Customer-centricity: Time to move beyond the buzzword

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By: Mike Capizzi, CLMP™ |

Posted on January 15, 2018

The “alleged” retail apocalypse has fostered a plethora of commentary and insight regarding changing customer expectations and what merchants can do about it. While the verdict is still out regarding new strategies, practices and technologies to help retailers truly become customer centric, the loyalty marketing discipline remains at the forefront of the revolution – assuming retailers act rather than talk.

By Mike Capizzi, CLMP

A new research report from retail IT consultancy BRP describes the motivations and anticipated actions of retailers to drive the necessary transformation. As the customer landscape and associated expectations continue to rapidly evolve, disruption and adaptation are vital to both newcomers and the survival of long established retail brands. The metamorphous includes e-commerce players opening brick-and-mortar stores while traditional retailers experiment with new models: stores as showrooms, theatre, distribution centers or pop-ups. Much of this transformation is enabled by new technologies designed to magnify and enhance the customer experience.

The BRP 2018 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, reports that retailers recognize the urgency to transform their operations and 81% plan to have unified commerce within three years. We ask a simple question – what took them so long? Veteran loyalty marketers have long advocated multi-tender, multi-channel program designs to realize the potential associated with best customer initiatives.

The key quote comes from Brian Brunk, principal at BRP.

“Retail and customer engagement models must transform. However, the legacy retail applications and infrastructure still in place at many retail organizations are not properly equipped to support changing retail models and continuously evolving customer expectations. To meet the demands of their customer, the retail winners in 2018 and beyond need to accelerate the transformation to cloud-based unified commerce. Victory belongs to the agile.”

Is it as simple as that? New technologies to enable the 360-degree view that retailers have been talking about since the late ‘90’s? While we agree with Brunk that technology enables, we are reminded of the old loyalty mantra that imagination wins.

“As customer expectations have been reshaped by the digital retail experience, successful retailers have shifted their focus in the physical store environment,” added Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead at BRP. “Customers appreciate personalized offers and recommendations when shopping online or via mobile, and now they expect the same personalization, or better, when they shop in a store.”

Changing customer expectations are no doubt a major influence. But the real loyalty pros have been using the data inherent in their programs for years. Using it to reward, to recognize, to personalize, to build trust, practice reciprocity and demonstrate the customer centric commitment that the shopper always valued and responded to. Along the way, sales, profits and customer advocacy were elevated.

Understanding the importance of personalization, 62% of retailers in the survey indicated customer identification as their top customer engagement priority to transform the in-store customer experience. The loyalty program remains the best device.

According to BRP and the survey results, the key customer experience trends driving today’s initiatives are:

PERSONAL – Engaging the customer through personalization and relevance is the key to attracting and keeping customers.

  • 62% of retailers indicate customer identification is their top customer engagement priority
  • 83% will suggestive sell based on previous purchases within three years

MOBILE – The pervasiveness and ease-of-use of mobile devices offers tremendous opportunities for retailers as the customer takes control of their own retail experience across channels.

  • 62% plan to increase their use of mobile devices as the POS by the end of 2019
  • 42% will use customer-owned mobile devices as a point of sale within three years

SEAMLESS – Customer expectations for a personalized and seamless experience require retailers to follow customers’ journeys across channels as they research, shop and purchase.

  • 81% plan to offer unified commerce by the end of 2020
  • 91% plan to offer order visibility across channels within three years

SECURE – Today’s retail environment requires security beyond retailers’ current focus on payments and networks.

  • 91% will have end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by the end of 2020
  • 61% will offer a single token solution across the enterprise within three years

The survey results lead us to believe that retailers are serious about customer centricity and technology initiatives can help them get there in the near term. But many of us have heard this before. Action is louder than words. Following the tried and true best practices of loyalty marketing, accelerated by the new technologies of today and tomorrow, will be what separates the winners from the scrap heap.

To download the complete 2018 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, visit: https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-pos-survey/.

Mike Capizzi is the Dean of The Loyalty Academy and a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional™ (CLMP).