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Q&A: Toshiba exec talks retail’s converging channels and today’s digital consumers

In this Q&A, Toshiba exec Kirk Goldman talks about findings from new Toshiba research on today's consumers, technology in retail and unified commerce.

5 min read

Digital Technology

Toshiba exec talks retail’s converging channels and today’s digital consumers


This post is sponsored by Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions.

While retailers have recognized the blurring and, ultimately, the disappearance of lines between shopping channels for a while, shoppers are now also starting to catch on in a big way. And that means retailers must continue to adjust and adapt their shopping experiences for omnichannel consumers’ evolving demands. To learn more about those demands, tech giant Toshiba embarked on a research project to find out more about today’s consumers, how they want to shop and the role technology plays in the customer experience.

SmartBrief sat down with Kirk Goldman, vice president of business strategy at Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, to talk about how insights from the company’s research could change the way retailers think about successfully engaging today’s consumers.

Can you talk about Toshiba’s recent consumer research?


Our mission as a company is to deliver the best retail solutions and empower our clients to delight their shoppers and be great merchants. Taking this in-depth look at the retail consumer enables us to share insights – some validated and some new – on today’s consumer and how they want to shop. We recently surveyed 4,100 consumers in the US across generations — millennials, Gen X and baby boomers. Our study focuses on how a retailer can engage, transact with and retain shoppers. For example, the store remains the top source of shopper engagement (62%). We know that traditional forms of media used to have a much larger impact in engaging consumers. As those have faded and with newer media settled in, shoppers across all generations selected the retail store as their No. 1 choice. Our study has also found that overall, people prefer self-checkout over traditional or mobile checkout (41% over 23% and 21%, respectively), but that baby boomers still strongly have a desire for traditional manned checkout (44%). Last, it’s generally accepted that it costs more to attract new shoppers than to retain existing shoppers. However, most loyalty programs aim to attract shoppers. The study tells us that shoppers across generations like programs with meaningful and understandable rewards for their continued spend (65%).

With online and offline commerce truly merging to just become “commerce,” what do retailers need to know about engaging consumers on today’s shopping journey that spans across digital and physical channels?

We’ve been talking about the channels blurring from a retailer’s perspective for some time now. However, when you think about it from the shopper’s perspective, you really see the lines between channels not just blurred, but gone all together. That legacy shopping journey used to be very linear — I go to the store, I browse and see what they have, I chose what I want, I get in line, I pay for it, I leave. Today, a shopper rarely takes that linear approach. Consumers do not browse the same way, and when they do browse, the technology can enable them to browse multiple sources concurrently. In response, retailers need to enable those same lines to go away, giving their customers the flexibility to engage and transact how, when and where they want. That will build a meaningful relationship for shopper retention.

What are some of the most important factors for retailers to consider when it comes to optimizing shopper loyalty among today’s digital consumers?

As those lines across channels drop, similar lines between retailers drop as well. Shoppers’ barriers to enter and exit a store are remarkably low. In order to retain shoppers, the retailer needs to delight them. We asked shoppers to compare priorities that would keep them loyal or cause defection. We found it very interesting that many of the traditional retail imperatives still floated to the top. More than anything, shoppers want better quality products (+1.00), they want good value (+.69), they want items in stock (+.46) and good selections (+.39). They put less priority on advanced technology for avoiding checkout lines (seamless) (-1.65) and personalization (-.90). And when it comes to loyalty programs, 65% of shoppers want programs that are meaningful and consistent, easy to understand and that truly reward frequent shopping.

(Note: The +/- is conjoint analysis — frequency of choice when asked to compare one option versus another. The higher + means it’s chosen most often versus negative meaning chosen less often.)

Based on Toshiba’s findings, how should retailers position themselves to be successful in the current consumer environment?

So, the thing that truly surprised us was that the more things change the more shoppers stay the same. Shoppers put the most importance on traditional retail values, which are the things that make retailers great merchants — that’s the best merchandise, clean and welcoming shopping environments, friendly and knowledgeable associates. It seems that sometimes we all get so focused on competing that we forget what got us here in the first place: being great merchants. Retailers today can sometimes feel trapped and forced to respond to circumstances that are out of their control, like Amazon entering their space. However, at the end of the day the things within their control help them engage shoppers with meaningful experiences, provide options to transact how the shopper wants to transact — be that through traditional checkout, self-checkout, mobile or other self-service or a seamless, just-walk-out capability — and then retain the shopper by delighting them over and over and rewarding them for their loyalty.

Kirk Goldman brings more than 20 years of experience in the retail industry to his position as vice president, business strategy at Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions. Kirk has extensive experience as both a business-side executive and consultant to large enterprise retailers and consumer goods manufacturers. He is responsible for all elements of Toshiba’s business strategy. Prior to joining Toshiba, Kirk held various positions serving retail customers at IBM in both Global Business Services and Retail Store Solutions. Kirk also consulted with retail clients as a member of Mainspring’s Retail and Consumer Products practice before its acquisition by IBM in 2001.