The power is shifting from brands to consumers in the digital age and COVID-19 is accelerating that change. Consumers today have access to information anytime and anywhere, more choice and the power to find and get what they want.

Even if a brands products and services are better than the competitions, it may not be enough to thrive now and post COVID-19. Somehow, retailers must break through the noise created by the deluge of information, options, and distractions by offering truly unique, valuable, and memorable experiences.

That’s easier said than done.

Many of the attributes once considered distinctive have become table stakes. Amazon online shopping features that were once perceived as differentiators, like offering product recommendations and storing personal preferences, are now expected on every brand’s website. Even free shipping and free returns have become ‘me-too’ features.

The challenge for retailers is to stay on top of constantly shifting table stakes and differentiators and reimagine customer experiences based on customers evolving needs, preferences, and broader desires. What is a differentiator today may be table stakes tomorrow.

There are many stories about the demise of retailers who did not innovate to meet customers’ changing needs and expectations. Folgers Coffee failed to stay on top of shifting customer needs and Starbucks emerged to fill the gap offering coffee experiences customers valued. Starbucks delivers exceptional experiences in shops and grocery stores across the country, even selling their coffee in supermarkets on the same aisle as Folgers. Proctor & Gamble ended up selling Folgers to Smucker’s and Starbucks went on to prosper by continually reimagining the customer experience.

Blockbuster Video is another example of a business that did not stay on top of customers changing needs. Founded in 1985, Blockbuster Video closed operations in 2010 for a multitude of reasons including overall unprofitability, the rise of DVDs, massive debt, late fees, and over ambitious growth. Most significantly, however, was competition from a new incumbent, Netfilx, founded in 1997, that delivered content in a new, frictionless way that made the Blockbuster model obsolete.

There is a long list of retailers who failed by staying committed to the status quo while savvy competitors redefined the customer experience including: Kodak, Polaroid, Aol., Atari, Xerox, Yahoo, Blackberry, to name just a few. 50 Examples of Corporations that Failed to Innovate and Missed Their Chance presents a partial list of retailers that did not survive. The list has grown significantly since the article was written in 2018.

How do you stay off the list of brands that failed to stay relevant?

Build a culture committed to change. Leaders must create an environment where new ideas are welcome and experimentation is encouraged. Brands need to challenge conventional wisdom and consider alternative solutions that meet customer needs and expectations in new and memorable ways.

Creating and supporting a culture that embraces change and innovation is challenging, but brands bent on defending the status quo are sure to show up on the list of retailers that failed.

Understand your target audience better than anyone else does. Retailers have access to more data than ever before. Big data and analytic solutions can help brands manage and analyze all sources of data and deliver the data-driven insights needed to understand and serve target customers in more relevant and personalized ways.

Give customers a compelling reason to choose you over the competition. Based on data-driven insights and a culture that encourages out-of-the-box thinking, brands can create differentiated experiences that customers truly value and share with others. For experiences to break through the noise, they cannot just be better, they must be exceptional.

Do you have the corporate culture and the technology tools needed to understand your customer better than anyone else? Is your organization prepared to stay on top of constantly shifting table stakes and differentiators and reimagine customer experiences based on customers evolving needs, preferences, and broader desires?

Click here to find out how TCS Customer Intelligence & Insights for Retail can help you create and deliver valuable, memorable, and differentiated customer experiences now and in the post-COVID-19 world.


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