Retail is being disrupted by lots of new technologies right now. The social media that networks shoppers together in lots of different ways. The mobile devices that people use anywhere and everywhere as well as the apps that run on these devices. And the Big Data that shoppers and supply chains continuously generate.
But the technology is not the problem. The really difficult thing to figure out is how people will use these new technologies. Remember Web 2.0? It only got a name when the different ways that people used it started to settle down a little bit into common patterns.
Now this technological tsunami has reached retail – online and off-line.
What retailers want – E-commerce strategists, CRM Directors, Heads of Marketing, CIOs, Analytics and Insight staff, User Experience teams and Social Media managers – can be boiled down to solving three key business problems:
- Dealing with Fragmentation – multiple data sources, retail channels, mobile devices, business process silos, brand partners and other variables make it very hard to even choose appropriate strategies, never mind action them.
- Creating an Indispensable Customer Experience – bribes are not the true drivers of loyalty. But usefulness, ease and enjoyment are. How then can we be indispensible?
- Designing New Analytic Strategies – retailers know the business outcomes that they want. But the vast range of new multi-channel shopping technologies, and their associated new analytical technologies, makes it difficult to say which analytical approach will generate the strategic plan to deliver them. What’s possible, not just what to do and how to do it?
Nobody – customers as well as supply chain partners and competitors – has settled on their ‘usual’ ways of using disruptive new technologies like mobile devices, social communications, multi-channel synergies and Big Data analytics.
New hand held devices and web services launch all the time, things keep changing. Everyone is still figuring out how to use them – there is no norm, no ‘usual’. People are still getting used to the features of the devices, apps, sites and new information resources. They are still figuring out what works best for them and what new features they can offer their customers.
This has led to a stage of growing fragmentation – multiple data sources, retail channels, mobile devices, business process silos and brand partners are all variables. They present many different strategic options and opportunities for shoppers, as well as for retailers, and they are so new that there are no obvious or accepted patterns of use yet.
So shoppers, retailers and brand partners are confronted with too many different strategies to comfortably choose between. They also get the slightly disconcerting feeling that they are missing out on some even better ones.
Shoppers have way more sources of advice and new ways to shop than they have needs to satisfy. Retailers have to deal with shoppers who keep changing their customer journey and with brand partners who now interact directly with shoppers at scale, using social media. Also, brand partners now have to deal directly with shoppers’ obscure queries and frank reviews – and be watching out for dissatisfied rants as well as random image-building opportunities.
So in reality, retail is not fragmenting. It’s just that the links that connect shoppers to retailers and the rest of the supply chains are fragmenting. Complexity comes from the number of ways things connect up not from the number of things.
The destination is the same but there are lots of new ways to get there.
Solution: use the vast expertise that comes from your position in the supply chain to give customers and brand partners the advice that’s right for them, i.e. personalised content marketing. Not just what products suit them the best but how these solutions fit into their lives, and the tools and information they need to make the buying decisions themselves. Your position in the supply chain potentially gives you the total knowledge of all your staff, brand partners and past customers.
And also, if its going to fit into your customers’ lives then they need to tell you about their lives…so you get to know them even better.