Many providers in our industry still don’t get it.
That’s my main takeaway from the National Retail Federation’s Big Show, held earlier this month in New York City.
To be sure, the show was big and exciting. But while viewing the many exhibitor booths, I was struck by the degree to which the retail industry still focuses on products. And by how many of these products serve just two narrow areas: mobile point-of-sale (POS) and payments.
That would be fine if these kinds of systems were all today’s retailers needed to achieve true digital transformation. But it’s not.
In fact, retailers need nothing less than a completely new and improved customer experience. POS and payment systems alone can’t offer that.
Customer engagement is the key now. And to deliver that, retailers need to focus not just on products, but also on the underlying fundamentals. Things like:
- Operational efficiency: Retailers need to let consumers see what, where and how products and services are delivered. Retailers also need do this in a way that takes consumers’ preferences into account at each step of the process.
- Security: Sure, internal systems need to be protected against hackers and malware. But customer-facing systems need to be made secure, too. Retail customers want a user experience they deem trustworthy, secure and convenient.
- Consumer-focused analytics: Retailers can use the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and analytics to help their customers. Core elements of this new strategy include a 360-degree view of consumers; predictive analytics to understand consumer behavior; integrated communications that are easy to use, regardless of channel; and personalized offers that treat all consumers as unique individuals.
- Unified customer experience: When retailers create a single view of their customers, they can also dramatically improve convenience, consistency, relevance and agility. Customers, in turn, will experience all the brand’s channels as one. Whether they’re in a brick-and-mortar store, on a website or on a mobile app, consumers will have a greatly improved experience.
Some folks in our industry are catching on. For example, at the big NRF show, I was excited by a voice-enabled sales dashboard. Using IoT sensors, advanced databases, artificial intelligence and voice-recognition technology, the system lets retail executives ask questions like “What’s happening this week in Aisle 6?” and then get a real-time answer.
This approach can benefit both the people shopping in that aisle and the executive looking to turn them into customers and retain their brand loyalty. The customer could then be enabled to leverage the same technology to change her experience at the point of contact. That’s the power of engagement.
Also getting it are my colleagues at UXC Eclipse, a CSC company, working in conjunction with Microsoft. They’ve created a Retail Showcase Experience in their New York office. The display, which UXC Eclipse showcased at the recent NRF show, lets visitors experience complete, end-to-end retail solutions based on real-life scenarios. The presentation also shows how transactions flow through every component, including planning, location-based services and analytics.
Are you ready to get it? Then check out our new position paper, Digital Retail & Consumer: Brand Affinity Through Customer Centricity. The paper explains how retailers can use technology to drive brand affinity, get highly sophisticated results from their internal systems, and enjoy serious competitive advantages. Also be sure to visit us at csc.com/retail.
Michael Deittrick is the industry CTO for the Consumer, Retail and Transportation business at CSC. A thought leader in enterprise architecture and business enablement strategies, Mike is responsible for enterprise solution development and enterprise strategy. Connect with him on Twitter @mdtricky.