Retail by… Nathan Stern

(Author : Altavia Watch)
Nathan Stern is ShopperMind’s chairman.




  • What Retail innovation recently seduced you the most?

Undoubtedly, the effort made by a seller of fruits and vegetables in my neighborhood to harmonize the prices of the different fruits and vegetables.

It’s a shop which offers mostly low priced fruits and vegetables because its products present small flaws: spots, atypical forms, non-standard formats … In recent months, the manager seems to strive to harmonize the sales price per kilo of all his fruits and vegetables. He works behind his old cash register and he does not employ anyone. Tending towards a single price policy certainly allows him to weigh more fruits and vegetables at the same time as he can mix 3 or 4 types of items, which allows him to serve more customers in less time and limit the wait for customers who have finished their shopping.

The crates are next to each other. And an unexpected result of this price harmonization (combined with a lack of traceability of outputs) is that you feel like an being in an orchard or a vegetable garden where you can put in the same bag a Granny smith apple, 2 Boskoop, a pear, a small bunch of grapes … and maybe one or two loquats. The price disappears. And even the price sensitivity is blunted. Picking sensation is incomparable. We are no longer in a shop but in a garden.

What I find remarkable about this retail innovation is that it is the act of a “candid” shop owner who manages to propose, by accident, a truly unique shopping experience. This demonstrates to me that, in retail, innovation is within reach of all, and that anything can be invented, even in the most traditional shops

Nathan Stern

  • What major trend affecting Retail seems the most exciting  to you ?

It is certainly the development of short and collaborative economy that inspires me the most. Distributors can be a screen between producers and consumers, or on the contrary bring consumers and producers closer together. They can break the link, or create a link between the various stakeholders. When distributors create an upstream screen, consumers focus on the price. Because this opacity upstream also makes us indifferent to the conditions of production. And this has serious consequences for producers and suppliers …

There are no two similar cow milks in France, but almost nobody can realize this. And the efforts of the producer who fights for the welbeing of his animals and the freshness of their food will not be recognized. In the end, his  milk is milk that will be, at best, organic if it has satisfied the specifications of his sector. But nobody will know anything about his efforts. His production will be put on the same level as that of the most radical production-breeders, and the milks themselves are often mixed.

Moreover, would we want to drink the milk of cows raised in industrial complexes if upstream – breeding, transport and slaughter – was under our eyes? Would we want to buy this T-shirt two euros if one had in mind the heat, noise and humidity experienced by workers producing it in the workshops in Bangladesh ? 

Of course, this denial has advantages, particularly in terms of price. But everything can be seen as a resource or as a creature, as a means or as an end, everything can be used or loved. And my belief is that nobody is glad to live in a disenchanted world, no one has ever wanted to buy products, good or bad, or even consume. Besides, who has never defined himself as a consumer? For themselves, their relatives or their children, people want real fruit, real vegetables, real food, real clothes, real perfume … They want what they are buying to have a story, anchored in soil or in a culture. If the products sold in supermakets are understood as products, it is because the link to the source is broken.

“distributors who choose short circuits, highlighting producers, craftsmen, cooks or gardeners, give their food an authentic identity. We feel the work, we see the earth, we experience the seasons … And this is what people are buying in these circuits.

  • Your favorite Retail destination ?

Apple Stores. In this, I am representative of the french national population since Apple Store was the winner of this year’s “shopper value” award in the category “Large Specialty Surfaces”. I usually go the Opera Apple Store in Paris.

I appreciate a thousand things: the beauty of the place, the feeling of living a rather special experience, the opportunity to discover the items freely, the enthusiasm and availability of the sales teams, their sensitivity to my needs, the fact that they don’t push me to buy, their authenticity, the fact that the sale is done with them and not at the cash register, that they bring me the article and I do not have to go get it and the Apple Store business card to their name they give me when we separate, aswell as the email with the bill that I receive when I get home … And in the end, it is the chain of shops in the world, that has the highest turnover per square meter.

apple store louvre Paris

  • A Retail app in your Smartphone ?

Amazon to buy in one click. Despite my embarrassment as to the social and fiscal behavior of the company, the service is almost irresistible.

As we experience it, stores do not seem to answer to customer desires. It is primarily a rational arrangement on a logistical level, which allows the customers to assume a significant part of the duties in exchange for lower prices. Thus, consumers support their travel to the store, the picking, and delivery of the articles to the cash register, the deposit on the carpet and sometimes, now, scanning articles, bagging them, filling the car trunk, bringing the items back to the home, unloading, removal of over-packaging and finally the dispatch of the shopping in the fridge and pantry. All these routines are solitary and rather off-putting.

I think stores really need to  invest in customer experience in stores, so that customers continue to systematically go to supermarkets rather than digital alternatives that are developing : click and collect, drive, lockers, shopping delegation, subscription, and of course the new delivery arrangements at work or at home: at a certain time, in half an hour, by drone – that can be taken seriously – by a neighbor, by a delivery robot, …

  • Customer satisfaction challenges of tomorrow in Retail ?

Of course, it is urgent that we systematically measure client satisfaction. That any transaction ends with feedback collection from the customer, in a rewarding and painless way. That is why we are interested, at ShopperMind in solutions to facilitate measurement in situ, by the distributors themselves, of customer satisfaction. But I think that for tomorrow’s customer, the issue exceeds this paradigm of satisfaction. Sticking to the question of satisfaction, encloses the relationship between the consumer and the brand in a client-provider relationship and that is an impoverished relationship. It is of course essential to keep promises, respect the contract or give satisfaction by meeting expectations.

“But limiting to this, is misunderstanding the various aspects of customers who may be partners, allies, ambassadors, social actors, citizens …” 

The consumer is basically a degraded version of the client. When a customer recognizes himself in a brand, he will not be content to just pay his articles. He wants to contribute, get involved, participate. Thus, I think we will eventually include the desire to satisfy the customer in a desire to build a mutually beneficial relationship between the customer and the brand.

  • Your “Proust madeleine” in Retail ?

A bakery in my neighborhood. Child, I bought my candy. And I now buy sweets for my son. The cakes are not extraordinary. Pastries neither. Neither the bread. But I gradually learned to find them at my taste, because the 2 bakers, with the smile they address me when I cross the threshold of their establishment, manage, keeping the right distance, to let me think they like me. Suddenly, their bakery has become MY bakery. Where I feel unique.

And who does not want to have his bakery? We want to love our butcher, baker … It can be a part of ourselves, part of our identity.

Going there, is also enjoying a free show which I never get tired of : the social game – both codified and free between the baker and the 2 or 3 customers who came before me in the shop. .. I love seeing work, service, attention …

Of course, it’s very convenient to have bread in one click, as when we buy a USB stick in a click  bought, but how far do clicks go ? How far into rationalization? How far into disenchantment? If we had a choice to love in one click,  would we click?


Source : Altavia Watch