Q&A: WPP’s Gwen Morrison tells retailers to think beyond the ‘wow factor’

When it comes to implementing technology in-store, retailers need to look beyond the “wow factor” to enhance the shopping experience while remaining true to the brand, said Gwen Morrison, co-CEO of WPP’s retail practice, The Store. Morrison is in Toronto Tuesday night for an event hosted by FGI Toronto and SAS Canada to discuss how […]

Kristin Laird July 09, 2013

When it comes to implementing technology in-store, retailers need to look beyond the “wow factor” to enhance the shopping experience while remaining true to the brand, said Gwen Morrison, co-CEO of WPP’s retail practice, The Store.

Morrison is in Toronto Tuesday night for an event hosted by FGI Toronto and SAS Canada to discuss how technology is reshaping the retail landscape. Morrison spoke with Marketing about the potential threat of showrooming and how retailers can determine which technology best fits their needs.

What are the steps retailers can take to determine which technology will suit their consumer?
It’s really category-by-category, brand-by-brand. Most of the people that have the titles in the marketing department and the digital sides of these businesses are careful to look at everything and audit or consider for their brand based on some of these strategic parameters they establish. Within that I hear retailers say ‘I always need to have a little mad money’ because you can’t get a return on investment on some of these technologies that are so new, so you have to get out there and try things that haven’t been done before and be willing to learn along the way.

What can smaller independent retailers – the ones without the mad money – do to keep up with the bigger players?
If small independent retailers have a great idea they’re able to, with the magnification from online communications, become incredibly disruptive. For example, we had the Dollar Shave Club last year. That’s what everyone was talking about because here’s a guy who said ‘I’m tired of buying these over-priced, over engineered razor blades, I’m going to sell them for less online’ and had a funny video and the video went viral and his business really took off. There’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs to really take off with a different business model.

While showrooming and the surge in e-commerce are real threats the experts I’ve spoken to feel concerns about showrooming are overblown in Canada. Is it still something retailers should keep on the radar?
I think they certainly recognize that at anytime consumers can be checking a price through their mobile device online. That’s here to stay. I’ve seen more retailers try to facilitate it rather than try to fight it – they’ll match the price you find online. Depending on the category, clearly electronics has been hit substantially, but it really pushes the retailer to try and offer better service and to define their value proposition in a new way. You can always get an item for the lowest, rock bottom price somewhere. It really puts a lot of pressure on the retailer to deliver an experience. Now Amazon is saying you’ll get something [delivered to you] in an hour [after purchasing the item online]. There is a lot of pressure on retailers in some categories more than others, but everybody really needs to look at what they deliver and the value proposition for their shopper. Someone can come along and be very disruptive online and come up with some kind of competitive model that retailers have never thought of before. You can’t just think of yourself as competing against those two other major retailers in your category. You could be competing with someone half way across the country that’s come up with a new concept.

Are retailers adopting technology at a quick enough pace?
All companies, all brands have to look at how quickly their audience is adopting and using technology. People are consuming media more and more from their devices and yet we’re probably in the industry a step behind where the consumer is. So I wouldn’t single out retailers along those line. It’s hard to reallocate your marketing budget when you you’re used to doing things in a certain discipline within a certain framework. I’d say in the last couple of years there’s been such a dramatic shift in the way consumers are using their devices and how they’re consuming media that there’s probably catch up for everyone.

Which retailers are getting it right?
Tesco Homeplus in Korea had the train station installation. It’s a clever idea in that yes people have time [while waiting for the train to make an order] and they love the quick delivery they get. Tesco needed to grow against a larger competitor in that market and there wasn’t real estate to do that. So I think they were very savvy to move in that direction.