Retail’s New Reality: Forrester’s Brendan Witcher

As part of Synchrony’s 2021 Envision Conference, I had the opportunity to interview Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Brendan Witcher. I’ve worked with Brendan on a number of occasions over the years and believe he’s one of the sharpest minds in the retail space. In our conversation, we discussed the topic of retail’s new reality and how industry leaders can redefine and align with a consumer’s conditions to buy. You can watch the webinar here.

The new reality for retailers is that a company’s products and services are no longer a competitive advantage or differentiator because e-commerce has leveled the playing field. I can buy most any product from multiple sources. Referencing the work of Jim Collins, Brendan also discusses how good is the enemy of great. When you focus on “good” you stop improving things and you end up in a state where people stop competing on experiences. Unfortunately, many retailers have met the minimums for e-commerce and not focused on being “great” and creating competitive differentiation.

Retailers are Competing with Everyone When it Comes to Digital Experience

In retail’s new reality – in this digital/e-commerce world we live in – retailers are no longer only competing with other retailers when it comes to delivering a digital experience. They’re competing with everyone that offers a digital experience. So, for example if you sell shoes online, you’re not just competing with other companies that offer shoes online but with every other company that provides an online experience. Think about the best customer experience you’ve had. That’s your competitor.

The Critical Elements in Retail’s New Reality

So, what are the most important elements that will determine a retailer’s success or failure going forward? As a foundation, according to Brendan, retailers should use data-led insights to drive business decisions to give the right experience to the right customer at the right time. According to Brendan’s research, only 11 percent of companies consider themselves data-led, using data to drive strategic decision making before making a decision. That’s very different from using data to justify your actions.

Retailers can also revisit digital touchpoints as a way to learn about their customers. Beyond demographics, retailers can learn to understand sentiments, values, contexts and attitudes, among other things. But it’s more than just understanding your customers. When you learn things about customers, are you changing how you interact with them?

Individualization Versus Segmentation

Segmentation isn’t going away, according to Brendan. When you deal with individualization, you’re dealing with the customer’s personal intent, and you can engage them with their specific needs today and stay relevant to them.

Brendan says there’s not one silver bullet that will solve every problem. Instead, it’s perfectly ok to deliver a great solution for a segment of your market. For example, gift givers are a good portion of a retailer’s business and, by creating a great experience specifically for gift shoppers, you can create competitive differentiation and success in that segment.

But wait, there’s more to Retail’s New Reality!

Brendan talks about 10 important tips that retailers should consider to successfully compete in retail’s new reality, from omnichannel to personalization and finding things your competitor may not be able to do. And, a lot of these principles can be applied to make a retailer a better gifting destination, particularly in a new reality where there are supply chain issues, shipping surcharges and societal challenges.

At GiftNow, we’re working to provide retailers with the ability to deliver optimal gifting experiences for consumers – experiences that can differentiate a retailer and make them a gifting destination. I encourage you to watch the entire webinar here and you can learn more about our solutions for retailers and merchants that can help you become a great gifting destination here.

Kevin Payne is the Vice President of Corporate Marketing for GiftNow.

You may also find interesting:

Digital Gift Shopping Challenges: Opportunities for Retailers and Brands

Digital Gifting: Preparing for the Holidays

Top Tactics to Increase Your Digital Gifting Revenue

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