Why is a Connected Customer Experience the Key to Success?
Why connecting all your selling platforms and data will lead to a more successful business
A few months ago, I was shopping at a high street retailer and found a great suit, except for the fact that the jacket sleeves were too short. In order to get another ordered, the sales assistant had to call another store to determine if they had the jacket, then get me on the phone to provide the store with my information, including name, address and credit card number – even though I had a store credit card.
During this transaction, a line of customers built up behind me at the checkout. Instead of having an inventory or customer information available over a computer or tablet, the company had me making a phone call like it was 1999 – frustrating me and the other customers left waiting, and costing their business valuable time and resources.
The need for a single, unified record in your business
Experiences such as mine underscore the critical need for a single, unified customer record across all touchpoints – physical POS, e-commerce, call centre and mobile devices. It needs to be accessible by both customers and retail personnel to avoid hiccups that can undermine customer confidence and loyalty. Yet, this 360-degree view is difficult to achieve with the disparate e-commerce, CRM, POS, inventory management, and order management systems in place at many retailers.
Costly and brittle systems integration can mitigate the issue, but anything less than reliable and real-time updates to the customer record from any channel introduces the risk of failure in service and the overall experience. Once the customer record is broken, it’s extremely difficult to stitch it back together, and opportunities are lost.
Leading-edge retailers are taking advantage of technology that delivers a complete omni-channel customer view while connecting all front- and back-office business processes, from e-commerce and POS to inventory and financials.
Clothing stores like H&M have already begun trialling a mobile phone application that a customer can use to request immediate in-store help from an assistant while shopping in the store. Another approach some retailers are taking is to marry the online and offline by taking a purchase started on an ecommerce site and concluding it in the store. For instance, a local clothing store looking for a competitive edge, could allow a customer to create a virtual dressing room online and stock it with items they are interested in. The customer could then book an appointment in the store and when they arrive for that appointment, go straight into a dressing room that would already have the items they selected online waiting for them.
So what do retailers need to do to ensure success in this omni-channel business world?
Personalisation over any channel: Customers expect consistent, personalised engagement at each interaction. Meeting that demand requires a single customer record that reflects purchasing history, interests, channel preference, and more to give individual customers an experience as unique as they are. In my shopping experience with the retailer I mentioned above, I would have been impressed had the associate been able to determine inventory availability and place my order, right over a tablet.
Customer loyalty-building initiatives: Shoppers value and reward ongoing engagement and meaningful promotions targeted to their interests. With a 360-degree view, retailers are positioned to understand frequency and spend, thereby anticipating customer needs and responding with the best offer over the best channel at the best time. Customer-centric marketing and service that focus on strengthening loyalty contribute heavily to retention and lifetime customer value.
Intelligent order and inventory orchestration: Buy anywhere, receive anywhere, and return anywhere, flexibility has become a key ingredient in meeting omni-channel expectations. Order delays and inventory stock-outs that were once tolerable now result in lost business and customer dissatisfaction. Orchestrating across diverse fulfilment points, from warehouses to stores to third-party distributors, is paying big dividends for retailers with integrated systems.
The importance of having a single customer record and real-time inventory update is crucial given the rise in consumer expectations for a seamless omni-channel experience. In today’s competitive business world, customer satisfaction is paramount; and with contemporary technology making data storage and access more convenient and affordable, experiences like mine should not happen…
This article was written by James Cronin GM of commerce EMEA, NetSuite.