It’s Time to Forgo Band-Aid Solutions and Shift to Unified Retail
In his book "The Tipping Point," author Malcolm Gladwell described the Band-Aid solution as the best kind of solution because it “solves a problem with the minimum amount of effort, time and cost.” Gladwell’s point is excellent, but only if you’re trying to patch a problem while maintaining the status quo. If the status quo is unsustainable because your industry is facing a disruption that’s so massive it can only be described in apocalyptic terms, then a Band-Aid solution isn’t a fix at all; it’s a blinder that will doom retailers to obsolescence through technical debt.
At the moment, band-aid solutions dominate the conversation in retail. If retailers aren’t focused on in-app purchases, then they’re obsessing over how to deploy location data to their retargeting solutions, or how to connect social with loyalty programs. There’s nothing wrong with these solutions generally. However, by investing in technologies that are meant to optimize individual engagements, the end result can in many cases be a more fragmented engagement with differing views of a customer. With so many disruptions to retail, this is an important distinction of pressing to innovate quickly, leveraging band-aid solutions when necessary and protecting against technical debt that has short- and long-term drains on your intellectual capital.
Retailers must focus on redefining engagement value for all consumers in efficient and scalable ways. Above all, it's critical to understand how consumers are using technology in their everyday lives, and then employing technology to implant the retail brand as an essential part of their lifestyles.
This is what Gartner calls the transformation from multichannel to unified retail commerce. The goal is to unify all customer-facing processes to meet customer expectations. In order to keep the focus on engagement across the marketplace, the theory of unified retail commerce calls for all customer-facing processes to be defined in their most basic terms: consume, search, transact and fulfill. If retailers think of those processes from a consumer point of view, their market intelligence becomes the basis for new digital business transformations that align with retail’s present and future.
Central to that future is marketing automation, especially as it relates to SaaS integrations at point of sale. Between Alexa and the advent of the Dash button, Amazon.com has reset consumer expectations around consumption, search, transacting and fulfillment in automated ways — innovations that have helped the company capture 35 percent of total e-commerce sales during the fourth quarter, according to Morgan Stanley.
In contrast, short-term solutions that are designed to optimize only specific shopper segments without a view of the market as a whole will virtually always fail to be sustainable.
Unified retail commerce doesn’t discount individualization or a channel’s impact. It doesn’t minimize the stacking effect of channels used in coordination. Rather, it forces organizations to simplify a very complex customer experience and not lose sight of the brand immersion goals in lieu of channel tactics.
“Good marketers see consumers as complete human beings with all the dimensions real people have.” — Jonah Sachs
Related story: Ready or Not, Digital-First Retail is Here
Baker is a MediaPost “Email Insider” columnist and former “Email Insider” Summit Chairman and program director, and his works have also been published in iMedia Connection, Internet Retailer, Adweek, Direct Marketing News and ClickZ. Additionally, he has spoken at leading industry conferences including Adtech, OMMA, DMA, Shop.org and LeadsCon.