Thoughts & Insights: The Retail and Consumer Landscape 2024

Posted by Tilly White | 02-Feb-2024 14:50:58

2023 was a year marked by rapid technological advancements and global uncertainty. As businesses grappled with the challenges posed by emerging technologies like generative AI and navigated the complexities of volatile economies and disrupted supply chains, the need for adaptability and innovation became more apparent than ever. 

Looking ahead to 2024, the question on everyone’s minds is: what can we expect from the retail and consumer goods landscape, and how can businesses thrive in this evolving environment? To shed light on these pressing issues, business leader Lord Price was invited by Salesforce and Cognizant to offer valuable insights into trends and strategies that will shape the industry in the coming year. 

Mark has previously been a Managing Director of Waitrose spanning nine years, followed by three years as Deputy Chairman of The John Lewis Partnership, and his contributions to the retail sector have been widely recognised. In April 2016, Mark transitioned into politics, becoming the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, playing a pivotal role in shaping the UK’s post-Brexit trade strategy. 

Reflecting on his tenure as the UK’s ministry of State for Trade and Investment, Lord Price reflected on his past trade agreements and their current implications for the retail and consumer goods sector. While acknowledging the complexities and challenges of international trade negotiations, he emphasises the importance of realistic approaches and the need to prioritise practical solutions over idealistic views. Despite the current cost of living crisis and economic uncertainties, Mark remains optimistic about the future, emphasising the resilience of businesses and the potential for positive change in the long term. As the geopolitical landscape evolves and trade dynamics shift, he predicted a gradual easing of tensions and a renewed focus on collaboration and mutual benefit within the EU. In the meantime retailers must find practical workarounds to find solutions.

Strategies for success 

In uncertain times with upcoming elections, businesses must remain agile and proactive in their approach. Drawing on his extensive experience in the retail and consumer goods industry, Mark offers practical advice for driving sustainable growth. While embracing technological innovation to aid efficiency is vital, he underscores the importance of balancing efficiency with strategic foresight for growth when achieving long-term success. 

As businesses grapple with shifting consumer preferences and competitive pressures, Mark emphasises the need for differentiation and value creation. Drawing from a success story at Waitrose, he highlights the transformative power of seemingly small gestures, such as offering complimentary coffee and newspapers to customers. All while enticing customers to return again and again, and costing half the price of an advert in a newspaper. During challenging times doubling down on existing customer relationships can yield exponential benefits, as they become enthusiastic advocates for the brand. 

Moreover, Mark stressed the link between employee engagement and business performance. By aligning employees with the company’s mission, you will do better than your competitors. So how do you get your people to care a little bit more than your competitors' people do? 

But is there a single strategy that always wins? According to Mark, yes, do the opposite to what everyone else is doing. If everyone else is focusing on cutting costs, focus on quality. If everyone else is focusing on choice, focus on customer service. After all, the popularity of products like Coca-Cola serve as a reminder that it is not always about the price point. By focusing on quality, service and innovation, businesses can carve out a distinct identity in the market and build lasting relationships with customers. 

Embracing change and driving growth 

By embracing change, fostering innovation and prioritising customer-centric strategies, businesses can position themselves in an increasingly competitive environment. 

In conclusion, the retail and consumer goods landscape in 2024 is characterised by uncertainty, innovation and opportunity. By embracing change, prioritising customer experience and fostering a culture of adaptability and resilience, businesses can navigate the challenges ahead and emerge stronger than ever before. 

We held this event in partnership with Cognizant and Salesforce. 

Topics: Activities & Updates, Thought Leadership

Written by Tilly White

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