IT MAY INTIALLY seems curious how an element of retail craft that was once regarded as a soft skill has become so central to all that businesses do in the digital age. Think twice though, and an increasing emphasis on brand engagement by retailers is entirely logical.
Where once, your friendly neighbourhood shopkeeper knew all of his customers personally, that’s impossible in the age of the internet. Instead, retailers have to find ways to automate communications, via email and social media. In return for these efforts, retailers are getting back more information than ever before, at least in terms of the sheer volume of data, as customers share personal details and retailers build up, for example, purchase histories. Seen in this light, it would be surprising if the art of maintaining ‘conversations’ with customers, and doing this at scale, wasn’t a defining skill in multichannel retail.
Moreover, as Jamie Merrick, head of industry insights at Salesforce Commerce Cloud points out in our emerging practice feature, consumers now expect this data to be used to improve service levels and the customer experience. Otherwise, why should customers want to share information? There has to be a quid pro quo.
This picture isn’t going to change anytime soon. Indeed, treating this customer information carefully is going to become even more important as a way for retailers to differentiate themselves from competitors. Further complicating matters, as brands go direct to consumers and new kinds of subscription-based services become increasingly commonplace, retailers are going to need to initiate conversations with the quiet insistence of someone being polite at a noisy party.
But woe betide any retailer that shouts because all the evidence is that this only irritates consumers. Getting to know customers, scaling up the restrained charm of the neighbourhood shopkeepers, is a way to prevent this.