The future of retail: how to survive and thrive by getting closer to your customers

It is clear that we need to find a new approach to retail.

Cathy McCabe, CEO, Proximity Insight and Siobhan McKeating, Co-owner and CEO, Brissi


Retail footfall persists in decline, with a continual increase in store closures and companies going into insolvency. Yet, with 81 per cent of UK consumers seeing the physical store as vital to the shopping experience, there’s no reason why physical stores should not continue to play a key role.

So why have we seen a decline in retail footfall if customers still want to visit a physical store? A possible answer is because retailers have found it hard to change and embrace innovative ways of getting closer to their customers. It is clear that customers find today’s traditional physical store experience somewhat bland and uninspiring. Placing a product on a shelf and hoping the customer will buy it is quite simply no longer good enough, and there is less and less reason for customers to stand in queues on a Saturday afternoon putting up with mediocre service when it’s far easier to purchase the same items in less than a minute online.

None of this is news, but it’s crystal clear that, although today’s customer values being able to shop in person, they also want a different experience. The path to purchase for non-commodity items is triggered by lifestyle choices, emotional connections and memorable moments. Brands that focus on these elements are clearly getting it right.

One example is a lifestyle brand such as home furnishings and accessories retailer Brissi, whose founder Siobhan McKeating features in the above video. Brissi stores are designed to look and feel like a home, presenting products as integral to the customer’s lifestyle – an identity supported not only be product design but one that runs throughout the entire company, from values to customer service.

How can brands become fit for purpose by creating memorable moments?

Retailers are recognising that there is an absolute need to invest in three key areas: store experience, store teams and store technology. This is no longer a nice thing to have but a prerequisite for successful retail. At Proximity Insight, we partner with brands to focus on these key areas and help brands to get closer to their customers. And we deliver more than just a technology platform – we deliver expertise, insights and results, driving valuable engagement, repeat purchase and increased customer lifetime value.

We believe that store teams, with the right tools and information, can deliver exceptional service at all times, but the magic comes from knowing the customer and nurturing the customer relationship beyond the transaction. That sense has to be at the core of your store experience.

Three key ways to use technology to get close to the customer

In order to really understand what is important to your customer, you need to get close to them, and you cannot do that without data. However, customer expectations are higher in today’s digital world. The customer will inevitably ask: do you really know me? Do you really care?

Customers can see through algorithms and generic email marketing. If you don’t use the data that customers share with you appropriately, there is no value exchange and the customer will switch off. Technology offers retailers the opportunity to scale one-to-one conversations, globally.

Three key ways the Proximity Insight platform helps brands

  • Connect

Knowing the right way and at what point during the customer journey to capture data is essential. Understanding whether data is valuable or not is key to getting to know your customer. Make the capture frictionless, compliant with global data privacy regulations, and easy to complete so you can carry on the conversation beyond the sale. Make sure your brand’s unique value exchange is clear.

  • Inspire

Customers crave relationships not transactions. From preferred preferences to sharing inspirational products and stories, allow technology to facilitate conversations that are engaging and meaningful. Technology can act as a reminder to reach out, but it should not replace human interactions. Automate the tasks and reminders not the conversation.

  • Nurture

To inform the relationship we must understand what metrics and insights the data is driving. What does each customer purchase journey look like, and how can we best support how the customer wants to interact with us? Through analysis we can learn and adapt our approach – we help you to apply human intelligence to data insights.

Innovative technology can support traditional retail principles

Innovation and agility are part of our core company values. But innovation is not just about creating the best technology platform, it’s also about understanding the right time and place to use the technology. Technology can support traditional retail principles, such as exceptional levels of service and a passion for relationship building. By focusing on relationships and the value that they offer the customer and the retailer we use technology as an enabler, not as a replacement for human interaction. Technology enables the customer to be present all of the time, allowing sales associates to directly influence sales whether the customer is in-store or online.

Our application has clienteling and customers at the core of the platform. As a technology partner we place the customer at the heart of what we do, working with brands such as MATCHESFASHION.COM, MCM Worldwide, David Jones, John Lewis Partnership, Agent Provocateur and a number of other luxury brands and department stores globally. Each brand uses our feature-rich platform in a unique way, creating a scalable one-to-one experience, globally and across all brand touch points. We simplify the technology and digitise manual processes to deliver an extraordinary partnership.


Curious? Download our whitepaper on MATCHESFASHION.COM to find out more about how Proximity Insight can help you to connect, engage and inspire your customers and turn transactions into relationships.