Miya Knights: The future of offline retail in a digital world

29 Jun 2019 in

At Infinity we believe in the power of conversations and the undeniable value they can hold. In retail, these conversations are pivotal to understanding your customer's needs and using these insights to improve their experience.

In the first of an Infinity blog-series, we sat down with Miya Knights, retail technology expert and co-author of the book “Amazon: How the World’s Most Relentless Retailer will Continue to Revolutionize Commerce". Miya discussed with us the importance of conversations, offline touchpoints, and her number one bug-bear when it comes to digital retailing.

Grab yourself a cup of tea, and let’s get started.

Let’s talk about your book first. What inspired you, and your co-author Natalie Berg, to write about the revolutionization of commerce?

On a macro level, the impact of digital and internet-based technology devices is the thing that retailers always want to know about from me. When Natalie Berg, my co-author, and I worked together in a market research firm those were the questions that always came top in any briefing.

We also had a lot of demand for bespoke consultancy around Amazon. More specifically, how to work and compete with them. Natalie had previously written a book about Walmart, so when she asked us to write together it felt like a perfect fit.

Natalie has studied the shopper and knows the retail landscape incredibly well but in terms of digital impact, and the technology that Amazon has used to capitalise that consumerization of tech, I was the expert out of the two of us. Amazon is unlike any other retail company we’ve seen before because they are a technology company first. That’s why we wrote the book.

So, the pairing between you two made sense. Natalie was more the side of the customer behaviour and consumer psychology and then paired it with your expert knowledge on the tech behind retailers success.

Absolutely. By looking at this space for over 20 years, and seeing the impact of online shopping and how it affects our high street, Natalie understands retail business models, the consumer, and the high-street more than anyone.

As retailers are moving into technological advancements, most people may be thinking that everything needs to be digital. With this in mind, what role do you think offline touchpoints will play?

I think offline touchpoints absolutely have a key role to play. At the end of the day, we will always want to touch and feel products. Humans need human interaction. I once spoke to a loss prevention company about a brand who put cameras in their stores to track footfall and to identify theft. They discovered that from the analysis of the findings that theft massively decreased when there was someone at the door welcoming you. It’s because someone says “Hi, I see you”

So, it makes them feel like they’ve been seen? They’re not just anonymous customers.

Exactly. It’s saying we know you’re here. People just need that tiny bit of interaction. It really can have massive impacts. It makes people see that there is someone there that is attentive and there for them.

The former CIO of John Lewis once said “People will always want to buy stuff, it’s just the ways and means of how they buy stuff that will change” and that means evolution, not revolution. And so, the mix that technology has to play is far more important than it has ever been. But, that has to be brought to bear in a meaningful and relevant way for customers in the physical spaces today.

Let’s look at click and collect. People who work at offices order something, go to these flagship stores at 12:00 in the afternoon to collect it, and then discover that it’s actually quicker for them to buy the product inside the store. Technology has got to get cleverer. It’s got to start being useful for the customer.

What you’re saying is it's not about doing everything, it’s about doing what’s right for the customer. Just because you can, does that mean you should?

Yes, exactly right. I think historically retailers have been poor at change management. They don’t seem to want to put the consumer at the heart of what they do. If they were guided by what we wanted, I think less frivolous innovations would be rolled out.

At Infinity we believe in the power of phone conversations between customers and businesses. In your opinion, what role do you see phone calls playing in retail?

Human interactions are becoming more valuable in the digital world. I think human interaction as a basic human need is actually probably starting to feature more highly in the closing stages of a shopping journey than ever before. Of course, we browse, search, and discover. But when we want to pull the trigger and buy the thing, we’re looking at reviews, ratings, and then turn to conversations.

Perhaps the most vital role phone calls will play could be in the post-sale process. People have questions when things don’t work, where their warranty is, or if you need to complain.

What is the one thing that you would change how retailers operate in a digital world

Consistency. Don’t offer me something online that I can’t see/try to buy in-store. Don’t offer me vouchers that I can’t redeem online. Don’t make services available, like delivery and appointments, and aftersales care, that I can’t access in-store. There’s so many when you think about the state of retail now.

It’s about consistency, keeping it all flowing beautifully from online to offline. Wherever you hit on the site or in the store, you know exactly what you’re going to get.

Exactly. It’s all fundamental too. It’s something that Amazon is doing very well in the U.S, but aren’t yet doing in other countries. They don’t have that store presence to knit the two together seamlessly that makes shopping enjoyable in-store and online.

In my opinion, If you operate stores and an online presence now, I think you’re at advantage.

Stay tuned for another of Infinity’s exclusive “In conversation with” series.

Alex Fassam

Alex Fassam

Alex is a digital expert specialising in creating copy that engages, entices, and excites our clients. Usually found poring over past issues of Vogue and playing paparazzi to his dogs.

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