The Memes 2018

Connected Consumers

“I had to go to a friend’s wedding, so I was looking around for dresses but I recently had quit my job, so my budget was really low. I went to the few malls that are near my house but the clothes I liked were not affordable to me. So, I checked out clothes rental services online and second hand clothes websites, and I found so many options to pick from. Some sites allow you to superimpose product photos on your digital avatar to show you what it will look like when worn by you. The best part is they even alter the clothes as per your size, they bring all the clothes to your doorstep for trial. You can pick whichever you like and send back the rest. I finally picked up two dresses for the event at just 4000!”

- Shivali, 25, Navi Mumbai

Spiritual gurus would agree that you can seek God from almost anywhere – from the confines of your home, ensconced inside your car or in the sylvan surroundings of a lake. And yet, millions of faithful every day head towards mosques, synagogues, temples and churches. Quiet contemplation is for the saints. For all other faithfuls, seeking God is as much an exercise of the mind, as it is of your senses. The smell of the incense, the sight of the flowers, the sound of the hymns and cymbals, the touch of the holy water, the taste of prasad, and the company of fellow faithfuls – all come together like a confluence of senses, within and outside places of worship.

Consumption is akin to religion. The industrial age led to mega malls, shopping complexes, cult brands, celebrity endorsers, new rituals, festivals like Black Friday and much more. The information age ushered in online shopping portals and apps. The customer could now shop almost anytime and from anywhere. However, what it took away was the assault on all our senses that the temples of consumption provided.

The first wave of technology restricted itself only to visual delights on small screens. The next wave of consumption is about pervasive layering of technology over these temples of consumption. The customer will be connected real time with the store – at any time and from anywhere. And the store will transform into a junction of pleasing sensory excesses, an area of heightened experience that customises and adapts to the needs and aspirations of each and every customer. It will be personal, it will be intimate, it will delight shoppers with a thoughtful sensory overload.

You won’t be thumbing your way through your shopping list anymore. Instead you will speak or chat with the store. Voice recognition technology, artificial intelligence and image recognition technology are evolving in leaps and bounds to transform retailing. Scan the dress you admire your celebrity wearing or the dish served at your favourite eatery and immediately, your shopping list will be ready. Perhaps you will only have to just think of your favourite recipe and the store will have all the ingredients delivered home for you. Welcome to the frictionless pursuit of consumption!

With a constantly connected customer, it is not only retailing that will change. The way brands are created and destroyed too will undergo a metamorphosis. In the industrial age, brands were static and brand owners had the monopoly over the content around the brand. Brands were akin to lakes, the banks of which were tightly protected by brand owners. Connected consumers are now breaking the banks of this lake. Brand followers and detractors now can create conflicting content around the brand and determine what shape and flow the brand takes in the future. From lakes, brands are now becoming open water bodies, with connected consumers joining brand owners as co-navigators, giving brands their flow, colour and future direction.

Customers want everything. They want the advantages of digital, such as broad selection, rich product information, and customer reviews and tips. They want the advantages of physical stores, such as personal service, the ability to touch products, and shopping as an event and an experience. Different customer segments will value parts of the shopping experience differently, but all are likely to want perfect integration of the digital and the physical.
- Darrell Rigby – Bain’s Global Retail Practice Head