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Retailers must ‘obsess’ about customers for future success

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Retailers and other businesses must become “obsessed” with the people they serve if they are to succeed in the age of the customer, a new Forrester report suggests.

The Forrester Reseach report, Winning in the age of the customer, suggests that companies are making a mistake if their top priority is not around making their business more customer-focused.

“Technology and economic forces have changed the world to such a great extent that an obsession with winning, serving and retaining customers is the only possible response,” say the report’s authors, led by Michael Gazala.

The report argues that “winning companies” tap into mobile connections for speed, set up systems to gather customer intelligence, make an impact through a better customer experience, and embrace digital transformation in their journey towards flexibility.

This is necessary, it contends, in a culture shaped by recession and uncertainty that has weakened consumer demand and ultimately favours customers over suppliers.

It’s a shift that has affected industries from electronics to media and from telecoms to travel. In retail, customers now expect to order online and pick up in store, while business-to-business (B2B) buyers now expect to buy from a website rather than a salesperson. That will put, estimates Forrester, some 1m B2B salespeople out of a job.

Ultimately, suggests the report, technology has given consumers control of information, price and location, and retailers and other businesses must respond quickly. It quotes examples such as McDonalds in France which enabled on-demand ordering through an app that was downloaded by 6m people. It suggests that innovation should be embraced wherever it appears in the organisation.

The report also concludes that businesses in the UK will be among those that gain early from the “vigorous competition generated by customer obsession.” The UK stands alongside the US and China in this list. “The degree of regulation in these countries is moderate – enough to create a more level playing field but not so great as to inhibit all competition,” concludes the report. It says that the EU will suffer from restrictive data privacy laws while developing countries in Africa and South America will only see growth when the government or companies set up to create a safe environment for their customers.

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