According to the agenda for NRF 2019, the world’s largest retail conference, there will be a major focus this year on customer experience and related technologies, processes and approaches. Just take a look at this pie chart which sums it up, which I developed for a recent blog post:
As you can see, many of the focus areas directly and indirectly support CX.
In 2019, retailers (especially ones with brick and mortar stores) will be making critical decisions to survive and thrive. They are facing tremendous pressure to adapt to big shifts:
- The rising expectations of today’s connected consumers are pressuring retailers to cater to their individualized demands. Yet few retailers can provide true personalization in marketing, product offerings or customer service.
- Winning on price is increasingly a losing battle. Type a product name into Google and the lowest price on the planet appears in 0.000341 seconds with an option to buy now.
- It’s getting harder for brands to stand apart through quality alone. Even trusted old-school brands outsource the manufacturing of most products overseas, making it harder for consumers to equate a brand with a particular level of quality or exclusivity. Consumers can be easily discouraged to realize that a “genuine” product is now made overseas. Countless cheaper, identical knock-offs are being sold online by unfamiliar brands.
The global marketplace is commoditizing nearly every product category, leaving CX as the last battleground for differentiation. Industry analysts, technology vendors, consultancies and even consumers agree that CX is the key to customer loyalty, larger shopping baskets, and more store traffic.
Unfortunately, CX is a big topic. As NRF shows us, it’s creating a feeding frenzy of thought leadership, vendor solutions, business practices, transformations, reorganizations, and new business stakeholders.
Customer experience has so many facets that it can be difficult to know where to start. Here is a list of starting points:
- Improving Customer Service
- Improving service/product offerings
- More precise targeting of marketing and personalized offers
- Providing a truly omni-channel experience (seamless across mobile, online, and in-store)
- Visibility and optimization of the customer shopping journey
- Improving mobile apps, as well as online and in-store experiences
- Incorporating digital shopping experience assistants (chatbots, augmented reality)
- Leveraging third party partners for value-added products or services and to gain deeper customer insights
With so many starting points, what steps can retailers take in 2019 to make progress? Why not begin by committing to three New Year’s CX Resolutions:
- Unify customer data to enable advanced analytics: Data silos are the enemy of analytics. They prevent IT departments from delivering cross-domain, timely insights that enable retailers to make quick decisions on how to engage particular customers at a specific point on their shopping journey. Retailers must seek out a Customer Data Platform (CDP) that supports internal, external, structured, unstructured and real-time data, with a data lake architecture. This provides the foundation on which all data-driven CX decisions will be made. It will enable retailers to address everything on the list above.
- Prioritize strategic business initiatives for CX: Determine which items from the list above promise the best combination of business benefits and implementation feasibility over the next 6-12 months. Pick one that can be accomplished in a reasonable timeframe to make it possible to demonstrate results and make a case for continued investment.
- Accelerate time-to-value with pre-built analytics for retail: Stores need to avoid having CX initiatives become the victim of massive, multi-year business transformation and digital transformation programs. Sure, they are important and may already be in progress to improve operations, security, resource utilization, supply chain management and more. But you can make a difference now, without hiring teams of data scientists, application developers and business consultants. For example, the Digital Software & Solutions Group of TCS has developed a retail-specific analytics solution that includes a data-lake-based customer data platform with pre-built retail use cases to enhance customer experience. It includes customer 360 degree views, persona discovery, dynamic customer segmentation, shopping basket recommendations, customer journey discovery and management, and AI-driven contextual recommendations for next best offers and actions. It can deliver the insights and actions to drive many of the items on the list of customer experience starting points, while supporting development of additional analytics use cases for the future. It also easily integrates with front-line systems that touch the customer, such as POS and marketing automation systems.
Retailers do not need to boil the ocean to compete with better customer experiences. By committing to these three New Year’s CX Resolutions – which can be started and finished in 2019 – they can modernize their businesses to meet and exceed the expectations of today’s connected consumers.
Here’s to a prosperous new year filled with great customer experiences!