Consumer relationships in retail now are more important than previously because there are more choices and options in shopping and purchasing than ever before. Retailers today have great tools and large amounts of data available to help them develop a virtual relationship with consumers and they must focus on a strategy that utilizes the data available to help them to fully engage the consumer to develop the relationship that will encourage the consumer to return. This is a most serious requirement for the large legacy retailers that started in the brick and mortar world because these retailers were never previously required to develop the virtual relationship and could depend to the sales clerk to develop the relationship. The data now is available to develop a virtual relationship and retailers must focus on the identification, collection and use of this data to build a strong virtual relationship that will bring the consumer back over and over again.
The challenge for these retailers is first to collect the data and second to determine how to utilize the data to develop the consumer relationship and third, and perhaps most important, develop the process to continuously review the relationships to determine how and what additional data can be utilized to improve the relationships. These are all difficult challenges that require focus and strategy to enact and the first step is not only the most important but the most difficult as well. This first step though requires that these retailers recognize and embrace the reality that consumers have used technology to take control of their shopping and purchasing practices and this means that retailers must accept the new fact that they are no longer in control of the relationship and must collaborate with consumers to develop and grow the relationship.
The focus going forward for retailers developing the consumer relationship must be on data and effective use of that data. There are huge amounts of data available for collection through the eCommerce channels that allow the retailer a greater and more accurate perspective of consumer shopping and purchasing decisions and practices. While effective analysis of these practices requires huge amounts of data for collection and analysis the hardware required to support these activities is commonplace now and reasonably priced. In other words, cost can no longer be used as a deterrent to engaging. Retailers must engage without delay in order to build the base of information.
In the past these large retailers were able to utilize sales clerks to develop the relationship with the consumer and these sales clerks used data collected during the personal interactions and good sales clerks were able to quickly develop strong relationships with their customers. In the new omni market retail environment retailers must utilize data collected through the online environment and then develop and implement both the analytics to analyze these large amounts of data and then develop the methods and practices to implement continuous improvement methods and procedures to continuously review data and practices to support changing consumer practices.