Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members


The Covid-19 crisis became much more than a pandemic when the lockdowns kicked in across the world. Digital innovations and technological advancements that were put on hold pre-Covid, suddenly witnessed accelerated adoption and the world spiraled into a new future almost overnight.

In this new future that suddenly became the present, people’s habits, requirements and consumption patterns changed forever. Retail as an industry was deeply affected by this transition as consumers shifted their shopping preferences. Now, almost a year into the pandemic, consumer needs have morphed so drastically that retailers must offer a new proposition to be relevant for the new breed of consumers.

According to an EY article, retailers must move beyond traditional customer centricity and become truly integrated into the life of consumers to retain their relevance in the new world order. In order to do that, retailers need to offer three things:

  • Ultimate convenience that is invisible and timesaving
  • Solve customers’ problems so efficiently, that the retailer become indispensable to them
  • Create customer experiences – so rewarding and satisfying, that customers permit the retailer to enter the intimate circle of their life.

Together these are referred to as the “Three I’s: Invisibility, Indispensability and Intimacy” of retail success in the new normal and beyond.

Going beyond customer-centricity

As a side-effect of the pandemic, majority of the consumers have moved online and with this shift, the consumer has become all powerful. The consumers are more open to share personal data if that gives them access to personalized convenience. In an EY study published in October 2020, 52% respondents agreed to share data to auto-replenish their online grocery order, while 26% said they will use subscription services more often than earlier.

The present-day shoppers expect the retailers to come to them, to “be there” for them 24/7 and that can only be done by having an online presence. But mere online presence will not be enough. Retailers need to offer great “buying” and “shopping” experiences by offering them personalized experience – be it in the form of AI-augmented repeat buying lists or by suggesting new product options based on their purchase history.

And to be truly invisible, retailers must integrate deeply with the customers at other levels beyond just selling a service or product – it can be a social media engagement campaign, or a health advise. When the customer feels the retailer is delivering value, they allow the retailer to enter their circle of trust, which further gives an opportunity to the retailer to redefine and widen their relationship and enhance customer loyalty.

Offering customers something that they truly value

In the EY Future Consumer Index, October 2020, 39% consumers said they will simit their choices to brands that align with their personal values, while 19% were ready to pay a premium for customer service. Retailers thus must be very mindful of the consumers’ needs when creating a value proposition.

To embed itself into the life of a customer, retailers must first understand the requirements of the customer, then create a value proposition personalized to the customer and finally deliver it at the right time, with the right assortment and price, along with the right experience.

The new value proposition must be true to the core values of the retailer to retain its credibility. However, the proposition must be new and relevant for both the retailer and the customer. Three most important value propositions a retailer can offer are:

  • The time-saver: For example, a facility that helps customers buy his list of essential products with a repeat order option
  • The problem-solver: For example, offer advise to help him select a product by sharing additional product information or by obtaining answers to a quick set of questions
  • The experience creator: For example, by providing inspiration via quick tutorial from a social media influencer

All retailers most likely will not be able to offer all three propositions. Each retailer must choose his area of expertise and offer the most relevant proposition. However, whatever route the retailers take to enter the circle of intimacy of customers, they must first become a data-led business. It is only through data and analytics that the customers can be best understood, and an apt proposition can be made.

Retailers must accept that return to the “old normal” is not possible and from here on, data-backed personalized service is the only way to win over customers and become invisible and indispensable, while constant experience upgradation and devising new engagement strategies are vital in entering their circle of intimacy. Retailers who can master the “Three I’s” are best poised for a flourishing future.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *