As discussed in Chapter 1, CMR means switching from a product-centered strategy to an experiential-based strategy—creating value by making customers’ lives easier. This must include the in-store shopping experience. Research by Jay Scansaroli, global managing partner of Anderson’s Retail Industry services, and David Szymanski, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University, supports the belief that customers want to be able to do their own customization, not have retailers and others do it for them.
They make the point that a major benefit touted in the days of the dot-com euphoria was the future ability of online retailers to customize the retailing experience to each customer when they logged on. It was personalization that was going to make the Internet the channel of choice for consumers. Online customization never materialized in the form that had been promised to shoppers, and the authors suggest that no one really cared.
Our trend research offers insight into why customization by the online retailer (or the traditional retailer) was not a desired benefit. Customers do not necessarily want any retailer to define the experience for them. Offering customers the opportunity to tailor their own experience through easy, simple, and multi-optioned navigation, however, would be valued. Customers want to exercise power and they want to define their own spaces and experiences. Therefore, enabling shoppers to customize the experience to their needs and wants, easily and efficiently, are competitive mandates. It is rare to find surveys of online shoppers reporting complaints of sites not being sufficiently customized to the individual shopper. Complaints of navigational difficulties, however, are commonplace.
What does this mean for retailers of all forms? It means that retailers have to provide an infrastructure that enables shoppers to customize the retailing experience to the degree and in the form they want. The retailer should not be the customizer, rather retailers of the future should be the enablers of customization. The retailer should provide customers with shopping and experiential options so that the customers can: 1) control the experience, 2) define the retail space in their own terms, 3) create stimulation and sanctuary from the same general retail space, 4) find unique meaning that fits unique attitudes and interests, and 5) even pursue the formation of communities by connecting with outside organizations or connecting with other customers.
As individuality and experiences of ‘one’ are sought by customers, retailers must create modular, multi-purpose and multi-interpretational environments for consumers. The store of the future will be filled with contradictions—personal service (sales associates), with no service (self-checkout), wide arrays of merchandise (to customers who shop the whole store) with narrow assortments (to destination-oriented customers), simple (straightforward) yet memorable (different enough to be compelling) experiences, and so on. Future success will be grounded in the possibilities for retail customization among diverse consumers. The shopping experience is what the consumer interprets and tailors it to be. The opportunity for multiple consumer groups to have unique interpretation is where value will be.
Jay A. Scansaroli and David M. Szymanski, “Who’s Minding the Future?” Retailing Issues Newsletter, Center for Retailing Studies, Texas A&M University, January 2002, Volume 14, Number 1, pp. 6–7.