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The five capabilities retailers need to prototype new CX

  • Posted on March 19, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

As a retailer, you already know that delighting your customers is essential to staying in business, that customer loyalty is harder to come by, and that customers crave convenience and immediate gratification and will punish retailers that fail to provide it.

If you and I know this, then surely the high-profile retailers that went out of business, filed for bankruptcy or shed money-losing stores in 2019 knew it too. Their challenge was how to act on what they knew.

As you look for new ways to enhance, if not revolutionize, your customer experience (CX), you also need new ways to create those experiences. You need to move faster than ever before because time is a luxury that no retailer can afford. That calls for an entirely new approach to prototyping CX. It means adopting a prototyping strategy with which you can quickly experiment with new capabilities and identify value-based results. Instead of waiting and working to build internal consensus for each step of a new approach, quickly try lots of options to see what fails and what works, so you can identify winning approaches before your competitors do.

Technology plays an ever-larger role in virtually every major retailer. But many retailers aren’t sure about the technology fundamentals they need in place now to ensure they can adopt and adapt innovative CX for years to come. Retailers need speed to market for their prototypes and scale for their solutions. The cloud – the right cloud – supports your prototyping strategy by delivering that scale and speed. It enables the new customer experiences that will delight your customers. We’ve identified five characteristics of cloud platforms that support the retailer’s prototyping needs, based on our work with retailers around the country and around the world.

#1: Security. Of course, any system that holds customer data has to be highly secure. But the new customer experiences you want to create will be based on more customer data – not just greater volumes, but also more diverse types of information to deliver more comprehensive customer views – than ever before. That makes your need for security that much greater, as well. You must keep your applications current and update their security to protect them, and you, from constantly emerging threats.

#2: Intelligence. Retailers know that they need to build artificial intelligence into virtually everything they do, from machine learning and predictive analytics tools for sales forecasting to robotic process automation for inventory management to conversational AI interfaces for customer service. But retailers may not realize that the right cloud is the right place for these technologies. Cloud-based AI is continually updated and expanded for them and designed from the ground up to work with the rest of their cloud-based technologies.

#3: Robust off-the-shelf capability. Retailers are, or should be, the experts on what and how to sell to their customers. Many have also thought they needed to build and maintain their own systems to do so. However, starting with an application that already has off-the-shelf capability that the retailer can build on significantly accelerates speed to market. It also enables the retail to focus on its key differentiators instead of burning time on building standard functions.

#4: Developer-friendly APIs. The off-the-shelf cloud platform also needs to be interoperable with the systems that retailers already use. Retailers will also need to be ready to adapt and integrate new services in the fast-changing marketplace. Developer-friendly APIs are the way to achieve this integration and interoperability. They enable retailers to quickly create prototypes that bring together both new capabilities and existing components in interesting new ways. Retailers can create hybrid solutions that interoperate their new cloud components with their traditional on-premises components and then, when they’re ready, migrate fully to the cloud or build entirely new solutions there.

#5: Breadth of workloads. Retailers may not yet know which new capabilities they will want to adopt next year. Or they may not yet know the priorities they’ll establish to do so. A cloud platform that provides a breadth of capabilities (e.g. loyalty management, customer service, inventory management, digital marketing, analytics, supply chain, and service management) preserves the retailer’s options to adopt what it wants when it wants. That means the technology can serve your strategy and your prototyping, rather than the other way around.

Retail success depends on far more than technology, of course. For one thing, it means constantly aligning the prototyping approach for customer experience or employee experience with the greatest possible business value. Still, getting the technology platform right is crucial to staying off next year’s list of failed or troubled companies.

Learn more about the benefits of an end-to-end retail organizational structure.

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