Maintaining omnichannel strategy and leveraging customer data will ensure success
If the last 18 months have taught retailers anything, it’s that they must commit to using tech to tackle modern retail challenges. Keeping up with customer demands for flexible, seamless shopping on their own terms isn’t easy. But what enables a truly successful transition to tech-led retail? It’s easy to be tempted by the newest shiny solution that promises everything, yet often doesn’t deliver the deep data integration needed to build a truly omnichannel business. To deliver flexible seamless shopping experiences, three elements must line up to adopt new tech – strategy, systems and customer data.
The first objective must be a defined digital experience strategy and vision, backed by the C-suite. Understanding customers’ needs and aspirations is vital. The business should then look within to its skills or partner with a technology expert to deliver this expertise. Most importantly, avoid the perils of overlooking data integration and capture the elusive single customer view.
CONNECTING WITH THE CUSTOMER
Generating the ultimate retailer-customer connection requires a deep understanding of your customers. Stats that can influence the bottom line are measurable numbers based on real customer behaviour throughout the retailer’s channels – recent purchases, shopping preferences – online, in-store, via mobile, and where – in store, in front of the TV. Other key stats include average spend, coupons use, click and collect – the more information the better.
With the seismic shift in lifestyle and shopping behaviour of the last few years, retailers now need the technology to engage with customers wherever they are. This means flexible tech and an anytime shopping experience, via an app, clienteling, or through virtual appointments. Customers expect a consistent personalised conversation with the brand whenever and wherever they are, in-store or at home. Providing remarkable digital customer experiences that outperform competitors and generate revenue is vital.
BEWARE THE PROMISES OF NEW RETAIL TECH
Once the customer is central to all business functions, it’s clear why some new retail technologies haven’t yet gained traction - for instance, conversations around the shopping ‘metaverse’ demonstrate that its benefits are yet unproven from the shopper’s perspective. Surface-level technologies like this can’t establish what customers really want, lacking in-depth customer data that builds relationships. The foundations of retail CX must be secure before any trickery is worth an investment.
Omnichannel is about connecting all channels, and making the customer central to this can be a daunting task. According to a report by Experian, a staggering 92% of companies don’t have a single view of the customer, having many touchpoints with fragmented and siloed data. Retailers must consider the whole business rather than marketing, sales, logistics and finance independently, but it’s hard to know where to start to meet customers’ expectations.
A single customer view is obtained using cloud-based commercial services and connecting ‘layers’, such as API orchestrators, open up even the most locked-down legacy systems. Payment systems and customer data should work together, with marketing and sales clearly aligned, utilising knowledge obtained from customer data. The right platform will enable this, and Red Ant’s cloud-based digital in-store platform, RetailOS, enables retailers to empower their employees to deliver the optimal experience.
From clienteling and endless aisle to pick from store, BOPAK and personal shopping, customers can shop how, when and where they want. The platform integrates microservices, IoT, machine learning and conversational commerce to deliver innovation and a truly connected store experience.
TAMING DATA CAN KEEP UP WITH CUSTOMER DEMANDS
Retailers are often overwhelmed with data and concerned about integrating their mix of legacy systems, third party systems, and new systems. But it’s possible to adopt innovative solutions that work with existing technology to provide a frictionless shopping experience for customers. It’s all about taming your data and making it work to provide next-level intelligence, including personalised customer service, sales and promotional information, analysis of store associate performance and real-time stock and delivery updates.
Embracing the ‘conscious consumer’
The surge in customers’ social and environmental awareness has increased demand for product information on a broad agenda, including wellbeing, diversity, ethical manufacturing processes and sustainability. According to Accenture, 60% of shoppers are making more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases, with nine out of 10 shoppers committed to this long-term. Red Ant’s Home and Furniture Survey reports, ‘30% of customers would choose their next sofa based on a retailer’s sustainability credentials’. Customers want parity with brands, expecting them to live the same values. This is perfectly possible, but only with readily available data.
Clienteling will engage customers
The future of retail is clienteling, to offer a trusted shopping companion with trusted information. The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the adoption of technologies that deliver a personalised experience no matter where customers choose to shop. Smart retailers recognised the value in using customer-focused experiences to retain their business when they were unable to visit physical stores, which paid off in terms of loyalty once stores could reopen.
Retailers delivering clienteling both in-store and online will allow customers to seamlessly shop and check out anywhere. Offering integrated clienteling augmented with virtual consultations allows store associates to cater to customers’ specific desires and needs and share the ethos of the company with them. Elevating the store associate role and giving them the authority and confidence to speak as ambassadors builds affinity with customers. Brands putting the whole business behind customer experience and utilising their customer data to drive strategic business outcomes will be the winners in a challenging and ever-changing landscape.
SARAH FRISWELL, CEO AT RED ANT
After beginning her career in account management, Sarah followed the client relationship ladder all the way to the emerging digital landscape in Dubai, where she led major projects for leading global brands including IBM and Volvo. On her return to the UK, Sarah joined Red Ant where she applied her extensive experience of networked and independent tech-based businesses to drive the company forward in its pioneering work with high-profile brands such as Charlotte Tilbury, Furniture Village and Chalhoub Group. As Red Ant’s CEO, she is responsible for driving and guiding the business, from ensuring the company is run in a sustainable and ethical way to heading up talent selection and overseeing project progress and delivery to clients. She is particularly passionate about diversity, equality and encouraging the progression of women in what can be a tough industry, and has been instrumental in ensuring positive measures are part of Red Ant’s policies.
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This article was also published in The Retailer, our quarterly online magazine providing thought-leading insights from BRC experts and Associate Members.