By John Orr, SVP of Retail, Ceridian
Retailers are always looking ahead, and with the insights offered through RIS and Gartner’s 26th Annual Retail Technology Study it’s easier to make changes that will have an impact. Over the next few posts, I’ll help connect these research insights with important considerations for retailers trying to thrive in the evolving and competitive consumer marketplace.
While the research placed technological approaches, such as network and IT systems security, high on the list of retailers’ major strategies, I want to focus on three specific strategies that were also in the top ten: increasing customer engagement; adding predictive analytic capabilities; and advancing mobile store/enterprise capabilities.
These three strategies demand that retailers ask themselves a very important question – what do our customers expect from us now and in the future? Without understanding the answer to that question, it will be nearly impossible to execute on any of these strategies.
For example, to increase customer engagement, retailers need to know what customers want when they step foot inside the physical store, visit the website or download the app. Don’t assume that matching the price with a rival retailer will drive customers to your store if they are really longing for an expert associate that can answer their questions in a warm, friendly way. The best way to earn customers’ trust and their engagement is to provide a consistent experience across all of the channels where they find your brand.
And when developing strategies to increase customer engagement, remember that it often starts with employee engagement. After all, your associates are the foundation for creating and delivering an optimal customer experience. Ensure your workforce has the tools, training and support to be engaged, and you’re well on the road to increasing customer engagement and loyalty.
Predictive analytics can help retailers build out a positive customer experience. Beyond demand curves, analytics can unearth not only what products consumers want, but when and how they’d like them delivered. Not surprisingly, analytics enable the major focus on personalization. Retailers that simply skim the data surface or only look at obvious metrics miss out on the opportunity to target consumers with unique promotions and communications that convert. Human capital management (HCM) technology solutions can apply predictive insight to get the right employees on the floor at the right time. Without overselling big data as a crystal ball, leveraging analytics is often a key factor in beating the competition and providing a customer experience that resonates.
Any retailer who hasn’t strategically thought through their mobile capabilities will soon be left in the dust. Since nearly two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone, retailers need to put the ability to easily find, research and purchase products and services right in the hands of their consumers. I’m not suggesting retailers simply create an app as a way to address this need. (In fact, adoption of retailer apps has been lukewarm at best.) I’m suggesting that retailers take a more holistic approach to advancing mobile capabilities across the enterprise — including capabilities for the workforce. For example, associates who have the ability to manage their schedules, communicate with co-workers and access their pay and benefits via their smartphones are going to be more engaged with their employer. This improved employee engagement directly correlates to an improved customer experience. This strategy is less about the actual channel and more about recognizing the need to meet your customers and associates where they are.
While I chose to focus on three of the ten major strategies that emerged in the report, I want to point out that many of these strategies have interdependencies. The end goal of these strategies is to improve the customer experience resulting in increased profitability and loyalty.
John Orr is the SVP of Retail at Ceridian. Follow him on Twitter at @John_Orr.