etail brands make the assumption that all of their customer base wants to go with them on the techno journey and this prompted me to ask some fundamental questions. Do we really understand who uses technology

and how they want it to operate within a retail environment? Does everybody want your store to have the latest gadgets? And if some aren’t keen, how do you avoid alienating them? Many stores have become committed members

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 to personalise their stores, in order to get to know customers better than anybody ever dreamed possible. It is exciting territory and not surprising that retailers feel the race is on. There is no doubt that the UK, as a whole, is one of the

most technofile places on the planet. As a population, we just can’t get enough of new gadgetry. Not only are the British early adopters, they are also large scale consumers, with an appetite for techno products which makes other countries look pale by comparison. In a population of just 64m there are 32m contactless

cards in circulation, 83m mobile phones, 84% of Brits have internet access, 29% of adults own a tablet and 25% of that group use their tablets to shop. A staggering 60% use the internet to buy products such as food, clothing, music or holidays and more than half of mobile owners use their phone to search for information while out shopping. In spite of this, it has taken time for some high

street retailers to realise that if they don’t join in the technology parade it will simply pass them by, leaving virtually empty shops and even emptier cash registers. As little as five years ago, savvier retailers started to build the internet into their business strategies. This has now rapidly evolved into ‘omni-channel,’ a game changing retail model which integrates on and offline to create a seamless offer and new services, such as click and collect. So what is the catch? The issue is that despite the

overall trend, a significant number of customers will inevitably not be impressed by the new initiatives. They will often 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

You need to identify the tribes that make up your customer base. Then, to create the ultimate retail environment for them, you will have to be able to understand their motivations, IT habits and general psychology.

fully embrace IT in their own homes and daily lives, let alone experience it in-store. Others may actively enjoy technology but be turned off by it in certain situations or environments. Retailers must think carefully how to respond to this situation – some technophobics may be their best customers. It is not easy to generalise about who has adopted

technology and how they want to use it. Nobody knows this better than UK supermarket chain Morrisons, which recently abandoned its self-scan service. It had to bring back over 1,000 staffed Express Checkouts, in response to shopper demand for the reintroduction of a more personalised service. Removing the traditional interaction with a real person when paying for goods, was an error of judgement. Morrisons’ move coincides with new research, which

reveals 60% of British shoppers would opt to use a staffed check-out, compared to 40% who feel more comfortable using self-service. The survey of over 2,500 shoppers found that a good old-fashioned natter was one of the main reasons for choosing a person over a computer when it comes to bagging up the shopping. Of course the 60% may also be happy to carry around the latest smartphone and shop online from a tablet. It shows how easily mistakes can be made. In the case of Morrisons, customers made their

feelings known and the supermarket reversed its decision. Perhaps with the benefit of the research above, it may have been able to anticipate the problem and allowed self-scanning to be opt-in rather than compulsory. The key error was focusing too much on acquiring gadgetry and ignoring the ‘tribes’ that make up its customer base. As business guru Seth Godin points out there are

tribes everywhere, all of them hungry for connection, meaning and understanding. It’s a concept that

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