Trust me, I’m in retail

Trust is an ever more precious commodity. Trust in the media? Fake news and phone hacking. Trust in politicians? Lies, damn lies and the dog’s breakfast that is Brexit negotiation. Financial institutions? The church? Charities? All the bastions of trust have been compromised one way or another in these turbulent times.

Increasingly people are placing trust in brands and (selected) technologies. That gives retailers an extraordinary opportunity to redefine their relationships with consumers and as 2019 unfolds, we will see a new understanding of the changing role trust plays in retail.

Trust is a multifaceted affair. It reaches far beyond the push me pull you nature of providing goods that are fit for purpose. Brands and retailers have to be upstanding. Visibility is a vital element as brands and retailers can no longer hide bad workforce practices, poor pay, negative environmental impact and unsustainable business models. These things inevitably leak into mainstream consciousness via social media, which means authenticity and integrity are essential to gaining and retaining trust. And not just with consumers, but with staff too.

It cuts both ways. Retail staff need to trust their employers that not only will they be treated fairly, but that they have a fair future with a rewarding job. Equally retailers need to trust their people to become more task-oriented (rather than role-oriented) and to provide them with the technology they need to so do. If you want your staff to provide you with better visibility of what needs to be done, you must give them both the tools required and the freedom to use them.

Technology is here to help retailers. Platforms such as Blockchain will redefine what we can expect from the extended supply chain in terms of visibility, consistency, dependability. Technology suppliers are significant in the trust equation.

Retailers have already placed considerable confidence in their tech partners, trusting them with confidential data and mission critical business processes. That dependence is set to increase as technology plays an ever-greater role in everything, everywhere. Many acknowledge their growing reliance on technology partners, not only to help them thrive, but to ensure they survive. However, retailers will need their partners to develop deeper, more open and more collaborative relationships with each other. These alliances are resulting in new, unexpected ways of doing business, from last mile fulfilment to new business models and new marketplaces.

Security is a factor. Data is being touched in many different ways for different outcomes, and there is so much more of it to make use of – growth is nothing short of exponential. Consumers need to trust retailers that their data is safe; retailers need to trust their staff that data will be handled appropriately and trust their tech partners that they’ll continue to provide new ways of exploiting this data mine to the good of all.

Trust between retailer and customers goes beyond digital security. Consumers want continual proof that retailers remember, understand and respect their preferences; that retailers treat them as individuals: thoughtfully, with respect. They also want a joined-up customer experience regardless of the touchpoint. Customer experience is single most important key competitive differentiator and those retailers that integrate their online and offline channels seamlessly and successfully are the ones that are pulling ahead.

Trust was the undercurrent at NRF last month and there’s certainly a lot to think about. We’ll have some of the brightest in the business picking up and pondering the topic at Retail Tomorrow on 7th and 8th March. If you’d like to be there, please let us know. Places at the conference are complimentary but limited and by invitation only, so drop me a line and we’ll see what we can do. Click here to request a place.