Apparently UK music bands have fallen in love once again with vinyl, keen to put new tunes down on a seven or 12-inch disc.The public is also keen it appears – preferring the touch and the sound of a physical record to the more distant and impersonal download experience. Not directly related, but certainly on the same theme, have been the increase in sales of other retro products in the last twelve months such as teasmades. I’m not suggesting that the UK is descending into a communal Dr Who type timewarp watching The Generation Game and eating Spangles. Instead, what both these examples show is that businesses can’t take customers for granted in this so-called new digital age. We’ve all bought into the idea that digital is best, that we all want wearable devices and Google Glasses and personal computer assistants. That is progress of course, and there is the demand out there from those more technically-minded customers – those more trustful of innovation. In the trade they are defined as early adopters – people who seek out and want new innovations. They want to be the first to try new devices believing that the next big thing is very much the needed big thing. This they are sure will help to make their lives better and more enjoyable – they have trust in the new products, brand and progress. The mass market is different. They are more reticent – do we really need a smartwatch they think. Will it really improve my life? Didn’t I have a watch a couple of decades back?
Do I really want something that tells me exactly how much I have been eating, what my diary is for the rest of the day, that Jeff from accounts is calling me with some important news? Perhaps when the price comes down I might try it they think. Eventually as we’ve seen from everything from the iPod to the iPhone the mass-market does embrace the change – suddenly your granny is calling you through Skype and you wonder, where did that come from? But the UK consumers power to surprise is strong. Perhaps we are seeing the beginnings of a reaction against digital despite all that talk and all those forecasts of stellar growth ahead. All that freezing and re-booting on your digital TV, that when you listen to a football game on the radio and watch at the same time on television that the pictures are often a good five seconds behind the sound. Is that progress? A seven-inch vinyl is easy. Go down to the shops, pick it from the shelf and pay. Retailers need to concentrate on their digital offerings. Of course that is the future, but each must always be wary of changing consumer tastes no matter how temporary or fad-based. Always ask what your customer wants rather than what the industry expects me to be doing in terms of websites or digital sales. Talk to your customers, listen to them. What do they feel is missing from their shopping and buying experience at present? How can you make things better?
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