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Department store futures: the customer

Creative Director, David Dalziel is taking an in-depth look at the future of department stores in relation to the customer, the offer and the experience. First up is the customer…they no longer shops in the way department stores sell so what needs to change?

Customers no longer shop the way department stores sell

Consumers today are more empowered to shop exactly how they want, when they want. They can immerse themselves in a world of brands online, and although this presents department stores with a challenge, it also gives them the opportunity to be a guide and help consumers navigate this retail landscape. With three out of five people in the UK saying they enjoy browsing a department store (Roamler, 2017), and an average spend that’s 28% higher than in a normal high street store (Caci, 2017), they have the heritage and influence to be at the forefront of consumer culture, but only if they evolve. And one clear way they can evolve is by focusing on changing customer behaviours.

Warby Parker's Miami store
Warby Parker’s Miami store ©warbyparker

The modern shopping condition

Customers expect a blend of convenience and experience, and department stores have been struggling to meet this ‘always on’ culture. How can they overcome this? In short, they need to ask, “What can we do that Amazon can’t?” They now operate in a landscape where customers’ expectations are set by the very best in brand experience; there’s a lot we can learn from industry disrupters. Can they be as social as Airbnb, as convenient as Uber, as seamlessly omnichannel as Warby Parker or as bursting with personality as Glossier?

They need to deliver the best experience: personal style advice, customisation, hospitality, sociability, generosity, edited opinion, peer preference and omnichannel service all under one roof… surely this is the remit of the department store of the future – a truly customer-centric service-led offer. If department stores fail to create this, they miss their clearest opportunity to differentiate themselves, creating an engaging experience and reason for shoppers to participate, ultimately buying into the offer.

John Lewis's new experiential store
John Lewis’s new experiential store offers personal styling through its style studio

Looking for ‘why’

To be brutal, most department stores behave within a wholesale model, and not like the compelling and personalised customer-centric brands that shoppers want to spend time with and money on. There are very few that have a unique personality and behave with a clear sense of purpose, so how can the customer be loyal to them; how can they ‘know’ department stores when department stores don’t know themselves? Customers need brands with a sense of purpose that they can align themselves with.

Read more of David’s thoughts on department stores:

Introduction to department store futures 

The offer – We’ve seen it (and shopped it) all before. So what’s new?

The experience – Where’s the added value? How can department stores be more than just a shop?

If you’d like to talk further about anything discussed in this article, please don’t hesitate to email c.bacconi@dalziel-pow.com.

5-8 Hardwick Street London EC1R 4RG - UK

+44 (0)20 7837 7117

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