The next key area of focus for retailers must be the customer experience. Retailers must realize that with all the available outlets in the marketplace they must provide a differentiating factor and this factor must be the customer experience. The consumer experience must include the physical experience along with the virtual experience. There are so many choices now in the marketplace that consumers really do not need to shop at any one particular outlet and with the drive for lowest price almost universal, retailers must now look to enhancing the consumer experience to attract more customers and encourage customers to return. Outside of special holidays such as Christmas or back to school, most consumer shopping is opportunistic based on either an immediate need or an impulse based on some factor that peaked the consumer’s interest so retailers must enhance the experience with the understanding that it could be the reason for the consumer to return.
The challenge is what is factor, or factors, enhance the consumer experience? This is where the retailer can utilize their collaborative network with the consumer for direct interaction and relationship building with the consumer. The way to enhance the consumer relationship is to develop and grow the relationship with the consumer. Remember that shopping, even virtual shopping, should be viewed as a social experience and an opportunity for the retailer to develop and strengthen their relationship with the consumer. This starts with collaboration and the methods to virtually interact with consumers and then using the information developed from this interaction to shape and focus the shopping experience to meet the customer needs.
This is where the online marketplace really brings value to the retailer when combined with customer rewards programs and memberships the retailer can track and trace the customer activities and purchases to customize the shopping experience based on past purchases or just past searches. You see this type of activities now with many retailers and the practice is growing and expanding to support the desires of the consumers. These types of experience enhancements can be focused to individuals now to make individualize the experience.
Just as consumers are experimenting with shopping and purchasing practices crossing virtual and physical outlets, retailers must also experiment with interaction and capabilities across the virtual and physical outlets using collaborative techniques along with the information they collect from consumer online activities to react and adjust to revise and enhance the experience. Consumers search for the personal interaction in their shopping and will return if retailers provide this personalized interaction. This personalized interaction started rather crudely with email blasts to notify consumers of sales and now have improved to combine mobile technology and push notifications to be able to personalize the communications to individual tastes and also needs.
These capabilities grow with the amount of data collected and especially as analysis tools and methods improve. The requirement, though, is continuity. Retailers will find that as they take these steps that they will continuously be pushed into the next level of personalization, as long as they are open to new information and especially experimentation. Retailers can use the tools to return to the individual personalized consumer experience and consumers will, in turn, return because of this engagement. The engagement must be fresh though and continuously renewing in order to maintain the customer interest.