which they have previously been loyal. This group will be quite diverse in attitudes: some will not want to fully embrace IT in their own homes and daily lives, let alone want to experience it in-store. Others may actively enjoy technology but be turned off by it in certain situations or environments. Retailers have to think carefully about how to respond to this situation – after all some ‘techno-phobics’ may be their best customers. For a retailer, it’s now all about understanding ‘tribes’ that make up their customer base. Tribes are not brought together by age, gender or geography or even income, but by being like-minded.

We have identified over the past year or so a number of key tribes to assist our clients: the ‘style-conscious tribe’, the ‘value tribe’, the ‘urban chic’, the ‘collaborators’, the ‘iconoclasts’ and many others. Within any tribe there will be sub-tribes and there will also be members of the tribe that cross over between their tribe and another. For example, research has revealed that 63% of shoppers welcome a mobile app personalised to navigate stores and 43% find in-store location deals (where their location is tracked in order to trigger personalised promotions whilst shopping) positively “cool”. Some are delighted to have intelligent fitting rooms that ‘talk’ to them but would be horrified by the prospect of a salesperson greeting them by name when entering a store, after receiving a signal from the consumer’s mobile phone.
In fact, an overwhelming 73% found the thought of that service ‘creepy’ when asked. In addition, 68% of UK shoppers find facial recognition unnerving.

In the light of findings retailers need to identify the tribes in their customer base and create the ultimate retail environment for them, based on an understanding of their motivations, IT habits and general psychology. That is just as important as being up to speed with the latest techno inventions.

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