We often hear and talk about innovation, transformation, and any number of buzzwords aimed at changing the way a company does business in order to gain or continue a competitive advantage or attract new customers.  In some cases–and dare we say, in most cases, what is really needed is a total ‘reinvention.’  In The Parker Avery Group’s latest point of view, Senior Manager, The Parker Avery Group dives into the fundamental reasons why retailers absolutely must reinvent how they view and approach their customers–essentially flipping the organization on its head to become ‘customer-centric.’ In doing so, the aim is to elevate the customer experience and value proposition above anything they could have imagined in the past.  This week, we give an excerpt of the first edition of her 2-part series titled, “Resurrecting Retail.”

All relationships are built over time, through mutual exchange and experiences. If a retailer’s success is the result of relationships cultivated with their customers, nothing is more paramount than acutely understanding those customers and remembering why the business exists in the first place. This is why social media has become a compelling and important medium since it fosters interaction and engagement between customers and brands.

Unlike most retailers, customers don’t think in channels; customers view any interaction—digital or physical—as experience with the brand that is seamless and channel agnostic.

These ‘channel-less’ experiences require a dynamic shift from traditional product or channel-centric approaches. Long gone are the days of ‘stack it high and watch it fly.’ Retailers and consumer goods companies embarking on understanding more complex customer data and journeys are faced with new requirements to attract, engage, convert, and retain customers.

This mindset shift to ‘experiences with the brand’ is about building relationships and enabling customers to enjoy consistent interactions regardless of channel—and providing unexpected value along the way. Giving customers unparalleled experiences will result in loyal customers and advocates who are not only willing but enthusiastic about sharing their experiences. As Harry Gordon Selfridge once said, “Excite the mind, and the hand will reach for the pocket.”

A key component of customer-centricity is trust in the brand. Trust manifests itself through several components in the retailer-customer relationship: proper assortment, product information, pricing, inventory accuracy, data security, customer service, quick delivery, and more. Customers must be able to trust that these components are planned, designed, supported, and managed flawlessly and consistently.

Another key factor is being relevant and anticipating customers’ needs while avoiding the ‘creepy factor.’ This is now more evident with the increasing use and acceptance of advanced analytics and artificial intelligence technologies, such as Alexa and Siri. It is widely known that online behaviors are tracked and leveraged by digital retailers, and in-store customer tracking technologies are becoming more prevalent; however, retailers must be very cognizant that shopper behaviors vary widely—some prefer a very autonomous experience, while others appreciate more involvement by the brand, particularly concerning in-store service. In either scenario (as well as those in between), retailers must carefully balance their understanding of customers with being too invasive.

With so many choices of where and how to buy products, not delivering on customers wants and needs means someone else will. Customers value experiences, solutions, convenience, and effortless shopping. Supporting growing consumer demands and expectations is paramount for remaining relevant and if done well, a competitive advantage.

Click here to read the full point of view.

For more Parker Avery thought leadership about customer experience, we invite you to read the following: