2013 – A new year to Improve Retail Customer Experience

By | January 4, 2013

It is 2013. A new year  indeed.

For many, it is time to make a new resolution. Just between us, I have never been a fan of [New Year’s] resolutions. Resolutions? Yes. But drop the descriptor “New Year’s.” It is more a “fad,” than an intention or a decision. I remember reading that less than 5% of all New Year’s resolutions last beyond March 31. Only 1 in 20 resolutions makes it beyond Q2. In business terms, that is failure. So, let’s drop the “New Year’s” part and focus in on the decision part.

Now, a resolution – any resolution, at any time – that can be meaningful. What does it mean to make a “resolution?” Corporately, it is “A formal expression of opinion or intention agreed on by a legislative body, committee, or other formal meeting…” Based upon this, let’s make a resolution using what we learned last year and looking forward, not necessarily related to the New Year.

In 2012, many retail marketers assured me that 2013 would be the year of personalization, and that marketing would finally come into its own. Really though, the more pertinent question then is HOW to do this.

The starting point is reality:

  1. Consumers are talking about you, your brand, and your service – all the time.
  2. Online retailers and technology giants like Apple have revolutionized selling and “customer experience.”
  3. Your future customers will demand “relevance” and “personalization.”

Ok…now what? The journey continues. Some are doing it already; most are not. Here is the short list:

  1. Start to listen to what those consumers are saying – in an organized “data” way.
  2. Respond with relevance – and allow for both failure and success.
  3. DO it now (New Year’s related or not!).

This is easily said but difficult to execute. Looking back, 2012 was a year full of challenge. Some retailers have started to concede that their companies are leaving money on the table because of poor ability to extract value from their customer ‘listening systems” (some call it “information management systems” or “IT”). Looking to 2013, some have resolved their emphasis is squarely on extracting value from all the information from every customer touch point. If that is your resolve for 2013, then we have a potentially meaningful one.

To assist in the effort, my colleague and friend, Professor Jeff Tanner and I have firmly resolved to start a running dialogue of the lessons learned. Together we will focus on how to listen and the “try and failing” part (or as Dr. Tanner says, “dynamic strategy.”). This consists of how to use what your customers say, don’t say, and how they say it, in order to differentiate your brand with your customer base and provide “personalized dialogue.”

Why? Let me be blunt: The customer experience is at stake, and the window is closing on those who fail to use pertinent data to improve the shopper experience across the myriad of emerging touch points. If retailers are not talking to shoppers on a more personal level, the conversation will end… and quickly.

Rebecca Bucnis

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