Giving retail customers what they want: Not for the faint of heart

  • Posted on May 20, 2021

I don’t think anyone connected to the retail industry would deny that how, when and where people shop has changed due to the pandemic. More people (OK, almost everyone!) have either flirted with online shopping or only shop online these days. Age groups long considered holdouts to online shopping have, by necessity, taken the e-commerce plunge, whether it’s ordering groceries to be delivered or doing most of their holiday shopping from home.

People are still shopping. They’re just shopping differently now, which presents new and fast-changing challenges for retailers. Lots of them. In a recently published pragmatic challenges guide for retailers, we identified seamless delivery of up-to-date order and inventory information across all channels as one of three challenges that’s especially critical and immediate.

This one fits squarely into the customer care category. I’ll spend more time on the other two challenges in subsequent blogs but, for now, let’s stay with this one. Microsoft’s Retail Trends Playbook 2021 notes that “As customers adjust to life in a new normal, they’re looking to retailers to offer more than business as usual. Customers seek greater choice, transparency and control in how they shop, without comprising on the level of personalized sales and service they expect.” That’s a tall order – delivering up-to-date order, inventory and safety information to customers across all shopping channels while building high-quality, engaging experiences that differentiate the retail brand and keep customers coming back to shop time after time.

Getting to the heart of what customers want
But we think retailers can successfully deliver on all of the above if they follow a series of action scenarios that get to the heart of what customers are looking for:

  • Adapt: Redefine your e-commerce strategy and roadmap based on new shopper demographics, behaviors and preferences.
  • Integrate: Ensure that service offerings remain unified and actionable, even during disruptive events, with data-based insights.
  • Engage: Provide uninterrupted omnichannel services and high-quality, engaging experiences that differentiate your brand.
  • Communicate: Deliver store, order, inventory and safety information to customers in real time across channels (online, in-store, etc.).
  • Innovate: Rethink the shopping experience to include stores, click-and-collect, distribution centers, curbside, as well as cross-channel and contactless payment methods.

The work we did with the Spanish online retailer Venca, is a good example of using data and predictive analytics to enhance the customer experience. Venca was able to take control of its digital marketing campaigns by learning more about their customers’ preferences and shopping behavior. Our solution’s segmentation capabilities let the retailer deliver the right offers to the right people at the right time, improving cross-selling and increasing the average order value by 20%.

Reimagining the in-store experience

But it’s not all about online. Most shopping is still done in stores. We think retailers need to offer a reimagined in-store experience that’s as multifaceted as shoppers themselves, serving up capabilities that meet the constantly evolving customer expectations. Take a look at the Intelligent Store whitepaper we did with Microsoft that lays out a modular approach to store shopping supported by cloud, edge and digital twin technologies. This approach enables retailers to implement these new experiences at scale, add new use cases as needed and see the full value of their data.

Customers will continue to shop. It’s up to retailers to figure out how to give those customers the shopping experience they’re looking for.

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