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24 August 2017 | Ricky Chau, Vice President, Enterprise, Asia Pacific
When it comes to delivering great customer experiences, the bar is high in the retail industry. Customers are demanding faster and more convenient services, especially in Asia Pacific’s mobile-first environment.
According to 451 Research, roughly 34 percent of retailers in Asia Pacific have seen major disruption over the last three years. Retailers need to manage both online and offline experiences, deliver personalized offerings, and make full use of multiple channels to reach out to customers. Approximately 46 percent of them believe that this disruption will increase over the next three years.
To cope with these pressures, many have turned to the power of digital. More than half of retailers in Asia Pacific have a formal digital strategy and are actively digitizing. As the competition heats up, how can retail businesses pick up the pace and make sure their digital transformation will lead to better customer connections?
Contextualize experiences with customer data
No two customers are alike. Hence, digitization should empower you to identify, understand, and speak to customers on a personal level. The growth of data is on retailers’ side today. As customers interact with retail brands via connected devices and social media, retailers have a growing repository of data to leverage and drive better communications to customers. The only question is how. Technologies like machine-learning are becoming available to help crunch the data. Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can also be placed in physical stores to collect data on customer behavior, which can provide valuable insights into the triggers and killers of engagement. All these will lead to insights that can create more accurate customer personas for better targeting.
Transform the offline experience
While digital channels are becoming increasingly popular, it is a mistake to solely focus on the online aspects of a retail business. For example, several customers still prefer the physical immediacy of seeing the products and the convenience of picking up their purchases quickly. Using data collected from sensors in connected devices, retailers can create better in-store experiences by optimizing marketing, merchandising, and staffing levels. In addition, digital displays can also customize and deliver personal promotions and offers that resonate with target audiences, increasing the chances of conversion. Emerging capabilities like augmented and virtual reality can also simplify product selection, elevate customer service, and create memorable experiences.
Use mobile as the bridge between in-store and online
Customer journeys today are pretty complex. They are non-linear, self-directed, and are driven by the customer’s channel of choice. In this respect, mobile plays an increasingly important role in connecting the online and offline legs of the journey. Services like “click and collect” can help retailers keep up with the growth of digital commerce. They give customers the flexibility of making purchases according to their preferences and schedules. They can shop online, locate stores with the specific item they want to purchase, and then collect from convenient points of purchase. Furthermore, personalized offerings and promotions can also be pushed out to customers via mobile channels. By meeting them at where they are at, instead of forcing them to change their behaviors, retailers stand a better chance of catching their attention and increasing engagements.
Whatever digital transformation path retailers take, the customer must always be at the heart of any strategy. This ensures that retailers will not go “off the map” when they execute their digital transformation programs. For a smoother customer-centric journey, retailers can seek out 3rd party providers, in areas such as cloud and IT services, to translate their exact needs into an actionable roadmap.
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