Australian consumers will be increasingly difficult to reach in the coming years, forcing retailers to spend up big on loyalty schemes and new technology that will capture detailed information about each consumer, a new report has warned.

Consumers will also dictate when and how they can be contacted by retailers wanting to spruik their wares; and retailers will have to play by the rules or face being snubbed.

The predictions, outlined in a report released recently by IdeaWorks called ‘A wake-up call for retail marketers’, also reveals new insights into the marketing plans by some of the country’s biggest retailers, including the likelihood of big changes for department store giant Myer.

Myer chief Bernie Brookes is quoted as saying in the report that the department store sector will need to scrap the one-size-fits-all model in favour of modified stores that cater specifically for the market in which they operate.

“Store size and design will not be ‘cookie cutter’ (in the future), and will vary in price, promotion, range and layout, depending on the area,” says Brookes.

The retail chief also believes that as the retail landscape grows and diversifies, loyalty programs will be more important than ever before. He predicts that carefully constructed loyalty programs will gradually replace brochures and press advertising, but added that mass market media will continue to be important.

“(Loyalty) programs will be used as test marketing tools as well as reward and feedback mechanisms.”

His comments come as Myer launches its own magazine (produced by News Limited), severs ties with loyalty scheme Fly Buys and heavily invests in its in-house loyalty scheme, Myer One, which launched in August 2004.

Angus & Robertson is another Australian retailer preparing for big changes in the future; with general manager David Fenlon agreeing that stronger relationships with consumers will be the key.

“Ultimately, whether or not a customer walks into a specialist retailer’s store will depend on the relationship the retailer has built up with him or her. And the nature of the relationship will be different with each customer,” says Fenlon.

Robert Drake, managing director, of media outfit Carat believes retailers will need to understand each customer’s purchase cycle and use the information to develop a deeper relationship with each customer. Those to do so will be handsomely rewarded, with consumer loyalty to be in direct proportion to the depth of the relationship it has with the retailer, he says.

“Media will have moved away from the notion of a unique selling proposition and will be all about trying to engage the customer in a relationship.”