Who is Really in Charge?

As we lead up to NRF 2015, this week Supply Chain Nation turns its focus to trends impacting digital retail. Follow along each day this week as we explore a new topic related to retailing in the digital age.

Digitization is reshaping the retail industry, technology is taking over, but it is the customer who is in charge of the technology.  The customer is in charge.

What is it that your customer wants?

  • Seamless interaction with you: easy and without surprises or roadblocks
  • Consistency between channels: pricing, promotion, product availability, assortment
  • Anytime, anywhere convenience

Believe it or not, they want to help you – they want to give you feedback on your merchandise, input into your process, critiques of your assortment, and improvements to your designs. A wealth of feedback is there for you to act upon– all you need to do is ask.

In order to survive in the new world, retailers need to abandon the old way of thinking about business processes, and reengineer them into a consumer centric business model. Think like a customer, not like a merchant. I know, it is hard, we have decades of business processes that we have honed to perfection. But these processes are based on what is best for us, not what is best for our customer. We hang on to our siloes because it makes the numbers work. We embrace the 25-30-50 markdown cadence because it clears the floor in time for the next floor set. We religiously keep that new statement front and center for 30 days, even though it lost its cool factor after the 10th day. These business processes will not survive in the new world.

In order to reinvent your thought process, and corresponding business processes, we need to study the customer. When and where they shop; how they shop; when do they shop online verses coming to the store; what brings them to your store? What do they do once they are in your store? How often are they in your store, or on your website? This is data that is out there, but the trick is having the technology capabilities to analyze it, and then act on it.

Customers shop across channels, but never think of them as channels – that is our word, not theirs. They are shopping you, your brand, your brand experience, and they expect it to be the same no matter what “channel” they are using. Her app, her website, and her sales associate should all know her preferences, her sizes, what she already owns, and what she needs.

Let’s follow her as she orders a blouse that she found on her smartphone app. She orders it to pick up in the store, arrives at the store and identifies herself with her phone app at the POS, and completes the purchase. But not before the sales associate suggests the new skirt that arrived yesterday that goes beautifully with the silk top she is purchasing, and the shoes that tie the entire look together with the handbag she bought last month. She doesn’t want the shoes today, but she takes a picture and adds it to her Pinterest style board, and sends it to Instagram to get her friends’ opinions. You capture this activity, and send her a reminder in a couple weeks, and then again when the shoes are part of a promotion. Because you, dear retailer, are targeting your marketing to those that want to know.

She responds to your marketing and comes back for the shoes in a few weeks’ time. She shows the Pinterest style board to your sales associate, who brings up the product information and quickly locates the shoes in her size, along with additional items that are on the board for consideration. One $89 blouse purchase has turned into a $350 sale after shoes, skirt and accessories are added.

This is the type of business case that you need to develop in order to justify the technology to make it happen. Because it will happen, and you do not want to be left behind.

To read more entries in this Digital Retail blog series, click here.

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