Comment: Tesco is listening to customers by changing opening hours says Rupal Karia of Fujitsu

Consumers want ease and convenience, and what this means to shoppers today is different from what they demanded just a few short years ago. Tesco’s recent decision to reduce its store opening times is evidence of this. Where operating a 24-hour store once was what the market required, shoppers needs have evolved, largely propelled by the digital revolution we are living through.

Recent IGD research has found that a record 29% of shoppers shopped online for groceries last month, and although the e-grocery model has taken longer to become mainstream when compared with other areas of retail, IGD predicts that online will remain the fastest growing grocery channel in the next five years.

It will be important to watch this development and how supermarkets react to it. As consumers become used to having more choices at their fingertips – be it shopping online or on their mobiles, and having a plethora of services from click and collect, reserve and collect, home delivery and delivery lockers – supermarkets are going to have to think ahead and decide on what services they should use improve the quality of their service. It will be interesting to see which of these methods Tesco uses to serve those customers after hours.

Tesco’s move is insightful, realistic and clearly shows that the supermarket is acknowledging changes in the market and the wants and needs of its customers - and ultimately making changes that will improve its quality of service.

24-hour supermarkets are no longer required, with Tesco even stating that it was rarely seeing more than one or two customers during its late opening hours. Long opening hours are now viewed an inefficient use of time, money and resources and, as such, Tesco has been wise to change its 20-year-old service model to reflect the times we live in.  

Tesco can now refocus its efforts on providing a better service to its customers during the times it sees a higher influx of customers. This will ensure employees are refreshed and energised, able to meet these periods of peak footfall and provide the high quality of service that builds a brands reputation and drives greater levels of customer loyalty and retention.

As well as this, we are seeing a growing pressure to maximise online and mobile offerings and deliver truly personalised services that stand out. A large factor that will come into play is service, enabled by technology and how retailers choose to harness it. Many consumers now use a number of channels before purchase, to research and make decisions regarding a product. Retailers need to provide customers with the tools to make a fully-informed decision via flawlessly integrated channels. This alignment will let customers move freely from one to the other during their shopping experience. The ones that ensure they are digital from the inside out and create a balanced, efficient offering that caters for all audiences will be the ones who see success in the ever-changing retail environment.

It is imperative that retailers ensure they are moving forward and adapting their offerings to match the ever-changing behaviours of consumers if they are to maintain and grow their customer base. With new players entering the market all the time - a recent example of this being the launch of AmazonFresh - retailers need to find ways to differentiate themselves and optimise their services. Tesco has demonstrated that it is listening to the needs of its customers. Others would be wise to mirror it and see how they can create the very best experiences both online and in-store.

Rupal Karia is managing director of retail and hospitality at Fujitsu