The idea of retailers putting the customer at the centre of all they do is not new. Indeed, it’s become something of a cliché, with the phrase ‘single view of the customer’ all too likely to be uttered at a conference with an eye-roll and a remark about how gaining such a view is, of course, an impossibility. Except is it? As Paul Skeldon outlines here in our emerging practice feature, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming retailers’ understanding of their customers. Add in the increasingly sophisticated way companies now analyse social media and, via such techniques as taking email addresses when customers make purchases in-store, retailers’ improving ability to track their customers across different channels, and it seems we may be at one of those points where the retail sector is about to undergo profound changes – again.
These are changes that will also be driven by macroeconomic-political factors. As growth in Britain lags behind that on the continent, it’s clear many parts of the British economy are sluggish in the wake of the Brexit vote. As the effects of Brexit continue to play out, it may be advisable for retailers not to bank on a return to faster growth anytime soon. This puts a particular onus on retailers to drive new business by being better at what they do than competitors. Which brings us again to the recurring theme in this Dimension Report: improving the customer experience to take market share. Quite simply, those retailers that best understand their customers will be best placed to do this. This means retailers have to make the most of new techniques and new technologies to build their understanding of individual customers. This in turn increases the reliability and richness of the data retailers hold on customers, and so a virtuous circle is created.
We’re not suggesting this work is easy or straightforward. It requires bringing to bear a combination of resources, imagination and clear thinking. However, the alternative is worse: losing market share at a time when trading conditions are tough.