We all hear, discuss, blog, and read about a variety of opinions and strategies that focus on the customer experience.  But we also know this experience can vary widely depending on your particular retail business model, brand value proposition, traditions, history, and more factors.  What customers expect and experience at Nordstrom will vary widely from what those same customers expect and experience at Costco.  Shoppers visit any particular retailer for different needs–in terms of both what they experience and the products they buy–but they ultimately expect consistency with the brand.

This acute focus on delivering consistent customer experiences that support your company’s vision, mission, and goals must permeate the entire retail organization, starting with strategy.  In The Parker Avery Group’s latest point of view, “Resurrecting Retail—Part Two: Becoming a Customer-Centric Organization,” brand and marketing expert The Parker Avery Group discusses specific steps in how to become a customer-centric organization.  We provide an excerpt of this publication here.

Define (or Update) Your Purpose
Becoming customer-centric is a strategic endeavor requiring planning and action for change. It is the foundation for improving the customer experience. Start by identifying and defining your reason for existing or your purpose.

Moving towards customer-centricity does not have to be an ‘all or nothing’ proposition. Incremental changes to improve customer experiences can yield positive results and build momentum for initiating additional improvements. Marketing, merchandising, and sales departments are good places to look at first since these three groups are primarily responsible for consumer-facing activities. Simply aligning these departments strategically with a collective vision can result in better prioritization, communication, and results.

Understand Your Current Customers
Creating meaningful experiences that drive purchasing behavior starts with a keen understanding of your current customers and those you want to attract and retain. Strive to enhance—and invest in—this capability and you will see returns.

Appreciate that analytics, cloud, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and concepts such as the internet of things (IoT) will continue to advance and enhance data gathering and analysis further for continued actionable insights, including anticipating needs. Investing in the proper technology—along with ensuring the processes and roles are in place to use it effectively—is key to understanding human interactions and purchasing behavior to inform and complement the customer experience.

Business and consumer data stored in multiple areas or locked away where only a few have access needs to be liberated and shared across the organization for review and analysis to garner insights necessary to act. Typical retailer limitations, highlighted in our point of view, “Future-Proofing Retail,” include the lack of a cohesive view of the customer across departments, unknown attribution and economic indicators, and inability to process and reconcile transactions (data) between siloed channels. This is especially frustrating for customers who recognize the brand and expect seamless operations regardless of the channel.

Working with what you already have can garner insights as well. Very often, traditionally siloed organizations have siloed data as well. Investigate data you have or can gain access to across different functional areas; assess and share relevant data and review collectively to inform actionable insights—then continually monitor and analyze information that is determined to be the most valuable to building customer relationships and understanding customer journeys. Sifting through what you already have can be educational and empowering towards striving to adapt to customer expectations.

As with any relationship, communication matters. Therefore, the frequency and consistency of seeking and receiving feedback from your customers, at every stage in the customer journey, should become foundational across all departments in your evolution to becoming customer-centric. The aim is to use information, insights and data collectively to better understand your customers interests, behaviors, and engagement to provide them with products and services that are relevant, easy, and enjoyable to obtain.

Actively engaging and conversing with customers through efforts such as social listening and engagement, user group inquiries, surveys, voting, customer care inquiries, purchase follow-up, and similar touch-points not only provides valuable insights, but also has the potential to build community, loyalty, and advocacy for your brand. Further, the outcomes of these activities become even more powerful with data and analytics that can garner deep insights for action across all your channels and platforms.

Prioritize, Design, and Enable the Experience
No retailer has perfected completely integrated experiences across all channels. And perfection shouldn’t be the aim because overextending your organization trying to be relevant on every possible channel and platform is often a losing proposition. Significant results can be achieved when prioritizing experiences in customers’ preferred channels. Change and prioritization are required to reimagine your organization around building relationships with your customers rather than transacting with them.

Challenges for traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers include investing in digital capabilities and e-commerce channels in line with physical stores and not at the expense of them. To remain relevant and competitive, traditional brands must holistically consider investing in new systems, migrating away from stagnant legacy systems, managing vast amounts of data from a variety of disparate sources, leveraging advanced analytics, as well as reorganizing and retraining employees on new, integrated ways of working. Taking advantage of technologies that integrate digital and physical data to empower store-level employees—and fundamentally change how these associates interact with your customers and your own brand—will enhance in-store experiences and results.

To read the entire publication and other Parker Avery thought leadership, please visit our Insights page.  If you have any questions about customer centricity or experience, please don’t hesitate to contact us.  For additional insights on customer experience, we invite you to read and share the following Parker Avery point of views: