How to keep retail personal as competition goes global

The modern retail environment is extraordinarily challenging and full of change. Competition is going global and consumers have no regard for boundaries. Whether you’re a big international brand or a small disruptive one, the customer experience bar is set extremely high and constantly on the rise.

Retailers who fail to use technology as an enabler in meeting customer expectations will be quickly overtaken. Traditional local players like Myer are reporting record losses and suspending dividends, while overseas challengers like Top Shop and H&M, who have entered the market relatively recently, are also struggling. An even more fierce grocery war is predicted with the impending arrival of German hypermarket brand, Kaufland, and the sporting equipment market is still reacting to the arrival of Decathlon. The full launch of Amazon this year will further shake things up for nearly all players in each segment, not only increasing demand for online retail generally but also for more personalisation and convenience.

As a retailer competing in these markets, the marketing equivalent of ‘carpet bombing’ just isn’t going to cut it. Simply throwing everything you’ve got at customers doesn’t mean you’ll get a successful hit but it will create additional cost and could damage your brand. Though the rise of digital is viewed as a threat to our interpersonal skills, consumers still value the personal touch. They want to feel special. This is the great irony of global competition.

Connecting with consumers in 2018 is about knowing what they want, when they want it, and how they want to get it, all while making the experience as easy and seamless as possible. They won’t be forced or coerced into engaging with your brand. Just think about the huge volumes of marketing messages you ignore every week.

D16_005_Weinregal Look for tools that help you understand who your customers are by segmenting data and building personalised profiles. Tools that let you identify them whether they’ve engaged with your brand through a physical store or via digital channels. Tools that draw on previously shared information to show how important an individual customer is to your business.

Automation tools deliver more efficient and targeted messages in a timely and relevant manner. There’s plenty of opportunity to focus on more important, strategic decisions and get away from the overwhelmingly manual nature of traditional campaigns.

Luxury retailer Burberry excels at personalised marketing that drives genuine value for the customer and its business. Although this brand has been around for decades, it’s been completely reinvented through data-driven digital processes.

Customers can watch, interact with, and become involved in a runway show by adding items they like to a personal shopping wish list. When they enter a store, that information is used to guide them towards items they would be interested in. This preference data also provides valuable guidance that informs future production and helps reduce distressed stock.

For Burberry, an app became an opportunity to leverage real-time data and make better business decisions, while giving more people access to the exclusivity of the catwalk. It goes beyond a gimmick, driving measurable customer benefits and business outcomes including cost savings, revenue growth and improved brand reputation.

The potential power of data is immense but there’s no point collecting information unless you’re going to do something with it. Luckily, there have never been more tools and solutions out there to help retailers leverage digital data to create eye-opening customer experiences and foster long-lasting, positive customer relationships. It’s time to quit carpet bombing and get personal.

Stuart O’Neill is Head of SAP Hybris Australia and New Zealand. SAP Hybris is a digital commerce software, creating relationships between businesses and their customers. Learn more at hybris.com

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