‘Listen to consumers as you experiment with technology,’ IMRG’s Andrew McClelland warns retailers

Retailers must ensure they listen to their customers when it comes to experimenting with and testing new in-store technologies such as Beacons, according to IMRG chief operations and policy officer Andrew McClelland. 

Speaking to The Drum ahead of the eCommerce Expo in October, for which The Drum is media partner, he said: “We need to listen far more than we have done in the past”. 

He stressed that in the past retailers have been guilty of adopting the latest technologies for the purposes of connecting with a few of their consumers, despite being aware that it is a bug bear for the majority. 

“We know that every time we send an email we get an uptake in sales, but how many are getting fed up because yet another email has come through?” he said. 

“And it’s going to be even worse when push notifications come through because that smartphone is in my pocket, my personal space, and if it’s pinging every five seconds when I’m walking down the high street then it’s not going to be long before I turn it off completely.”

McLelland urged retailers dabbling with beacon technology, such as House of Fraser, Hawes & Curtis and Bentalls to take note of consumer cues and kill a campaign or project if they are making it known it is not welcome.

“If we’re sending out push notifications and we’re not getting any obvious response we need to be willing to turn it off and wait for the customer to come back. We need to listen far more than we have done in the past,” he said. “If we’re not sure, then ignore that 0.3 or 0.4 increase in sales, because that 99 per cent of the database is not interacting.”

John Lewis previously told The Drum that it is hesitant to dive into using new technologies in-store. It instead established the JLab scheme where it can test technology without commitment, a scheme McLelland was supportive of, particularly as it helps us foster UK innovation.

“The UK has one of the most developed e-commerce economies in the world and we’re still one of the worst at supporting some of the young entrepreneurial businesses that are pushing the boundaries of technology. A retailer’s place on the global stage is reliant on the backing of these sort of technologies,” he said.

However, McLelland reminded retailers that ultimately “retail is about selling more stuff to more people” and at the moment a huge majority of people are not as evolved in their use of technology as the digital and retail industries are.

“The challenge with retail brands is to keep pace with what customers are doing and not always lead. It’s not always about having the latest sexiest must-have technology, it’s understanding what customers want and what the retail proposition is about.”

McClelland’s comments came ahead of the eCommerce Expo in October this year, for which The Drum is a media partner. During his keynote he will discuss the future of mobile on the high street and how consumers are reacting to the latest in-store technologies. 

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