Providing superior customer experience is now critical to staying competitive for retailers.
So why is this happening?
It’s been predicted that customer experience (CX) will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020. And I believe this. We’re experiencing this already. Major brands, with high levels of sophistication, are providing superior customer experience across the entire customer journey. Their digitally connected customers are engaging the brand across numerous channels (smart phone, TV, laptop, in store, etc.). And, there is deep and broad integration with 3rd party functions that support these retailers (e-storefronts, search, UPS, PayPal, YouTube, Google Maps, etc.). These mediums and functions combine to provide seamless transitions, from consideration through purchase, and beyond.
Enabled by digital trends, and partnerships, CX has expanded with more touch points, better integration, personalization, and greater decision support. And the organizations that are doing this are gaining massive market share at alarming rates.
So, customer experience matters more than it used to.
But in addition to this, product and price are becoming more challenging as points of differentiation. This is because the combination of WWW, global manufacturing, e-commerce, and shipping integration is providing customers with a greater selection of vendors, which are selling increasingly similar products. At the same time, easy pricing comparisons and pricing analytics are leading to more price stabilization. These factors are commoditizing products because of wider availability of more similar products. Hence, product and price are becoming tougher areas to carve out a competitive advantage.
So, customer experience matters more, while products and prices matter less. Got it.
That’s great, but while we watch hundreds of brick and mortar retail stores shutter their doors, how does the average retailer find a way to compete with the big boys on customer experience to remain relevant?
I’m happy to report that there is an answer.
The same forces that are creating challenges for retailers, are also creating the opportunities. TCS has developed software created specifically for multi-channel retailers to enable them to increase marketing efficiency and effectiveness by elevating the end-to-end connected customer experience.
To boil it down, there are three CX imperatives that can now be facilitated by digital technologies and approaches.
- Know your customer: This means more than having a list of names, emails, and phone numbers. This mean incorporating all available data, to understand behaviors, propensities, attitudes, actions, and more. You must gain a full 360-degree view of your customer across all the channels they are using. From this, you will develop rich personas and customer segments that let you drill down for insights and apply your marketing efforts and offers in a strategic and personalized manner.
- Track the customer journey: You must gain visibility into how the shoppers are engaging with your brand. How did they find your website? What other products and vendors are they considering? What action did the customer take after watching a video? What else did customer buy? Did they leave a positive or negative review? How long did it take the customer to receive their order? What is next best offer to provide to the customer? It is now imperative to gain timely visibility into the customer journey, AND to actively model journeys for your customers. You can no longer simply expose all your customers to whatever you have and hope that something works.
- Engage the customer along the journey: Knowledge and insight are critical but you also need to automate how you deliver strategic personalized offers to your customers at the right time, in the right way, at scale. This requires near real-time visibility into the journey couple with ways to trigger particular KPI-based alerts, automated actions, recommendations, that are specific to the customer persona.
The TCS solution, Customer Intelligence & Insights for Retail (CI&I for Retail) is software that creates a 360 profile of each customer, maps their buyer journey, and generates highly relevant, contextual next best actions – be it an offer or recommendation. CI&I for Retail uses machine learning as applied AI to learn from customer data to understand current and future customer behavior, and is an open, extensible platform that readily fits into and with existing and emerging IT environments. This future ready solution allows Retailers to step in and create exceptional end-to-end customer experiences and leverage any existing customer analytics, reporting and engagement investments.
But, retail organizations also need to click the “easy” button.
The attributes above cover the “what” but many organizations are also stuck on “how.” In order to implement these capabilities in a practical manner, CII for Retail was designed on an open-source based, extensible, and scalable platform, making it fast to deploy, cost effective, and it promotes integration into, and with, existing IT infrastructure and 3rd party systems (via APIs, platform services, and data models).
This is not just another analytics platform that “could” be used for retail. With its pre-built out of-the-box use cases, CI&I for Retail is built to retail standards using industry-standard data models. It is software that is pre-configured to securely leverage data unique to retailers such as POS data sources along with emerging data sources such as social media, digital footprints, and more.
Built using extensive TCS expertise in implementing solutions for retailers, the software includes the security protocols and can be configured to support any number of privacy standards based on customer need.
The lesson here is that retailers do not need to build everything from scratch (they can’t). Instead, they can now leverage digital technologies, partner ecosystems, and a customer-centric approach to deliver superior customer experiences that drive competitive differentiation, to stay relevant.