Human Capital

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 10.11.50 pmRetail Asia leadership and people management guru, Dr Lynda Wee shares with retailers why it makes good business sense to be human capital savvy … how to use people – a company’s greatest asset – to get ROI. Read her column to get the info you can use.  



Are retailers ready to serve maturing customers?

The signs are as clear as daylight. The post-war baby boomers are living longer and staying more active. They are working longer and pushing retirement age to beyond 65 years. They are wealthier and spend on travel and dining experiences.

According to World Population Ageing, 2009, United Nations Report on Economic and Social Affairs, the “over-60″group grew from 200 million in 1950 to 600 million in 2000, to 800 million in 2013, and will reach two billion in 2050.

On the other hand, birth rates are declining. According to the United Nations Population Division, World Fertility Patterns, 2009, the global fertility rates from 1970 to 2010 declined from 4.7 to 2.6. As a consequence, the fastest-growing consumer segment is the maturing customers. Are Asian retailers, especially retail pharmacy, ready to serve them well?

I think Asian retailers have an opportunity to serve this market segment if they focus on appropriate services and customer experiences.

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Today’s retailers need to be able to profile their core customers, diagnose and anticipate their needs in order to offer differentiated retail solutions that make their lives better. This proposition will keep the cash register ringing.

Instead of retail stores, think retail services. When retailers think of services, they think about who they should serve and how to serve well. In terms of ageing population, retailers need to understand the unique needs of maturing customers so that they can eliminate their current “workarounds”. “Workarounds” refer to customers’ quick fix solutions to overcome their current challenges on a temporary basis.

Some of the current challenges faced by maturing customers are inaccessibility to store locations due to distance, inability to navigate large store size, reach for displays, read fine print on product packaging, dim lighting, lack of resting areas and retail employees who lack empathic understanding of maturing customers.

While maturing customers seek assistance, they do not want to be treated as “old” or “elderly”. The new segment of maturing customers differs from the traditional idea of “senior citizens”. They are educated, equipped with work experience, own smartphones, use the Internet and are planning to live long, active lives instead of slowing down. During their free time, they read widely, online and offline.

Their behavioural patterns show that they prefer to shop near their homes and during off -peak hours. They do not buy many but they buy better quality products. They look for brands that they trust.

Address the 3Cs

Map the current maturing customers’ journey and identify their joy and pain points. Use these as inspirations to generate innovative solutions. Delivering personalised value-added services in a convenient and comfortable location is key to winning over maturing customers.

Maturing customers are challenged by 3Cs: Commuting, carrying and climbing. For ease in commuting, why not off er transportation services for a small group of maturing customers living in the same area? Arrange a shuttle bus to fetch them to the mall and home on the same day. The visit allows them to fill up their medical prescriptions, visit their doctors, get their blood pressure checked, and shop for groceries.

For carrying, assist them with loading and unloading of their purchases from the stores to their homes or offer home delivery services.

For climbing, ensure that the path is wide enough for a maturing customer with wheelchair, walker or electric shopping cart. This applies to areas such as car park, car drop-off , supermarket aisle, fitting room, rest room and cashier area.

Provide product information display in larger font and use brighter lights for ease of reading. Eye-level display is most important as they may be limited in stretching. For bottom shelves display, offer small and light seats where they can sit and browse. Offer seats next to the queue at the cashier.

Why not position shopping as a regular physical activity for keeping fit? Offer the mall as an exercise venue for morning walks in the quiet hours before the stores open. After exercising, they can stay on for breakfast and shopping.

Play up the socialisation factor. Maturing customers prefer familiar places and faces. Achieve smiles per square foot and naturally, sales per square foot will follow. Hire active and interactive maturing customers as employees too.

Offer personal shopper services to run errands or provide reminder calls to check if they are short on anything, especially prescription items. Entice them to get out of their homes to seek new experiences, meet new people or learn about what’s new via events such as ‘try-and-buy’ and ‘meet-the-experts’.

Instead of having pharmacists stand behind a wall or counter, let them be on the shop floor where the customers are, thereby improving interaction.

For product selection, learning from how diners pair their wine with their food, retailers can offer health-pairing products since maturing customers are more likely to spend on food and over-the-counter health products. Offer special needs patients the opportunity to shop with an in-house pharmacist or specialist for groceries and meal planning advice that are compatible with their diet requirements.

We live in a society that is constantly changing. It is no longer business as usual. Retailers need to think differently. The maturing customers segment is fast becoming a huge market. Retailers need to prepare their manpower to engage and serve this emerging market well.

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