Friday 29 April 2016

Let's Hope Renewal Isn't Just About Structures

There is a glaring gap in QVM's offer and it doesn't just relate to our physical form, our buildings and our open spaces. It is how we connect with our customers. And in a world where the use of mobiles is increasing at a huge rate (mobile usage for shopping doubled in the U.S. between 2013 and 2015) we are sadly lacking in this important area. We need an app.

It may sound crazy to some but mobile connectivity is a natural for our traditional market. Century old buildings and our folksy way of doing business might not seem the right setting for cutting edge technology but the reverse is true. Our killer advantage in retail is personal engagement with our customers. It is something we have done very well over the years, clearly setting us apart from the soulless department stores and supermarkets. Engagement through mobiles is just an extension of that personal service as well as a way of connecting with a broader range of customers particularly the new tech-savvy lot. If we are maintain that level of customer service into the future then we need technology.

Imagine a QVM app that would link visitors to our market. That would allow the introduction

of beacons. Haven't heard of beacons? They are a small, inexpensive, Bluetooth transmitter designed to get your customers attention as they walk past your stall. Think of a flashing neon sign but done in a more personal way. You could present your special offers to a broader range of customers straight to their mobiles. This is not some detached communication channel because customers still have to visit us to receive the service. Neither is this a discussion on online ordering from a website ( although you may want to do that as well). It is about engaging with your customer onsite. It could be seen as a coupon system or a special offer that doesn't require printing of physical notices. Beacons are the new kid on the block in terms of attracting customers and their use is growing worldwide.

But let's not get bogged down in a discussion on these new technologies. They will fit in seamlessly like most other forms of technology. There is another compelling reason for a
QVM app and it is way finding. Finding your way around QVM and more specifically finding your stall or shop can be a nightmare. We have plenty of overhead signage that points vaguely towards destinations although confusingly they often point up in the air or down to the ground depending on your perspective. We need a better way of guiding our customers and apps on mobiles are ideal. There is already technology that would show customers exactly where they are in a map and where their destination is located. An active map would show you where you can buy in-season fruit, or a pair of socks, that special spice, or the souvenir for your overseas trip.

Now let's have that debate on allowing customers to wander our market. Yes, if we encourage customers to wander we might all get a piece of the pie as they walk past our stall in search of their purchase. And for many visitors, particularly those on holiday, that is absolutely fine. But what about those on a time schedule. They have a limited amount of time to get what they want and they need to focus and get useful directions - otherwise it is easier to nip down to the supermarket or department store. Those people (and I am going to suggest that 80% of locals fit into this category) need quick guided access to all the wonderful things our market can offer.

If we are going to spend up to $250 million on our market, let's make sure a small chunk goes to a really good app and the internal data support system that will make things easier for our customers, make us a more attractive destination to a broader range of customers, and ultimately increase the bottom line for traders and the company.

By Greg Smith - QVMAC Trader Representative.

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