At the National Retail Federation's Big Show earlier this month, retailers and analysts talked about creating a single customer experience, recognizing that ‘omnichannel’ or ‘cross channel’ left out the most important element: the person choosing to make a purchase. Allen Smith, CIO of Lululemon, was quoted as saying retailers have basically beaten the omnichannel talk to death. It is an interesting comment and shows the frustration and concern retailers are experiencing as they try to make a connection with customers who travel through brick and mortar stores, websites, social channels and back again.
Connecting with the customer through different sales channels remains top of mind as 2013 holiday sales reports show more shoppers purchasing online. Sales totaled $601.8 billion, representing a 3.8 percent year-over-year growth, and in line with NRF’s holiday forecast of only marginal sales gains. Online holiday sales totaled $95.7 billion, a 9.3 percent growth over 2012.
In 2014, retailers face another daunting sales year and are looking for ways to create more chemistry with a customer who is using multiple channels for information, looking for price deals and often not making a decision until the last minute. The first step in better customer engagement is an internal one. You need to improve those processes which ultimately affect the customer experience. Here we recommend three tasks you can do now to help build a stronger sales organization:
Update Your Cloud Strategy. Customers expect, and retailers need to deliver, a next-generation shopping experience that matches our bring-your-own-device world. Retailers will accomplish this via the cloud, according to NRF keynote speaker, Ginni Rometty, IBM’s CEO. She noted hybrid cloud deployments will be the most popular route. Retailers will have to balance speed and agility against the need for privacy and security, Rometty said. You will need to decide which applications – both internal and customer facing -- you want to move from on premise to the cloud. These include product lifecycle, collaboration, human resources, email and others. Extremely sensitive data is often stored in the private cloud but can be securely stored in the virtual cloud with the caveat the cloud hosting provider is giving you top-notch intrusion and detection prevention security and backup. Download PlumSlice’s ebook, “Get Clear On The Cloud,” for more tips.
Tune Up Your Product Information Management (PIM). Pricing errors have become as common as traffic jams; protect yourself and your customers against these and other glitches by improving PIM. Bringing PIM deeper into the product lifecycle is a good first step. You can use the cloud to make it easier to share product information on pricing, promotions and availability. This will help achieve accuracy and consistency across all sales channels, preventing mistakes and the inevitable customer frustration.
Get the Most out of Your Data. There is no shortage of data on customer buying trends and product sales success after the fact, but we believe data analysis can go one step further and understand customer expectations much earlier in the product cycle. We agree with IBM’s Rometty that big data is only as good as the analysis and effective actions that occur as a result. She says the future is in the hands of retailers who advance from descriptive and predictive analytics to prescriptive analytics that advise on next-based actions based on predictive insights. At PlumSlice we have developed a product research application that uses data analysis as early as the design and concept stage so retailers will be more in touch with customer desires, leading to more saleable products!
Call it cross channel, omnichannel, or a single customer experience, how to connect with the customer is the topic at shows such as NRF. Strategic use of the cloud and new applications will help you tune up your internal processes so you have a strong foundation from which to deliver a sensational customer experience.
Don’t be afraid to shake up processes in order to build a better product management operation.
"Agility is an archetype. Every successful retail strategy is about agility." — Jeff Roster, Gartner.