Keeping up with the consumer

Today's consumer likes instant gratification. Retailers are breaking their necks to meet every expectation. The need for speed is getting bigger and bigger. Everything has to be faster and faster, whether it’s paying, delivering, finding what you're looking for, or responding to questions.

Paying quickly without queuing.
A consumer who has to queue at the checkout for longer than two and a half minutes gets annoyed. There's a risk that they will walk out of the store and never return, even though they were queuing with products in their hands. This problem has been tackled by retailers for years, in such forms as RFID, smart cash registers, and self-scans. However, the focus of all those solutions has been on the checkout, while you only achieve real speed when you look at the entire shopping process. 

Amazon Go is putting shopping without a checkout into practice. You log in on the app, walk into the shop, throw what you want in your basket, pay with a smile, and walk out again. Everything goes automatically. Video analytics see what you take off the shelf, what you put in your basket, and what you put back on the shelf. Sensors measure which route you walk, and in which aisles you spend the most time. The retailer learns from data, and all the lessons are immediately put into practice again.

In fast food, speed is everything. For fast ordering, fast food and especially fast payment, at Taco Bell all you need is an app. You place your order when you want, and you set the time for picking it up. Payment is automatic and you get priority at the drive-thru. In California, you can even pay with your voice. "I'll pay with Google" is all it takes. Your face is scanned, your voice recognised, and you're good to go. When shopping and paying are no longer two different processes, but only one seamless process in which mobile, offline and online blend easily, then you automatically get speed, convenience and service, and therefore loyalty.

Faster than quick delivery
Online shoppers expect a fast and seamless service, and there is a lot of competition in the field of delivery. For example, Amazon is already talking about delivery within 30 minutes by drone. 60% of consumers want the option of a short delivery time (one to three hours) and are prepared to pay extra for it. So it's unfortunate that only 20% of retailers offer this option at all. 

Zara is a retailer that owes everything to speed. The production process is optimised so that the latest trends are already in the shops four weeks after their introduction on the catwalk in Paris. Zara wants to translate that speed to its entire business operations. In the pop-up store at Westfield Stratford City, the seamless shopping experience is tested and speeded up even further in all aspects. New orders are delivered to your home on the same day if you order before two o'clock in the afternoon. You can pay with Zara's mobile app via a self-checkout, which automatically recognises clothes.

Product recommendations on the smart mirrors in the fitting rooms help the customer choose. And scanning with RFID provides info about sizes, and suggestions for other clothing that matches the item. This insight helps the consumer, and it also helps Zara itself to make even better decisions - about stock, for example. And a good distribution of stock equals speed.

In the new Zara flagship store in Oxford Street, extra attention will soon be paid to accelerating the picking of online orders. The robot in the warehouse can prepare 2,400 packages at the same time. The customer scans a QR code or keys in a unique PIN code. Et voilà! A few seconds later, the click-and-collect package lands in a mailbox.

In order to keep up with the increasing speed, and to get it under control, retailers need to organise processes properly, but most of all make good, correct decisions faster. Data plays the leading role in this. 

The right answer quickly
Consumers ask their questions when and where they want, and they expect quick answers, especially on social media. After four hours of waiting, people give up, and 52% say that they even immediately consider going to a competitor.

KLM successfully uses chatbots to increase response speed. The airline is mentioned on social media an average of 36 times per hour - by far the most of all airlines. KLM can now answer 91% of all questions within one hour. The average is 20 minutes, which is five minutes faster than in 2016. But speed alone is not enough - the conversation with the chatbot must also run smoothly. Billie the chatbot has been answering all kinds of consumer questions for 10 years. Billie recently received an AI upgrade and is now better able to understand customer questions.


As a result, the productivity of the webcare unit has increased by 24% and customers are more satisfied.

Find what you're looking for faster
Chatbots are also used to help customers find what they are looking for faster. The chatbot of the Allerhande food magazine uses Facebook Messenger to give Dutch people a quick answer to the question 'What shall we eat today?' 79% of users are satisfied and happy with the recipe suggestions. The Northface chatbot helps online customers to quickly find the perfectly fitting winter coat simply by asking questions like a specialised shop assistant would do.

More and more retailers are using technology to help customers find what they are looking for faster, with more convenience, without queues at the fitting room, and therefore with much less irritation.

GAP introduced a mirror with which customers can try on clothes without entering the fitting room. Warby Parker uses a combination of facial recognition and AR, so that customers can easily try out spectacles. Cosmetic brands allow customers to try out make-up at home on a large scale. IKEA and Walmart are fully testing Virtual Reality. The customer can pick up products, turn them around, view all the details and thus make much faster choices, all from the comfort of their own chair.

Technology and data will fundamentally change retail. There is much faster insight into the wishes of the consumer. Production can respond to this faster. Shopping trips become more targeted. There are fewer returns and more additional sales.  And, last but not least, the consumer is very happy with the extra service and speed.  So retailers, identify your opportunities, choose where you can achieve the most speed, and go for it!


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