The Future of Shopping is Service

The retail industry has advanced enormously over the past few years; mostly with new format strategies and the application of technologies to ease pain points and enhance convenience. This can be seen from Amazon Go in the US and Bingobox in China, to mobile payment and ecommerce, and to a variety of applications of Omni-Channel strategy. However, as transport, urbanisation and technology have greater reach, service levels have started to diminish.    

Historically, service was a fundamental differentiator. Before e-commerce, retailers often knew everything about every customer. While stores had a handle on the emotional side of customer service, their reach was tiny. As a global leader in retail design strategy, we’re seeing now an opportunity, and a need, to have both technology and service. At FITCH we like to perceive this opportunity through what we call the PHD (Physical, Human, Digital) approach, the need to integrate human experiences with digital ones for an all-around enhanced customer journey.

For many consumers, retail is no longer about “What I can buy from you?” but “What I can achieve with you?” Retail is shifting from a mere transactional relationship to one requiring greater empathy. ‘Service with a smile’ is important, but it should be the service that makes you smile, not just the person delivering it. Using an integrated approach that puts PHD elements into consideration allows retailers to mature with the market service demands.

We recently worked on the revamp of Singtel’s flagship store in Singapore. The customer experience seamlessly integrates human service, digital components with artificial intelligence. For example, visitors can pre-book their appointments online and once they arrive in store they register through the WiFi with a service assistant on hand to help with any issues. While waiting for their appointment number to be called, visitors can interact with Singtel’s products and service and finally, when it is their turn they are directed to customer service representatives located throughout the space.

Think of it like aprons and algorithms. The future of service-based shopping needs both. Digital algorithms remove the pain points and make things frictionless. But the human aprons, the elements that re-insert some of that friction, add the emotion.


  • Once you’ve used tech to remove the pain points, service can add the emotion and stickiness back into the experience.
  • Service is central to customer experience, not an add-on
  • The human touch is important – reframe the role of people in your brand

By Jonathan Cummings, Chairman FITCH Greater China
The expertise of LANDOR & FITCH APAC.

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