“Customer centricity”: now a reality at the service of sales performance
Customer behavior has changed in the last two years. For 80% of retailers surveyed, more than half of their customers have sustainably changed their purchasing behavior. Also the notion of “customer centricity”, barely tangible in practice for a long time (strategies being established mainly in commercial and financial objectives), gained a new dimension. From now on, customer satisfaction is the strategic thread; commercial and financial performance appearing as a consequence of customer satisfaction.
On the podium of customer satisfaction criteria, “fluidity” (continuous routes) and “image consistency” (travels adapted to the brand/brand) are in good place, but the first step comes to “choice”: choosing the assortment , the choice of sales channel, the choice of service, the choice of payment method…
Unified Commerce: A Goal Yet to Be Achieved
Offering choice, in all its dimensions, is one of the promises of unified commerce. The vast majority of retailers invest heavily in this matter, however, making a shared confession: unified commerce remains a medium to long-term goal, as there are still serious obstacles ahead.
Among the obstacles mentioned: organizations that are still very compartmentalized between “brick and mortar” and “digital”, differentiated assortments between channels, difficulties in developing personnel for a new relationship with the customer, differentiated means of payment between channels, regulations in perpetual evolution and , first obstacle with the transformation, a very rigid and very closed information system.
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And indeed, IT projects represent a substantial part of current investments. Of particular note are: new collection and payment systems, “RCU” (Unique Customer Repository), “PIM” (Product Repository), “OMS” (omnichannel orchestration of customer orders and product supply) and “APIsation” ( evolution of systems to streamline and simplify the exchange of information internally and externally)…
The customer experience: drawing on the strengths of each channel
Gone are the days when we thought e-commerce would replace stores. It is already well established that these channels are not competitors, but complementary and, even better, that they add value to each other.. Based on this realization, all brands developed their omnichannel strategy, an essential lever for unified commerce.
The first challenge of the omnichannel strategy is to ensure a smooth and uninterrupted journey. That is, allowing a customer to change channels at each stage of the purchase journey, easily and without wasting time. This issue has been integrated into brand strategies for several years and continues to be the target of major IT developments.
The second challenge is to improve the omnichannel experience by offering the best of the web to the store and vice versa. Although variable depending on brands, there are differences in services (or level of services) between channels: for example, the return of a product in store may be refused if the product was purchased on the website; or even e-commerce offers payment methods that don’t exist in stores.
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However, even recognizing the complementarity of the channels, each channel must individually offer an optimized experience so as not to embarrass the customer or degrade their experience.
The improvement of the experience in the digital channel (web/app), already driven by the vital need to resist the onslaught of pure players, was accelerated by the crisis to fill the gaps of a purely virtual journey, and continues to appropriate the advantages of a store experience: online demos, sales chat, virtual and augmented reality, fast availability, personalized surveys, etc.
As far as the physical channel (store) is concerned, inertia is naturally stronger. The search for return on investment and the complexity associated with managing change represent the most obvious obstacles. However, retailers are recognizing the role and importance of the store as a physical touchpoint in the omnichannel journey and are reinvesting in store appeal. From remodeling the existing to creating new concepts, projects are flourishing to integrate omnichannel requirements, drawing on e-commerce strengths to enrich the experience: enabling the customer journey (“san & go”), simplified payment ( e.g. 1-click), rich product information, search for an item in the store (store location), reduction (or even disappearance) of payment spaces, etc.
And in 10 years?
For some retailers, unified commerce would already be a result. For others, vision is an ultra-fluid journey, with the very act of purchase disappearing. But they all share the same conviction: it will be necessary to have ten times the ability to listen to customers and anticipate their expectations and an exemplary agility to respond to them without delay.