It’s all very well waxing lyrical about Sears, Macy’s and J.C. Penney, but let’s be honest, they’ve let things slide. Having fallen behind the times, they no longer relate to today's consumers.
In the last decade, Sears has closed 22 percent of its stores. We’re witnessing the death of the mall because traditional retailers failed to invest in customer intelligence, and they ignored data analytics and changes in purchasing behavior.
Millennials’ spending power will soon surpass that of previous generations. These younger consumers buy with a click, they want things now, they expect to be wowed. To survive, “traditional” retailers must crack this demographic, go to where millennials and Gen Zs are hanging out — i.e., social media — and listen, listen good.
How to Come Back From the Brink
In 2017, retailers have to realize a new future — late to the party, but still achievable. Their priorities should be mobile technology, personalization, humanized customer service and awesome customer experience.
Deliver an Awesome Customer Experience
Retailers must understand consumers’ needs and expectations — get to know them and identify their behavior. Walk through the customer experience and find the touchpoints where consumers interact with your brand. Be more like a consumer and less like a brand.
Retailers that already get this ensure a wrinkle-free purchase journey. They use chatbots to provide customer support, self-checkout kiosks and advanced digital payment technology.
Remember, consumers have mobile devices that double up as wallets — this is natural to them.
Chatbots Enabling Frictionless Shopping
Busy consumers looking to spend want information quickly and answers to their questions before they’re prepared to hand over their cash. Savvy retailers like Taco Bell, Domino’s Pizza and H&M have already jumped on the "botwagon" to support online transactions.
In 2015, Domino’s introduced “tweet to order,” targeting tech-savvy consumers. Proving hugely successful, it followed with its Facebook Messenger chatbot — Dom. This embracing of technology has brought an estimated $4.7 billion annually in global digital sales.
— Domino's Pizza (@dominos) June 19, 2017
Customer experience is a big deal. Take a look at the big names that recognize this and you’ll appreciate the importance. Apple Wallet is heading towards cashless times, Amazon.com is targeting a no-click future with Amazon Prime Now, Echo Voice Re-Ordering, Amazon’s Choice, Dash Replenishment Service and Dash Buttons.
Consumers Follow Trends, So Should You
Don’t be afraid to follow trends. If it’s trending on social media, it’s because it’s hugely popular. Take advantage and jump on that trend.
Starbucks is a trend ninja. The coffee giant knows how to use social media and give consumers what they want. It saves a fortune using social media influencers (i.e., is customers) to sell its products. Did you try a Unicorn Frappuccino? Its taste was questionable, but it looked great on social media and quickly went viral. It’s a trend that wouldn't exist but for social media.
A post shared by Starbucks Coffee ☕ (@starbucks) on
Engage and Reward With Loyalty Programs
Customer loyalty has to be fought for. Research shows that 79 percent of customers will abandon a brand within a week of experiencing poor customer service.
Loyalty clubs or reward programs win customers — and keep them. Many brands, including Sephora, McDonald’s and Starbucks, have already implemented loyalty programs. H&M: “Say goodbye to plastic membership cards. It’s all happening in your smartphone!” The fashion retailer offers a loyalty program in which customers earn points when purchasing in-store and online. Collected points unlock exclusive offers, promos, rewards, access to events, a 25 percent discount on their birthday and a 20 percent discount when signing up online.
That’s a Wrap!
As consumers living in a digital age — and that’s not just limited to millennials and Gen Z — we expect brands to know our preferences, appreciate our budgets and make us feel special.
We’re holding all the cards; without us, retailers can’t exist.
Todd Grossman is CEO of the Americas for Talkwalker, a social media analytics and monitoring platform.