Consumers want their expectations met, whether it’s at a fast-food restaurant or a luxury brand website. When that experience is lacking, they can easily take their business elsewhere and “shout” on social media about why it was so disappointing.
It’s not easy to fix those bad experiences after the fact, so retail businesses need to be proactive. Put consumers at the center of your strategy and you’ll find what they care about most — and then you can give them the best experience possible.
Why It’s So Hard to Put Consumers First
Most retailers are excited about new opportunities for digital transformation, yet they face a quandary on how to execute effectively.
Without the larger profit margins of luxury brands, many have been slow to move to the cloud. Instead, to respond quickly to customer needs, they’ve layered point solutions on top of point solutions. Over the years, the result is a complex architecture that’s not agile enough for today’s dynamic markets. It leaves businesses unable to take advantage of new technologies.
These point solutions only solve a limited number of tasks. You can’t digitally transform to better serve the majority of consumers when you’re burdened with limited-value technology.
Moving to the cloud lets you consolidate all that technical debt at your own pace.
It’s All About the Data
Retailers understand data on the front end, where consumers interact with their apps and websites. But if that consumer enters the physical store, a lack of integration means there’s minimal connection with previous interactions. With siloed data you lack the insight to identify exactly what consumers want and what experiences they have with your brand overall.
That’s a tremendous sales risk. If employees had consumer data available in real time, they could engage more effectively by making interactions more personalized and meaningful. It’s similar to the online experience. Personalized data helps an agent understand past purchases or purchase intent and the journey across multiple channels.
By predicting shopping behavior and making it available to agents, retailers can offer relevant selection assistance or personalized promotions. Positive interactions with a brand are shared on social media. At its finest, it’s word-of-mouth marketing — and it’s free.
Integrating Online and In-Store Customer Journeys
A bad interaction might be the last experience a customer has with you. If it’s a loyal, repeat consumer looking elsewhere for product, the loss can be compounded.
This is a real risk with the increase in volume of interactions and number of ways consumers can engage with you — voice, loyalty apps, in-person interactions, through your website and so on. If you’ve shifted some of your business to eCommerce, for example, you’re pushing your consumer one more entity away from a consistent personal experience.
Whether your brand ambassadors are virtual agents or humans in the physical store, you’re putting your trust in them to deliver results. Without a single view of the customer across all channels of engagement, your ambassadors aren’t empowered to drive revenue generation.
The Value of a 360-Degree Consumer-Centric Business Model
Successful retailers are rethinking processes and architecture to focus on a customer-centric approach. They’re designing solutions around consumers and their journeys. This “outside-in” lens has taken off as retailers moved to eCommerce. That shift includes adding multiple delivery systems — in-store pickup, curbside, overnight delivery — that aren’t part of their legacy cost models. It makes operational efficiency a moving target.
Becoming consumer-centric affects everything from your profit margins to how you ensure that every customer receives the highest quality interaction with your brand. The 2020 McKinsey Retail report indicates that effective consumer personalization can increase store revenues by 20–30%.
One jeweler moved half of its business online. But buying high-end jewelry, such as a diamond ring, is an emotional purchase. Consumers want to touch it and interact with it before spending thousands of dollars. The jeweler used artificial intelligence (AI) on its website instead. A virtual agent talks consumers through the process, takes a picture of the buyer’s hand and superimposes different rings on it. The result is an experience much closer to the in-person one.
New Opportunities for Brick and Mortar
Digital growth has changed the way retailers think about their stores. They’re becoming more focused on experiences. Target has a well-known relationship with designer Isaac Mizrahi who creates experiences based on a particular season or event. On Easter, customers might enter Target intending to buy an Easter basket. But once they experience a full Spring display, they’re likely to add more items to their shopping carts. The experience drives more sales.
Starbucks was a leader in “come in and stay to experience the brand” by creating spaces to work with free WiFi or to socialize with friends. More retailers are focusing on socialization and developing similar experiences in their stores to appeal to a consumer’s interest in social issues and environmental sustainability.
Make Shopping a Personal Experience
Moving to the cloud enables you to identify the digital transformation strategies that will most positively affect your customers’ shopping experiences — and influence purchases with your brand. It also allows you to consolidate outdated solutions that are no longer relevant to your consumers.
Gaining a single view of your customer opens the door to new opportunities. But it’s dependent on a connected, omnichannel experience that shares consumer data in real time. Give customers the same, seamless and personalized experience on your mobile app as they feel in your store or when engaging on loyalty apps and you’ll have the beginning of a beautiful loyal consumer relationship.