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It's the "Age of the Consumer." That's not news. The lead articles on retail are chocked full of stories about how consumers are now empowered through their mobile devices and online shopping. Consumers have indeed changed their behaviors, and more importantly their expectations. With the ability to shop any time anywhere, consumers have come to expect new levels of personalized service. This age of retail has truly become all about what you can do for me. What does this new level of personalization mean for retailers?

Some stats on how YOU the consumer are changing, and changing retail

While there certainly was online shopping a decade ago, Amazon was just getting a full head of steam. In the early days of ecommerce, it was almost a novelty to shop online. Indeed, a primary driver of shopping online was to check prices. Getting the product in a week was exceptional, and tracking an order at every stage online was unheard of.

My how times have changed! With smartphones, you the consumer not only have the capacity to shop anywhere, you expect new and amazing levels of service in this omni-channel world. And, you aren't afraid to shop multiple places simultaneously. According to recent studies by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and IDC the stats on your recent behavior are very revealing:

  • 76% said they used mobility in-store to help make a purchase decision

  • 53% said they abandoned an in-store purchase because of information, prices or consumer reviews they found online

  • 64% of consumers believe that in-store use of smartphones will turn up information as useful as going online at home before coming to the store

It's not up to retailers – YOU are demanding a personalized world

In our recent posts, we have been discussing the implications of "omni-channel" retailing. You, the consumer, are expecting a "seamless" experience that transcends the retailer's store and online website. As a consequence, retailers are now facing the need to connect with consumers at many levels, but especially a personalized engagement level across channels. Consider the following stats:

  • 70% of consumers are more likely to buy from retailers that support shopping apps

  • 58% of consumers are more likely to engage with brands integrating social media

  • 62% are more likely to stay engage through multi-channel personalization

So the question is: are retailers adapting to you the consumer? What does it in fact take for retailers to offer and exercise personalized service?

"ME-tailing" – It's all about personalizing service for You

I believe in giving credit where credit it is due. I ran across the term "Me-tailing" in post by Jamie Anderson on Forbes.com. Anderson's premise for the emergence of "Me-tailing" closely parallels our last post on Consumer Centricity vs. Product Centricity. It's still important for retailers to manage the profitable sell through of products.

However, the consumers are increasingly migrating to a "channel-less" world, where mobile and in store shopping are not isolated, but rather a blended experience. The new blended omni-channel world enables a more "personal experience". And frankly, you expect it. In a consumer centric world, it is not just selling you a product today, but creating a relationship where you the consumer will purchase many products and services over time.

In an omni-channel world, it is about "connecting all of the dots" across all channels where you engage, whether it be online, in store, through service centers or via social media. In the words of Anderson:

Call it "me-tail," where retailers offer personalized interactions that are informed and contextualized by information gathered in real-time through mobile, social and in-store channels, as well as any other customer touchpoint.

Me-tailing … Easy to talk about, tough to execute!

Me-tailing is very tough for retailers to execute … particularly for those with a foundation in bricks and mortar. Store systems don't connect with online systems and databases, which don't connect to call/service centers. As a result, how many times do you the consumer have to re-enter your name and id information. You are not often recognized as the same consumer across different systems, because retail was designed to sell products, not track and build relationships.

Five fundamentals for Me-tailing … and success in consumer centricity

Obviously, there are far more essential elements to success than just 5. But, if today's retailers could just execute these well, YOU the consumer would be more impressed and more than likely to vote with your wallet with someone who creates a personal relationship.

  1. Know your name … or at least your "handle." There is nothing more personal than your name! Almost all online get your name, address and email address when they take your order. Few stores do. Most importantly, they don't put CRM (Customer Relationship Management) in place to follow-up with you personally.

  2. Recognize you across time and channels. The very successful relationship based retailers like Tesco have used loyalty cards for years. They know when you shop, where and what you buy. In an omni-channel world, the "card" needs to become digital. Retailers have to recognize it's you their valued consumer wherever you shop … whether in person or by phone.

  3. Personalized offers and value. One of the biggest opportunities of loyalty programs is the ability to "get to know you" through purchase patterns. People respond to perks and offers that "fit" them … that are contextually relevant to their life and what they buy. Amazon does a brilliant job of mining "big data". Omni-channel retailing will require tracking best customer relationships across time and channels.

  4. Personalized just for ME! Nike has made an outstanding business of allowing consumers to go online, or in-store, to design their "own" shoe in custom colors and style combinations. The old days of retail were "buying something off the rack". In today's world, consumers want to be able to customize their fashion, PCs … and even order customized pizza from their smartphone while they are driving to pick up.

  5. MY way … where I want it. Just as you are choosing multiple places to search and buy, you want to have choice in how and where to pick it. You are not always home to pick up shipments … which is why Amazon is putting lockers in convenience stores. Consumers will pay Darty stores in France to have their store purchase delivered to their door within 3 hours or less.

Me-tailing is all about getting to know you as a lifelong consumer … and giving you personalized service both in shopping and after the sale. My way is more than a slogan, it is the recipe for success in a consumer centric omni-channel world.

Come meet Chris at this year’s Retail Customer Experience Executive Summit! Registration is now open and early-bird pricing is in effect.

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Latest posts by Chris Petersen
Chris Petersen
Chris H. Petersen, PhD, CEO of Integrated Marketing Solutions is a strategic consultant who specializes in retail, leadership, marketing, and measurement. He has built a legacy through working with Fortune 500 companies to achieve measurable results in improving their performance and partnerships. Chris is the founder of IMS Retail University, a series of strategic workshops focusing on the critical elements of competing profitably in the increasingly complex retail marketplace.
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