Embracing the Digital Consumer: How Retailers Can Meet the Needs of Connected Customers
With reports swirling about the uncertain future of the retail industry, retailers are working to stand out in a highly competitive market, deciphering what customers really want from the brands they interact with, and delivering those things in a timely manner. While determining what consumers want may seem daunting to retailers, according to a recent CMO Council study, it appears the main thing they desire is simplicity. The study, “The Customer in Context: Understanding the Real Expectations of Today’s Connected Consumer,” revealed that a focus on delivering value in core channels instead of half-baked experiences or engagements across every channel is a differentiator for consumers. While senior marketers surveyed admit that catering to the ever-evolving needs of today’s digital-minded consumer is a major challenge, it's one that they recognized must be faced head on if they want to remain competitive in the retail industry.
Specifically, the survey found a couple of critical priorities that retailers should consider:
Listen to Your Customer
With more than 42 percent of consumers connecting with companies across more than one channel, 15 percent say their engagement is exclusively digital. Retailers need to determine which channels are most important to consumers based on their level of interaction, then tailor their efforts accordingly. Contrary to popular belief, consumers don't want retailers to be everywhere at all times. Rather, consumers expect a couple of solid channels, such as the company website, email or a direct phone line, to be available to them should any questions or concerns arise. Given this, marketers need to accept that what customers want is control over their interactions with brands and be willing to hand over that control. All of this maps back to retailers being prepared to respond to customers’ needs in real time. In order to better do this, retailers need to pay close attention to the interaction trails the customer leaves, and individualize engagement efforts accordingly.
Consumers want to be recognized when they feel they have a “relationship” with a company. They should be rewarded for returning to the site, and in no circumstances should they need to re-introduce themselves every time they decide where and when to engage. In fact, 33 percent of customers surveyed find themselves annoyed with slow service or interactions with representatives who have no knowledge of their past history. To avoid upsetting customers, retailers need to ensure a consistent customer experience by first avoiding data silos. Companies need to take accountability and recognize actions across channels, ensuring all engagements are recognized in an omnichannel manner. Retailers can no longer use broad demographic personas; they need to move to tracking and understanding consumers at individual levels.
Whereas before the consumer mind seemed a complex maze to brands, we’ve learned that their wishes are actually quite simple. While the bar has certainly been raised, today’s technology provides retailers with a unique opportunity to evaluate the billions of signals they receive from consumers, connecting with them in more meaningful ways than ever before. Assessing these signals will allow retailers to market to consumers in the moment, addressing them when they're most open to influence and ensuring repeat interactions with the customer.
Bernard Chung is senior director, global solution marketing, for SAP Hybris, an e-commerce solutions and omnichannel software provider.