It's that time of year, they seem to keep coming each and every day. No doubt you've read your fair share. Equally there's no doubt that you'll agree with many and raise an eyebrow at one or two.
To what am I referring? Yes, you guessed it - this year's retail predictions. Fun and interesting to read but in the main, entirely predictable.
The usual suspects make an appearance in most: AI, IoT, Mobile, Chatbots, Data, Delivery.....
But there's one which is a perennial - Customer Experience.
Many things to many people, there are three characteristics which MUST co-exist if you are to create a truly effective Customer Experience.
I call them the "Three I's of Customer Experience".
We used to refer to 'retail theatre' however that suggests a passive experience. Today, the demands consumers place on retail mean that this simply isn't enough.
Today more than ever we want a good story; we seek brands which pull us close and make us feel as if we are involved.
Not only do we want to experience your brand, we want a reciprocal relationship with it. We want to participate, we want to feel a part of it.
Yes, touching and smelling the product is one thing. But more than ever it is that desire to connect and engage that attracts us to certain brands and puts us off others.
In his book 'Start With Why' Simon Sinek discusses our motivations and why we behave in the ways we do.
We seek enjoyable experiences, ones which touch our senses. It's not how great the product is or how low the price, we remember how we felt. Because emotions play a central role in our shopping behaviour, often in ways which we do not realise.
"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it" - Simon Sinek
And as millennials and Generation Z assume a greater proportion of the consumer population, so retailers need to provide experiences rather than simply selling product. The old retail model is no longer fit for purpose.
Take Samsung's store in New York; it carries very little inventory and shoppers are not actively encouraged to buy anything. What it tries to do is make them happier than any other tech company.
Samsung store New York
I've saved the best for last; for this is perhaps the most critical of the three I's of Customer Experience.
This is how Backyard Cinema encourages their customers to come and watch a film:
"PREPARE TO VENTURE THROUGH A MAGICAL WARDROBE, DOWN A SECRET TUNNEL OF TREES INTO A BEAUTIFUL, ENCHANTED WOODLAND, AND DISCOVER A CINEMA EXPERIENCE LIKE NO OTHER"
Most cinemas make use of a door; not so Backyard Cinema.
That wardrobe you see in the picture - that's the entrance to the cinema. It's not just a door, it becomes a portal into a magical world beyond. One where we can let our imaginations roam free and one which we are far more likely to remember, long after the evening has ended.
Backyard Cinema do it like no other
So if you're looking to delight your customers in 2018, consider using the three I's:
Because after all, we all like a good story.
Andrew Busby is Founder & CEO of Retail Reflections, is recognised by Vend as a top global retail influencer and is an IBM Futurist.