The Customer is in the Driving Seat

As I have written in past articles we are now in a truly customer centric world.

But many retailers have yet to realise that the reason for their sales and profit declines is a fundamental structural change that gives customers the power in a demand driven world.

Don’t blame Amazon or the Internet – it’s your customers taking over the controls.

Self Driving Cars

There is much hype surrounding self driving cars, and all sorts of predictions about their future.

The basic principles behind them are pretty sound though.

The autonomous car is a tool – a means to an end – and to a large degree technology does the heavy lifting – whilst giving the customer the ability to give it a set of instructions.

What are the core technologies involved?

Alan Amici, an industry expert from TE Connectivity thinks there are 3 – sensors, connectivity and algorithms

They allow the car to perform at level beyond the human’s ability to take you to your destination as safely and efficiently as possible.

What about Self Driving stores?

If I am correct that customers are now firmly in the driver’s seat – maybe retailers should start thinking more about providing them with the tools to help them on their shopping journeys.

Amazon and Alibaba have both piloted stores with no cashiers. Another way of looking at this concept is that they are really experimenting with autonomous stores in which customers do most of the work.

Hardly surprising that it is these two behemoths testing the idea. After all their online businesses are set up for total customer self service – and they reaping the benefits of that business model.

These are the first of a generation of Self Driving Stores.

Why do Self Driving Stores makes sense?

Stores will increasingly become part of the consumer shopping toolkit – designed and constructed by retailers – but driven by customers.

The variables involved in retailing are too complex to be comprehended by the humans who run them.

We used to believe that all we had to do was provide the right product, at the right time, at the right price and at the right location – in other words a supply chain approach.

That hasn’t worked for the thousands of traditional retail shops around the world that have closed their doors.

Amazon and Alibaba, and others, have built their models for the demand driven world and made effective use of data and algorithms to refine their approach. But even they are not putting the customer at the wheel.

Now it’s time for the physical retail stores to be created as vehicles for customers to explore, navigate, experience and enjoy – at their own pace – and the assurance that they can ask for help when they need it.

What are the elements of a Self Driving Store?

The customer needs a few things to be provided by the retailer.

  • A vehicle.
  • A navigation system.
  • A communication system.
  • A payment system.
  • A control system.

The customer in turn will provide:-

  • A purpose
  • A destination.
  • A journey map.
  • Data.

How will Self Driving Stores work?

The role of the retailers will evolve to a far higher level once the menial tasks have been automated, freeing them to serve their customers far better.

There will be incredibly rich information, in huge volumes, being processed by algorithms with machine learning making stores smarter and smarter.

There will be customised and personalised communication with customers at a level never believed possible.

Customers will be able to choose any destination, mission or journey they like.

The driving experience will become effortless, safe, secure, relaxing and enjoyable.

There will be less wastage, and less impact on the environment.

We might all have more time to enjoy the better things in life.

In coming weeks I will explore the concept of autonomous stores in more detail.

Watch this space – it could be quite a ride!