The consumer durables industry welcomed 2019 as the year of hope with all round improvements in customer sentiment and corresponding growth in performance visible for most major players. In keeping with the trend, most players chalked out aggressive growth plans coming into 2020 hoping to build on the improving market vectors, only to be hit by the current crisis due to the Corona pandemic. As the euphoria fades into concern, the writing on the wall is clear. Many of us are asking ourselves: What can we do? While there are no easy answers, this slowing pace does offers us time to consolidate and rethink retail like we had never imagined before. Clearly, with the lockdown in effect, the answer for an increasing number of retailers is to somehow tie their brands to superior customer association… create a “We care” bond that bring consumers come back to shop, and have a positive and memorable experience. The only way to do this is to focus on customer-centric services and experiences, and get ahead.
Rather than focusing solely on the products, retailers should be thinking about the different touch-points in the customer experience, from the store’s layout to delivering fast and helpful service and using technology to make the whole experience seamless. The present downtime will provide an apt setting to perfect the art through rigorous computer aided design solutions. Successful companies understand that in order to get results, customer experience must be treated as a never-ending journey. Brands must continually listen to their customers and evolve, giving them a reason to come back for more.
Strategies for Customer Centricity
Merchandise, price, promotion and traditional ways of going to market no longer suffice and retailers need to wake up and smell the coffee. Marketers too continue to work tirelessly to acquire new customers while keeping the existing ones happy, yet, they often seem to miss the most fundamental ways to increase sales and enhance the customer experience. Everyone need to take cognizance of how technology is changing buying behavior.
So how do you broaden your line of vision? Rethink existing marketing functions, modernize the approach and zero in on the answer to the one cardinal question viz. how do I enable my customer to relate to me/the products I am offering both in the physical and online space? This all important answer will help you grow the ability to touch your customer in the physical and virtual world simultaneously, and is the core of this changing landscape.
Invest in data and analytics
Retailers don't need expensive customer data platforms. They need to move toward creating a 360-degree view of customers by adding context, intent, insights and interactions to the basic data that they already have about their customers. In addition to demographic and lifestyle information, is they collect and analyze onsite behavioral, engagement, transactional, mobile and device and other kinds of available data, it will go a far way in unveiling consumer behavior thereby empowering them to strategise better.
Driving Customer-Centric Innovations for Retail
Marrying analytics to a tangible brand experience and association at the ‘in-store’ level is the key bridge that needs to be harnessed. Brands must constantly innovate and evolve with the people and their changing aspirations and lifestyle needs using analytics as tools of insight and translate it into the ‘in-store’ cues. This can be achieved by harnessing the power of disruptive technologies to reinvent themselves and offer innovative products therefore creating a proactive customer experience. This will also necessitate integration of customer centricity not only at the last mile connect but across the value chain of the company. Data is the crux of a customer’s journey. Customers don’t just engage with a product - they interact omni-channel with the whole store across a myriad of touch points!
Use of Artificial Intelligence and Virtual reality tools with build in audio and video functionalities coupled with 3D imaging helps make the store an interactive mate of the consumer vis-à-vis a passive channel. So making sure customer data is centralized and easy to access for all departments with built-in decision making resource tools that proactively adjust to the customers mood and contingent choices help promote an association while also pushing impulse buying behavior therefore adding to the bottom line. Further this data can then be fed to the marketing and promotion teams to better plan campaigns, while merchandising will be able to use it for product planning.
The mall of the future
The need to connect with consumers and create memorable experiences also applies to shopping malls. Brands are betting on experimental malls beyond just brick and mortar, outfitted with new engaging experiences to bring shoppers back. These malls of the future incorporate technological advancements and interactive experiences in order for physical stores to continue to be relevant making them exciting places.
Being customer-centric is perhaps more important than ever. At a time when most goods and services are easily commoditized, companies must find other ways to connect with customers. Redesigning retail spaces with the latest gadgets is not enough. Brand experiences created with an understanding that the customers will remember how a brand made them feel rather than a product or a service will far outlast everything else and is the one sure way of growing ahead of the curve!