Today’s retail customers are a formidable force. In what is now an always on world, customer expectations are continually shifting, they browse online and often buy with their smartphones, yet they also like stores - provided their interactions are not complicated. In short customers demand a seamless experience that is on their terms.
With the unprecedented pace of technological change most retailers are struggling just to keep their head above water. They know that technology is the key to creating the seamless experience customers want, but are overwhelmed by the constantly changing environment of digital development. With limited IT and digital budgets, retailers need to ensure they are making smart investment choices.
No one can predict the future, especially in digital, but we can prepare for it. And we believe that by deconstructing the need for customers to constantly be connected, retailers can develop a much deeper understanding of the evolving digital customer - and make the right choices about how best to serve them. Accenture has highlighted seven areas that can help retailers achieve success.
- Unlocking Big Data - To serve your customer well, you need to really know them. That means you don’t just need to know about shopping habits and social conversations, but also about what they do on a day-to-day basis and how these habits change. Only then can you make effective decisions around how products, prices and promotions influence an individual’s buying behaviour.
- Double-down on Analytics - Retailers need to be truly relevant to each customer, incrementally and consistently. Only by continually re-evaluating (and re-prioritizing) where and how to invest, per customer, per day, can you discover what resonates best with each of them.
- Offer 100% Inventory Visibility - Customers expect to be fully informed about what’s available. They will decide if the trip to a store is worthwhile by checking stock availability - if that data is incorrect and the trip is wasted - then there is a frustrated and unhappy customer. Customers need access to truly reliable inventory across the business.
- Provide Engaging Content - In a search-driven world, high quality content, extendable to encompass enriched and creative contexts, is crucial. For example, when Sephora discovered that women of colour spend 80% more annually on make-up because they find it so hard to get an exact skin tone match, the cosmetics retailer teamed up with Pantone, the colour specialists, to create a foundation-matching tool. Each of Sephora’s customers can now use the tool to identify the foundation that’s exactly right for her.
- Thoughtfully Designed Experience - Apple has set the benchmark for elegantly designed, easy to use products. By establishing a dedicated design platform for new seamless services, retailers too can rapidly imagine, pilot and sale thoughtfully designed customer experiences.
- Re-imagine Your Supply Chain - Customers expect to get their product their way - sometimes they want it shipped to their home. Sometimes they will pick it up in store. They are willing to wait for free delivery, but the expectation of how long it should take for a package to arrive is shrinking every year. Most retailers are failing to meet theses shifting needs, and almost need to revamp their supply chains, end to end. They must learn from the likes of Amazon, who is moving rapidly toward predictive shipping and putting employees in manufacturers’ warehouses to anticipate demand. The success off which, depends on the use of big data and analytics.
- Rethink Your P&L - The price transparency enabled by the digital revolution is changing every aspect of the retail value proposition. The entire organisation is now inter-connected and inter-dependent and retailers urgently need to redefine their cost structure. In the movie industry they have already done this to reflect the advent of VHS, then DVDs and now digital downloads.
Retailers no longer define the customer experience; the digital customers are doing it for themselves. Customers power is set to increase exponentially, due to the fast pace of digitalization. Retailers are able to deliver the seamless experience that today’s customers expect. By systematically evaluating their goals and aligning them with core customer needs, they can start to establish the building blocks of 24/7 success - and ensure their readiness to tackle the challenges of the next wave of the digital revolution.
Helen Merriott, Managing Director, Retail, Accenture UK