CONTRARY to common practice, the United Nations has so far failed to declare this year to be the international year of anything in particular. But for retailers, this year (and every year) must be the Year of the Customer.
How retailers define, find and convert shoppers into customers has changed, of course, and the retailer’s omnichannel strategy is now critical to achieving that conversion and growing sales.
Foot traffic is, for many retailers, not what it once was. Even being located in a shopping centre or mall is not the guarantee of shoppers it has been in years gone by.
In the US, as many as one in three of the 1200 enclosed malls are “dead or dying”, according to a study from Georgia Tech.
Communities of people are not coalescing around physical shopping hubs as much as they once did. It’s a trend retailers such as Amazon are right across, creating online shopping hubs that offer shoppers the chance to ‘discover’ unexpected bargains just as much as physical stores, and reflecting this product mix in their physical bookstores.
Online, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest have unearthed infinite iterations of communities, and retailers can choose to target those most relevant to them — home decor devotees or foodies, for example — and find ways to bring them in-store online.
Or they can look for ways to build their own communities around a cause. Coles and Woolworths, for example, are now taking more of a community-based approach to their marketing after being focused on price for years. Witness “Good things are happening at Coles.”
Technology has opened up the ways retailers can interact with potential customers online, from online grocery shopping to product reviews and recommendations, and beyond.
Wine retailer Cellarmasters, for example, has collected more than 7000 reviews, with shoppers who have read one 58% more likely to make a purchase.
And Fantastic Furniture is now focused on executing on its omnichannel vision after coming late to the ecommerce party.
But through all of these efforts, one theme emerges when it comes to a successful omnichannel offering: “The guiding principle is to be consistent, whether it’s the pricing we offer, products available, services or warranty,” according to Fantastic Furniture’s head of digital head of digital, Leigh McKnight.
And the key to achieving consistency is breaking down the silos that foster inconsistency and divergence.
Data is one area in which retailers must achieve integration, bringing all their customer data together and using new analytical techniques to improve the end-to-end customer experience.
For Fantastic Furniture, technology integration has been critical: small marketing teams struggle to devote the time required to manage all the point solutions that marketers have purchased in recent years.
“We’d brought on a lot of bolt-on solutions, and they’re all there til we migrate fully to the cloud,” McKnight says.
“If we can get things into one management suite, it makes it that much easier for our small team to manage things.”
This is not only true of ecommerce applications but the physical channels to market that retailers can’t abandon: out-of-home advertising, television, print, catalogues — whatever that may be.
Getting a single view of mass market and online activity across all those channels and breaking down those silos is more important than ever if retailers are to achieve consistency, build brand saliency and create consistent, exceptional customer experiences.
And that is the only way retailers will make 2018 their Year of the Customer.
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