Changing retail game with customer-driven commerce

From customization to dialogue and participation, having customers deeply involved in product development will influence the way customers show brand loyalty, writes Shwetha Satyanarayan.

If AI, seamless connectivity, personalization and experiential retail are said to be the future of the industry, retailers will have to watch out for customer-driven commerce, new studies suggest. From customization to dialogue and participation, having customers deeply involved in product development will influence the way customers show brand loyalty, writes Shwetha Satyanarayan

“Gaining customer loyalty and retaining customers has been my biggest challenge so far,” says Namya Patel, a millennial entrepreneur, the co-founder of online apparel brand Enkashi. In a bid to stay unique to each customer, the startup has a strict policy- one garment, one size and one pattern. “We want to be unique to each customer who wears our brand,” she explains.

For many retailers and brand owners, doing multiple things to retain a strong loyal customer base has been the retail routine. From personalizing offers to launching loyalty programs, technology has played a key role in connecting retailers with customers. However, subscriptions and exclusive loyalty programs may just not be enough anymore as new studies suggest that customer-driven commerce will be the future of e-commerce.

So what is customer-driven commerce?

This new trend will be the future of the retail industry, where customers can not only design and choose the clothes that they want to wear, but can even involve in deeper brand connection strategy. For instance, global brand Ministry of Supply has launched a new customer connect initiative, where customers can design their own prints and get a glimpse of apparel through robotic 3D printing. Depending on their choice of colour, size and patterns, apparel like jackets will be delivered to the customer in a short span of time.

A recent study defines customer-driven commerce, “Using advanced listening tools and product customization, brands are empowering customers to feel like they are a part of the brand. Engaging customers in two-way conversations, brands are encouraging feedback, dialogue, and participation to drive product interest and deeper brand connections.”

A recent study on customer loyalty suggest that globally as much as 41 per cent customers agreed they remained loyal to a brand that encouraged their participation and they wouldn’t mind switching brands, if their expectations were not met.

Stressing that customer involvement is part of their brand-building strategy, Namya, says, “We depend on social media to connect with our customers since as a startup that’s a cost effective way to do. Also, we get an opportunity to interact with them one-on-one which gives us a deep understanding of what they expect from the brand and how we can step up to improve customer experience. Hence, we strongly believe in two-way communication with our customers just to deliver what they like.”

Like Namya, Nivedita, founder of e-commerce place Ikkiva, too depends on pop-up stores to meet customers and understand what they expect from the brand. “We often hold pop-up stores like every three months across metro cities to understand what patterns and customizations are customers are expecting, and accordingly, our collections will be designed,” she says.

Enhancing customer commerce experience through AI

If customer-driven commerce is all about personalization and convenience, AI can further be adopted to enrich customer experience, suggests Rohan Mahedar of Capillary Technologies.

He says, “Artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to improve in-store experience and adopted for better store operations. For instance, depending upon the customer base, a retailer can use AI for right store layout, to understand what a customer wants in which part of the store and what enables quicker shopping. Also, online, micro segment of personalization can be achieved by remembering their previous searches, preferences and so on.”

In the USA, the Coco Cola connected with a lot of customers through ‘Share a Coke’ campaign where the brand printed the name of a customer instead of the brand logo. With commonly called names of people printed on the bottle, many bought and shared a coke with their friends. With such trends taking over the world, customer-driven commerce will be the right way to serve customer base.

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