A retailer's guide to driving modern customer experiences
By Antoine Rizk, vice president of go-to-market programs, Axway
The growth of the digitally connected world should be great news for the tech-savvy retailer. No longer are the days where customer interactions are limited to the physical confines of brick-and-mortar stores; digital sources like mobile apps, websites, social media platforms, and email subscriptions enable retailers to reach consumers at multiple touch points and opens the door to a new world of ultimate, tailored customer experiences.
Specifically, the customer journey is transforming into a cross-platform experience, bridging the gap between physical and online stores and creating a seamless, personalized customer experience.
This traditional omnichannel (or multichannel, as it's sometimes called) approach is touted as the be-all and end-all strategy in promoting ultimate customer experiences as a modern retailer. It almost sounds too good to be true and, unfortunately, that's usually the case. Unifying data streams sounds like a matter of plugging and chugging data into the right columns on an Excel sheet, but the real challenges arise in deriving actionable customer insights from data points.
In executing an omnichannel approach, a retailer must be aware of many different and complex considerations, including but not limited to: data collection and processing, startup and upkeep costs in managing data, security risks in storing customer data, and the transformation of data points into strategic customer experiences.
Even if a retailer is able to overcome the challenges and hurdles of implementation, the value of the omnichannel approach operates largely in hindsight, relying solely on existing enterprise-customer interactions. Ultimately, the traditional omnichannel approach simply does not provide enough informational background to craft the predictive insights that so many consumers have come to expect from retailers.
The future: Overcoming the traditional omnichannel approach
Consider that a traditional omnichannel approach deals with data from sources such as apps, mobile websites, brick-and-mortar stores, and social media platforms. What if there was a way to translate the data points from every channel and create a seamless flow of customer data? Luckily, technology in the form of data and application management platforms now exist. These types of platforms can be used to manage data from the application layer and beyond, allowing for secure, adaptable and scalable data management and a real-time customer view based on relevant data. Additionally, a robust management platform can also offer analytics capabilities that measure and transform customer data to drive actionable insights and predictive customer experiences, further reducing valuable processing time on the business end.
Once retailers build this real-time, unified view of the customer, the next step requires evolving beyond these internal sources to craft ultimate, predictive customer experiences. As mentioned, past customer behavior and purchase history do not necessarily extrapolate into future customer behavior. In order to anticipate customer actions and expectations, you will need to know much more about them via external data sources that come from your partners' network, as well as from other institutions in the broader ecosystem. This means that retailers should extend their customer omnichannel strategy to include partners, suppliers, and external third-party organizations — creating a network to drive better customer experiences.
In summary, the question of customer experience today should no longer be "what is the profile of my customers and what product or service can I offer them to meet their expectations?" Enterprises should instead ask "what will be the future behavior of my customers and how can my entire ecosystem help me in creating and supplying my customers with what they will need?"
Retailers can leverage modern technology to utilize external and partner resources to create a comprehensive customer profile, allowing for a more personalized and outside-in view of the customer. By interacting with outside sources, a retailer creates a predictive customer experience (rather than a reactive one) as it utilizes more data points across an ecosystem.
The challenge now lies in accessing data from this greater ecosystem and evolving your network. However, the payoff in overcoming these new hurdles is much greater. By linking with partners and other members of a similar ecosystem, the shift to a customer experience focused platform model allows customers, partners and suppliers to contribute value as an ecosystem, which ultimately fosters innovation for each enterprise involved.