The latest in our New Year series of features assessing the shape of retail in 2014 focuses on the person who, our industry commentators agree, will be the focus on attention in the year ahead: the customer. Retailers, they say, will be looking to new ways of showing the individual the relevant content they want to see, while big data and personalisation technologies will play an important part in reaching them with ever more timely and relevant approaches.Customer first
"The most prominent mind shift we have begun and will continue to see in 2014 is a focus on the customer journey and adopting a ‘customer-first’ strategy. At a time when customer demands are higher than ever and loyalty is at an all-time low, retailers need to get smart about how they interact with each individual customer. The majority of traditional retailers accept that they can no longer live in silos to their digital counterpart and need to optimise the customer experience. A retailer can’t delineate where a customer journey starts and stops – it should be a seamless experience where the customer chooses which channel to engage with the retailer through.
"We expect 2014 to be a year in which retailers continue to consider each customer as an individual with specific needs, requirements and demands from their relationship with any given retailer. In order to convert customer interactions into sales, it is important to note that the customer experience hinges on much more than the cost of a product. Instead, it has never been more important to take into account the usability of customer touch points, channel integration in order to portray a clear brand message, and deals and recommendations tailored to each customer. Whilst this change in mind-set might be difficult to come to terms with for more traditional retail marketing departments, this is an exciting time in retail where the customer really is king."Pat Phelan, VP of client services, EMEA, at BazaarvoiceComplete the picture
While targeting customers over multiple channels, brands need to have a complete picture of their shopper. Many retailers are now trying to take a single customer view, ensuring that the pieces of their marketing campaign are working more efficiently together. The use of first and third party data to ‘super’ target the customer base will grow in the coming year so that brands can change the way they engage with customers as individuals. Everything from acquiring new customers, to re-engagement with dormant customers and existing active customers will mean that brands can plan how to market to different individuals based on real insight, and employ a highly targeted approach.Rakuten Marketing Use the data
"Many companies have been collecting data for years but are not necessarily putting it to good use. 2014 will see a greater number of e-tailers making use of this information to personalise their offerings to customers and predict market trends.
Tesco is a good example of a retailer making the most of big data to innovatively increase sales. It uses weather records and detailed sales data to help predict demand for certain products based on weather forecasts."James Hardy, head of Europe, Alibaba.com Get personal
“In 2013, personalisation has been the weapon of choice for retailers, as marketers realise the importance of understanding a consumer’s likes, dislikes and past behaviour in order to build effective relationships. Responding to the needs of individual consumers did not rely solely on the amount of data captured, but rather how carefully chosen information was harnessed and used.The most successful retailers were not those who collected the most data, but rather the ones who collected the right data and used it most effectively.
"In 2014, we anticipate that personalisation will continue to be front-of-mind for retailers, but they will go deeper, turning their focus to addressing the challenge of co-ordinating and integrating their marketing across touch points and time. As such, an orchestrated marketing strategy across all digital channels will be essential for retailers looking to deliver a more consistent brand experience. Those retailers that can adapt in this way will achieve a competitive advantage in this new relationship era as they stand to gain greater profitability, efficiency and ultimately higher customer satisfaction.”Jon Stanesby, director, strategic services EMEA, Responsys Highly personalised marketing
"According to a recent survey, consumers are more aware of personalised marketing efforts as nearly two-thirds (66%) said they have been offered promotions and merchandise tailored to their past purchasing and browsing behaviors. More importantly, more than half of the consumers polled said they would be willing to share information about themselves for more personalized shopping." Christophe Marcant, vice president of product strategy for Stibo Systems Inform to engage
"Personalisation and customisation will continue to be extremely important considerations within the retail space across both digital and physical customer touch points. Customers are very savvy and want to be informed by brands and retailers: the challenge for retailers is to provide appropriate information at the relevant moment in the lifecycle.
"The ability to provide a tailored customer experience will develop over the next few years and will be facilitated by the large amounts of customer data which retailers have at their fingertips. By analysing this data, retailers are able to evolve and improve the service they provide in order to understand the customer and best meet their needs. By synchronising databases across all touch points, retailers are able to create an ecosystem where the dataset is accurate and up to date and customer information is easily accessible at all times across channels and provides a unified view of each individual customer."Pat Phelan, VP of client services, EMEA, Bazaarvoice