Posted by Adam Bullion, general manager of marketing at Legal Futures Associate InfoTrack 
News of high street brands fighting to stay afloat is unfortunately becoming more frequent, with the media regularly bringing our attention to well-known retailers and their struggles, including Debenhams and House of Fraser.
On the other hand, there are some brands thriving on the high street, such as Primark. I believe we can take learnings from the high street and effectively apply these in the professional services world.
Firstly, we need to understand how retailers, businesses and professional services can relate to each other, by being categorised into three headings:
- Relevant – open minded, innovative, reading customer behaviour and pro-active;
- Momentary – competing for the moment, reactive to market conditions; and
- Irrelevant – zero observation, leading to ignorance of customer behaviours.
In my opinion, many high street brands can currently be categorised within the ‘momentary’ bracket, but many are very quickly heading towards becoming ‘irrelevant’.
Primark is one high street brand bucking this trend. Whether you shop there or not, it is clear we can learn plenty from its story, with profits rising 25%, as reported in March 2019.
Primark’s continued growth goes against many forecasts of high street store closures affecting major brands. We may look at its rise and suggest the growth is related to the low prices, but that’s too simple. Bear in mind that two of its main competitors, New Look and Select, are both fighting to survive.
I have talked often about brands like Debenhams remaining ‘momentary’ or reacting to the market conditions; these brands fail to read customer behaviour and I believe that to be true for many high street brands.
An article in The Guardian  written by Gabby Hinsliff establishes how Primark is well known for not selling online, as this isn’t cost effective for its business model, making a store visit essential for customers.
The retailer understands its audience, as well as trends and the application of technology in order to deliver a ‘retail experience’. Primark identifies its competitors as H&M, Marks & Spencer and Next but more appropriately, it identifies the target market and their behaviours.
Primark has managed to convert customers into influencers, by installing a ‘snap-and-share’ room in its flagship Birmingham store. This initiative allows people to take in as many clothes as they want, select music and lighting, then film or photograph themselves on their phones before uploading it all to social media.
For a little investment in floor space, Primark has blended the traditional and new digital channels, and made shopping a social experience.
Primark has also added a café, a nail bar and various additional experiential elements, all catering towards the demands and needs of customers. As a brand, it has innovated to remain relevant, while the rest of the high street either remained ‘momentary’ or become ‘irrelevant’.
Brands that have, or are, becoming ‘irrelevant’ close their minds to the idea that their customer is constantly changing, and are failing to address trends through the technology available to them.
Primark goes beyond focusing on experiences and are investing in what we, as consumers, now demand – ethical behaviour. Water fountains replace plastic bottles, sustainable cotton clothing and eco-friendly glitter are just some examples. Most importantly, it is actively delivering on what we all now demand as we start to consider our environment and climate.
For law firms to remain relevant, they need to begin to focus on improving the experience which will be the key differentiator between their competitors.
A Customer 2020 report states consumers will view experience as more important than product and price by next year. This is crucial to consider.
Your product is the service you offer – your legal expertise is not in question. Law firms need to consider experience as what happens when a prospect finds you, what do they experience throughout a transaction and what level of aftercare you offer. Firms need to question what elements can be digital for the benefit of clients and the firm.
The demand from consumers for an experience and ethical behaviour in the future will apply to products and services far beyond the high street, vehicle purchases and travel arrangements. Undoubtedly, demands will apply to professional services, legal services and beyond. Consumers will want less paper; they’ll want improved technology and they’ll want to feel that they have had a good experience.
The reality is that firms paying attention to the experiential demands of their consumer and using tech to overcome ethical experiential situations will be relevant, will be successful and will be here for many years to come.