Today’s consumers have never had more options when it comes to researching and purchasing products. Online sales and the emergence of new digital channels have provided virtually unlimited assortment, price transparency, and visibility to the opinions and experiences of millions of shoppers around the world. This combination of rising expectations and ubiquitous information has raised consumers’ expectations of businesses. After all, if they can see the price for a product halfway around the world, they expect just as much transparency from the businesses in their community. Because they are empowered with knowledge and alternatives, more than ever before the power rests with customers.
Unfortunately, in most cases businesses are struggling to keep pace with the rising expectations for consistently excellent brand experiences across all channels and touchpoints. Too often, technology has been built to serve the needs of employees, rather than being built to meet the needs of empowered customers, leaving customer needs unmet. While a well-designed ecommerce site, friendly in-store sales staff and engaging email campaigns help favourably predispose customers to a brand, great customer experiences are based as much or more on giving the customer access to relevant information – accurate inventory information, cross-channel order history and flawless order execution. Increasingly, customers are expecting direct access to all of the aforementioned information.
As businesses look to support these new customer expectations, they are coming to the realisation that their existing back office systems, which were designed to support employees and internal operations, handicap them when it comes to orienting around the consumer. In too many cases, organisations have left 1980s-era traditional ERP/finance systems at the core of the enterprise and tried to solve customer experience problems with a range of highly specialised point systems. The result: businesses that are unable to adapt to evolving customer expectations and that are spending millions of pounds to stitch together a patchwork of siloed systems.
Because these systems are designed around departmental processes, rather than around the customer, many of these businesses are unable to understand their customers and turn insight into business advantage. Because their customer data is spread across CRM, ecommerce and multiple systems of record, they cannot reward their most profitable customers, predict demand or ensure repeat business.
The future belongs to companies that recognise that the role of technology is to serve their customers better and orient around them. This orientation around customer experience is frequently called omnichannel commerce or, more accurately, customer commerce. Enabling customer commerce requires creating an organisation that is channel agnostic. But it also requires fundamental changes to systems and processes that support your business.
It requires redesigning the core business management system from the inside out, with the explicit goal of improving the customer experience.