The key role of the customer
According to James Damian, a successful retail strategy puts customer needs first.

What is the biggest challenge for retailers today? It is important for every business to be able to put themselves in their customers' shoes in order to make the shopping experience unforgettable and exciting, according to James Damian in an interview with Retail Asia. The monthly business magazine in Singapore interviewed him at the Popai Asia Summit, one of the most important industry events organized by international companies operating in retail and shopper marketing.

Damian James, founder of Brand Integration Services, member of the Advisory Board of Advanced Retail Grottini World, and a leading expert on visual merchandising and retail design, highlights how design thinking and innovative ways to engage and interact with customers play a key role in the development of each retail strategy.

"Design thinking is a method that really puts the customer in the centre of the conversation, not the retailer. So it uses empathy as a key to understanding what the customers' needs are and what their desires are, "said Damian. "The typical consumer electronics retailer just wants to put their boxes on the floor and then price it. There's no distinguishing value proposition in that. And my message to the retailers has been, if that's what you are going to do, you'll be going out of business. You are not winning the hearts and minds of the customers,"said Damian.

Online shopping is changing the shopping experience in the physical stores: in Europe, for example, the use of electronic price tags has increased in recent years, helpful in the case of frequent price changes. According to Damian, the key to success is to merge 'digital' and 'real' to ensure the best customer experience. "The best retailers understand they have to do what online can't do. And that means, retailers have to deploy the five senses... Why? Because we are humans. We enjoy social connectivity and social experiences... A lot of people are saying the retail physical brick-and-mortar store is going to go away. People say the disruptive technologies hitting the market will cause this- that something is going to go. No. It's just another tool in their toolbox... It's the customer who's driving the economy, not the retailer. So the retailer has got to be adaptive and design to the new behaviors that are being developed by the customer, " warns Damian.

Consumer behavior is constantly changing and evolving. Similarly, the way of thinking of the CEOs and CFOs must change. According to Damian, "leaders have got to be schooled differently. It's not just about the left brain. We all have a whole mind. And a creative mind. And it's the combination of the two things that create stronger, everlasting economic growth."

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