COMMENTARY

Chris Petersen: Forget the 4Ps … 4Cs are not enough … the new 4Es of retail

Aug. 3, 2017 | by Chris Petersen

Photo: iStock.com

There has been much discussion about the changing face of retail. Omnichannel has literally become the new normal. It is no longer a question of online versus stores. Consumers today quite literally shop anytime and everywhere. They no longer separate physical retail (stores) from digital.

Shopping has become a seamless experience across time, place and devices. In this new era of retail anywhere and everywhere, traditional marketing is dead. Retailing has transformed from a product/place business to a people based business where today's customers are focused on experience across their customer journey spanning time and place.

The 4Ps are dead. Successful retailers are now differentiating through the 4Es – experience, everywhere, exchange and evangelism

The traditional 4Ps of marketing are dead

For centuries, retailing has been based upon the 4Ps: product, price, promotion and place. Retailers still "sell" products at a price both online and in store. So, what's changed? Why are the 4Ps now being assailed as both inadequate and ineffective?

In the age before Amazon, retail was all about location. Customers had to come to stores to purchase. Retailers could differentiate by carrying different selection of products. And before online, pricing and promotion where instrumental in attracting customers and driving store traffic. Today, it is virtually impossible for an individual retailer to differentiate solely on product or price.

But, the real reason the 4Ps are dead is the change in customer behavior and their expectations. Today's omnichannel consumers shop anytime and everywhere. They expect "unlimited" product selection, with the ability to price compare, all from the convenience of the new "place" of retail - their smartphone.

What happened to the 4Cs of marketing?

In 1990, Lauterborn suggested 4Cs to replace the 4Ps of marketing: Consumer wants and needs, cost to satisfy, convenience to buy and communication.

While these 4Cs do shift the focus from products to the customer, I don't think that they adequately capture today's consumer omnichannel expectations.

In a 2013 blog, I asserted today's ommichannel consumers are now in control of their own customer journey. They are in fact voting with their wallets for retailers that fulfill their version of the 4Cs:

Connections: The key here is plural. Consumers expect to connect with brands anytime, anywhere … especially on their smartphones.

Choice: Today's consumers are not limited by what they can find in a store, or even the goods they find in their own country.

Convenience: This "c" is closely related to choice. Consumers are increasingly looking for convenience of how they purchase, but also where they choose to receive their goods.

Conversation: If there's one thing about today's consumer … they are social! Consumers are more than likely to begin their journey on social media looking for conversation, and most importantly look for recommendations.

So, what's wrong with these 4Cs? Nothing. However, the 4Cs above are primarily focused on consumer expectations. They do not adequately address what retailers must do to proactively change their business and marketing.

Evolution to the 4Es of experiential retailing

Despite unprecedented store closings, we are not yet suffering a retail apocalypse. What we are witnessing is how traditional retailers are struggling to transform their business in an age of digital disruption where the customer is now in charge of their experience.

Pamela Danziger has an interesting post on Forbes (Retailers Need New Tools for Marketing: Forget the 4Ps, Embrace the 4Es.) Danziger puts forth both the arguments and the essentials of what the retailers must do to adapt to customers. She underscores one of the most pivotal issues for retailers today: what customers want may not be what retailers are selling.

While retailers cling to the 4Ps because they can control them, Danziger maintains retailers must align with today's experience driven customers by focusing on the 4Es:

Experience: The sum of the customer's experience is the new "product."

Exchange: The customer doesn't just want a catalog of products at a price, they want an exchange of ideas, information and value beyond price.

Evangelism: Promotion is not enough, and customers are tired of being bombarded with deals. Evangelism really translates to "engagement" that is personalized on the customer's terms, lifestyle and values.

Everyplace: Stores have been replaced by "everywhere" and communication must now be everywhere as well.

Others have argued for even more Es: emotions, execution and engagement. What is emerging is a very clear picture that retailers must do far more that selling things from shelves at a price.

Whatever Es you choose, the emerging picture of retail success requires transformation to a very customer centric, experiential business. Daniel Newman, CEO at Broadsuite captures the essence of the 4Es in this statement: Every experience point is a marketing effort. Taken in that context, everyone in the company becomes a marketer.

The definition of insanity is doing the same things over again and expecting different results. While it might be possible to drive temporary traffic and sales with incredible prices, the results will be temporary at best.

The very best at retail today have transformed from selling things using the 4Ps, to engaging customers via the 4Es, in ways that build lasting relationships that create lifetime value.


Topics: Consumer Behavior, Customer Experience, Customer Service, Digital Merchandising, eCommerce, Marketing, Merchandising, Omnichannel / Multichannel, Online Retailing



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. wwwView Chris Petersen's profile on LinkedIn

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