“No company can afford not to move forward. It may be at the top of the heap today but at the bottom of the heap tomorrow, if it doesn’t.”- JC Penney.
With consumer segments gradually migrating towards the digital world, traditional businesses are striving to compete with E-commerce giants. Shifting from brick-and-mortar to click-and-portal (or setting that up as an additional platform for interaction with your customer base) is definitely a challenge.
But, as always, the demand for what is now considered an evolved shopping experience is leading the change. The only difference is that this time, the context of transformation is a complete change in the “space” of interaction as opposed to just tweaking or enhancing an existing space. With life on fast forward, the need for convenience, 24X7 availability and mobile engagement are now essential additions; not replacements to the customer experience design.
These digitally disruptive retail experiences appear to be cold virtual interactions which seem like just transactional momentary relationships with no room for loyalty and long term bonding, but they are actually an opportunity for you to get a lot more insight into Who your customer really is! How?
Any retail establishment usually has three main foundation pillars which define and provide brand and service experiences:
A dip into the virtual goldmine will make you aware of the trails that your customers have left behind – who they are, where they are, what they’re doing, how they shop, their preferences, their life stage, food habits, family, hobbies, purchase motivators and everything else that you need to know. Storing and capturing this data is automated, and it creates a bank of information which can literally hand over the “sweet spots” to you. Data Mining, when used to its potential, allows for a Retailer to create experiences which are more personalized. It creates a virtual ‘silver platter” with cross-sell, upgrades, bundling and pre-emptive service parameters.
Predictive analytics and options such as ETL facilitate the creation of a robust CRM system. Analytics capabilities and operational process flows, usually don’t go together even though integrating the two provides for a better service experience. Furthermore, combining traditional business processes with the best of breed IT architecture and software technology streamlines for better synergy between POS and virtual channels. This requires a great of degree of process automation. The entire process becomes more customer-centric because it ensures that you are where your customer is at any given point in the purchase decision making cycle. You finally have “one view” of the elusive buyer.
You can promise the world, but if you cannot deliver on it, it’s the end of the world for you as well. “Instant Gratification” is the hallmark of customer interactions today. The last mile- fulfilment, is the key and it is completely dependent on efficient Inventory Management. With a managed inventory, you know exactly how much you have on hand and how much you need. It leads to a more organized warehouse and prevents product shortages. It increases efficiency and productivity and reduces manual work. It has real time monetary benefits because your inventory can be stocked according to pre-emptive demand, reducing warehousing costs for you and delivery time for your customers. Legacy IT architecture, which is the backbone of the supply-chain through which an organization’s operations processes executes online purchases, is not flexible or intuitive enough to function in a digital market place. However, technology has helped bridge that gap significantly. Having the right products available on demand requires your core systems – order, payment, tracking, inventory, delivery and security to work in tandem with IoT, cloud computing, webstore front technology and API integration to pull customers in and keep them coming!
Value creation through digital product innovation, real time data analytics supporting personalized product choices and secure, error-free consistent experiences requires adapting with technology and integrating it all into a cumulative consumer experience.
It all ties back to the beginning where we talk about constant availability, because that is what consumers are looking for today – convenience, suitability and a holistic experience that can drive them to come back for more. Technology can drive retailers to grow exponentially and when used intelligently, help in the creation of businesses digitized to deliver. Eventually, we all should get IT right!