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Product is No Longer King

by Robert Hetu  |  January 3, 2018  |  Submit a Comment

The old saying “product is king” is no longer true for retail. Experience is king, and product is a critical component of experience, but consumers increasingly determine the value provided by the associated experience. This is seen by the transition toward click and collect, home delivery, autoreplenishment, in-store entertainment and the growing use of subscription services.


Gillette has lost U.S. market share for six straight years. Its share of the men’s-razors business fell to 54% in 2016, down from 59% in 2015 and more than 70% in 2010 (  This was driven by low cost subscription services Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s Razors, and others.

Cost plays an important role in this shift, and quality remains a key element, but experience is a major driver and was a well known problem in the industry.  I recall having a discussion back in the 1990’s with someone from one of the major blade manufacturers.  At that time it was explained to me that men used the first 3 razors from a 4-pack in rather short order.  They however tended to use the 4th razor longer than the combined usage time from the first three.  The problem they faced was how to get men to use the 4th razor for a similar time span and then to purchase the next 4-pack, representing a huge sales opportunity.  They never solved the problem.

The impact of this example on retail, although less dramatic than for Gillette, is that there are less replenishment dollars spent on the shaving aisle.  But the broader issue looms large.  Digital technologies and service led models are changing how consumers browse, transact, acquire and consume.  Retailers must partner with their supplier ecosystem to deliver customer centric experiences through unified retail commerce.


To combat market share erosion and take advantage of opportunities presented by digital, multichannel retailers need to recognize that their extensive network of stores can be part of an effective unified commerce strategy.  Represented here as an infinity loop, unified retail commerce demands that retailers of all types engage in digital business transformation built on a foundation of customer understanding. Gartner describes unified retail commerce as providing a customer centric experience based on how customers approach shopping, with no limitations by channel:

  • Browse – Enable customers, while browsing, to find what they need as well as to discover new and different products and services that will help to enhance their lifestyles. Provided by stores and online channels, as well as mobile, social, IoT enabled devices, AI, and augmented reality working together to provide an immersive shopping experience.
  • Transact – Enable a seamless capability for the customer to transact within and across channels, regardless of product or combination of products and services, without inconvenience or delays. Provided through modern interconnected POS applications, mobile applications, and excellent customer facing execution of processes.
  • Acquire – Enable the customer with a variety of methods to acquire possession of goods and services including physical shopping, click and collect, in home delivery, automated replenishment, lockers, as well as partnerships with external organizations. Provided by executing highly flexible fulfillment models that include not just traditional in store shopping but many last mile delivery options.
  • Consume – Enable the customer’s enjoyment and enhance their consumption experience. Provided through enhanced information and services, connected devices, auto-replenishment, and voice-enabled interactions.

The intersection of these four customer processes is the focal point of a customer centric experience. Unified retail commerce involves understanding how customers are using technology in their everyday living and then deploying technology that makes their lives simpler, better, easier and safer. Unity will become transformative when retailers, suppliers and third party services collaborate to build an effective ecosystem centered on delivering exceptional customer centric experiences.



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Category: retail-trends  technology-and-emerging-trends  

Tags: customer-centricity  unified-retail-commerce  

Robert Hetu
VP, Analyst Retail
7 years at Gartner
29 years IT Industry

Bob Hetu is a Research Director with the Gartner Retail Industry Services team. His responsibilities involve tracking the technology markets and trends impacting the broad-based retail merchandising and planning areas. Mr. Hetu is an expert in the areas of brand, vendor and assortment management, merchandise planning, allocation, and replenishment. Read Full Bio

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