Jamie Merrick, director of industry insights for Demandware, outlines what retailers need to do to meet increasing customer expectations in the digital age
Designing and then implementing great experiences tailored to individual customers is always going to be tough, but if retailers keep a trio of issues at the forefront of company thinking it will be much easier to make progress. First and foremost, traders need to make the time to innovate in ways that serve the customer better, but that can be easier said than done.
In particular, retailers too often get fixated on technology as an end in itself. Yet retailers’ core competency is within, well, retail itself. Retailers should work with partners whose technology allows them to focus more on the customer experience than underlying systems.
DATA AND PERSONALISED EXPERIENCES
That’s not to say technology and the use of data don’t have a role here. But forget about big data for a moment. One of my colleagues is fond of saying that most retailers have actually got a small data problem: you get lots of data from people who very seldom come to your business to buy – unless you’re talking about a supermarket where customers need items on a regular basis.
Nevertheless, it’s important to use the data you do have to create experiences for customers based on what they want rather than what they’re not interested in. Don’t ever treat customers as ‘average’. This doesn’t just mean recommendations of products. When a consumer phones customer service, for example, it’s about quickly recognising that customer, not in a way that’s obtrusive, but in a way that gives you a perception of that customer at that time – and what they probably like and what they probably don’t like. It’s good old-fashioned service, but we’re able to do it now at scale because of digital technologies. Jamie Merrick, director of industry insights for Demandware, outlines what retailers need to do to meet increasing customer expectations in the digital age
JOINED-UP RETAIL IS THE NEW NORMAL
Finally, retailers need to remember that the era when you bought something from a store, and you then took it back to that same store if there was a problem, is over. Customers now expect to be able to buy an item online and take it back to the store, or buy it in the store and send it back by post. Customers know this is technically possible, whether a retailer is keeping pace with this world or not.
If that’s the new normal, where consumers are in control of how they shop, then retailers need to respond, and the only way you can do that is by use of cloud-based technology. The old way of doing things where retailers have a bunch of disparate technologies glued together just doesn’t provide the necessary scalability or flexibility. Retailers also need to consider elastic demand – you’re going to have peaks on days such as Black Friday, you’re going to have troughs – and cloud-based technology also helps to deal with this.