Retail is all about the value and its perceptions

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Customers are the king and queen in retail and they are valuable to the business. On the flip-side, customers are also seeking value in what is being offered to them. Retail brands across the globe are fiercely pegged against each other in this value game, and the one who offers the best value as perceived the customer will be the clear winner.

Let’s try to understand this better. In this day and age of technology driving the industry towards innovation and disruption, there is no ambiguity anymore in the current and future roadmap for retail businesses to survive and thrive. One thing is clear, the retail brands who standout on their customer experience expectations will taste success. However it is important to understand the customer experience paradigm.

Traditionally, retail was transactional and product focused, but that is no more the case. As the focus of the business pivots on the customer, the customer experience paradigm has undergone a significant shift since the early retail days. This shift has largely been the result of technology enabling customers equipping themselves with more information and decision making power, thus putting them in the driver’s seat who are now calling the shots. Fundamentally, the customer experience is all about the value the customer perceives in two ways – i) their interactions with the retail brands, and ii) the offerings they receive from those brands in terms of products/services. Thus, it all boils down to the value the customer receives from their relationship with the retail business.

For retail brands, the best part is that now they have multiple opportunities to provide perceivable value to their customers. As retail has moved from transaction focused to being more customer centric and other factors have influenced the sector big-time, the shopping journey has evolved. Here is where retail brands can seize their opportunities to establish their value offerings. For example, while the customer is researching, a retail company can provide the necessary information that the customer seeks, even though the customer is not seeking information with the intention of purchase. Another example is where a customer can be offered an additional discount while their product is replaced due to issues in the products they had initially purchased. These are some of the many instances of how retailers can offer value – either qualitative or quantitative. These valued offerings will cement the brand-customer relationships in the long-run and thus prove to be a mutual benefit for both the retail company and the customer.

Build long-lasting relationships with your customers

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Traditionally, shopping as an activity was highly transactional, but today it is an exciting journey. Earlier, shopping seemed to be simple and straightforward. But today, it has gotten complex because every step in the journey involves multiple touchpoints available for retailers and customers to interact. However, from an optimist’s point of view, there is an opportunity for retailers to capitalize on this complexity.

Being at the epicenter of the retail business, every retail owner is trying to woo the customers in order to grab their maximum span of attention and maximum share of wallet. Customer experience has therefore become the ultimate battleground for retailers to compete. To be better than the other, retailers are trying all sort of tactics to be able to deliver the best customer experience to win and sustain them. And while many retail companies are in this rat race to strike big with their customers, only a handful are getting it right.

The reason for such a circumstance is obvious and yet highly overlooked. Simply put, the main cause for retailers failing to get their customers to stick is that they haven’t taken efforts to get the basics right. Fundamentally, it is the relationship that the retail brand shares with its customers. The stronger the foundation, the longer the relationship will last. Customers prefer to do business with brands that they can relate with and retailers therefore, need to build long-lasting relationships with their customers.

Being constantly connected with their customer is one way a retail business can help in fortifying the relationship. Staying connected effectively means that the brand needs to be available and ready to fulfil the customers’ needs be it for a product or for information, whenever and wherever the customer wants it. By seamlessly integrating together the various touchpoints a consumer might use to engage, retail owners can leverage and optimize the data from these engagements to plan and design a strategy that is most likely to resonate with that particular shopper.

Another surefire technique to strike the right chord with customers is personalization. Basically, it is the ability of a retail company to know their customer by name and also be able to approach them with a personalized set of communication. This will allow the brand to strengthen their customer relationship by demonstrating that they “know” the shopper’s preferences well. Personalization can ensure cementing the consumer’s loyalty in the retail business thus sustaining their confidence in the brand, making it a preferred choice.

Being connected to the customer will enable retail brands to understand their customer and deliver personalized offerings. This combination allows retailers to not only extend exceptional customer experience, but also it is a must to forge and fortify brand-customer relationships to ensure that their customers continue to stick to the brand.

CRM Is A Two-Way Street In Retail

Customer Relationship Management (CRM), as the name suggests, is primarily a customer-centric tool. But, it does have a multi-pronged effect on key business functions, proving to be the catalyst in organically evolving and optimizing retail planning and processes. Retail CRM helps retailers service, retain and grow their customer base.

The foremost and elemental expectation from a Retail CRM tool is to create more demand. It provides the necessary insights about the customer – her buying capacity, behavior or her preferences on products and promotions. It is no surprise then that many retail companies have begun implementing CRM programs in to the business. The promise of retaining and growing customer base through CRM is realized by these methods:

Loyalty programs: Global reports have shown that retailers can raise profits by 75% by retaining just 5% of the current customer-base. So, loyalty programs, if effectually planned and sustained, can be a substantial growth driving tool within the business. These programs can be planned to stay nimble as per the business objectives – to acquire more customers and make them stick, to increase transaction value from current base and to cultivate brand loyalty as a prestige token through preferential treatment.

Promotions: CRM based metrics help retailers evaluate their marketing campaigns and promotions. It applies the base of a seamless rewards and recognition program that can be automated and promoted through multiple channels. Determining the right channels for the promotions forms part of the strategy which can be allocated as per promotion phase, budget or target demographics. The promotions can be analyzed real-time to be revised or reinforced, basis customer feedback.

Personalized Offerings: This is perhaps the most significant part of retail CRM technology, albeit used inadequately, due to high dependency on external factors like trained staff, complete stock visibility, back-end system integration with real-time CRM information, etc. If these dependencies are adequately resolved, the retailer can break down his customer data and identify servicing factors which distinguish him from the competition. He can understand the product, payment, timing preferences and demographic details based on location, age, gender, race, etc. This information is worth its weight in gold, if employed successfully and executed perfectly towards providing superior shopping experiences.

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While increasing the demand side of the business remains sacrosanct, the course of action to achieve the same is subject to further correction. Most retailers reward the wrong customers and deprive the right ones by presenting equal or average service value to both.

With a powerful Retail CRM Software integrated across all operations, the retailers can have a 360° view of all business functions such as Omni-Channel and E-commerce, intuitive POS, Mobility, Daily Reports & Analytics, Social Media, Customer Support, Loyalty Programs, Promotions and Marketing Campaigns, which hold the potential to creating the desired demand from the right customer community.

At the same time, the customers’ expectations for a more delightful and better rewarding, personable experience and value will only increase through their consumption cycle with a retailer, making the transaction of knowledge and experience a two-way street.

Emerging technology is making it possible for retailers to match performance with desired pace in all channels across the globe. Cloud computing and marketing ensures that the process data shows the ‘one version of truth’ with real-time ease. Mobility in-store and online applications further provide the convenience and incentive to simply click, choose and buy. Through a powerful and engaging social media connect, brands can capture the most coveted real estate in retail – the customer’s mind. All these technological measures help improve the shopping experience, increase the brand equity and also keep feeding additional data to the CRM solution equipping it with the ability to harness potential with strategic speed.

The above points illustrate how CRM is a comprehensive tool, which can be used to not just grow the business but also to support it to stay competitive, apply sharper focus and merge the art of customer engagement with the science of derived business value.