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One of the retail industry’s long-established maxims is that the customer is always right. But maybe this is no longer the case. In a relatively simple world it was something that retailers could largely comply with but now that things have become a whole lot more complicated it might be the case that they are no longer always right.

It is certainly time to take a look at how they can be helped to be right, because some of the things that they are demanding are increasingly being seen as the wrong things. We are mainly talking about areas related to sustainability and the environment, which is rocketing up the agenda.

It was interesting to hear Guy Singh-Watson, founder of Riverford, talk about this at the recent World Retail Congress in Amsterdam. He suggests that we are in an environment where the customer is insufficiently informed to make the right decisions. They cannot be deemed to be right if their demands are leading to retailers causing damage to the environment.

“People are overwhelmed by choice and need some leadership. The customer is not always right. No they cannot have stuff [fruit and vegetables] from heated warehouses and no they cannot have things that have been [shipped in] on a plane. The idea that customers are going to make informed decisions is crap,” he argues.

This thinking was echoed by Michael Love, CEO of Netto International, who says his company is working hard to reduce its use of plastic but is finding it tough to overcome the broad customer belief that the way to go is with using bio-degradable plastics. He reckons they are a flawed solution.

“It’s a terrible solution but the public thinks it’s a great one. The consumers have listened to [the promotion of] these popular solutions and it is a challenge to convey different messaging,” he argues.

Clearly when it comes to these complex, big issues there is a lot more customer hand-holding required and a gentle pushback is needed with consumers whose attitudes to some areas need changing. While avoiding blatantly telling people that after many years of always being right they are now sometimes just plain wrong, it is the case that times have changed and retailers need to deliver some leadership around educating consumers on the environment and sustainability issues.

Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider

K3 Retail partners with businesses to provide connected technologies based on Microsoft Dynamics 365 so retailers can reach their goals now and in the future. In a size that best fits future plans wherever you need it – Cloud, Hybrid or On-premise. Our solutions drive more than 800 international retail brands from Charles Tyrwhitt and The White Company to Ryman and Sue Ryder, Hobbycraft, Wasabi and Ted Baker, K3 Retail is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and the UK’s leading Microsoft Dynamics retail partner.