Achieving customer centricity in multichannel commerce

By Akhilesh Srivastava, akhileshcs@infosys.com
According to NRF Retail Horizons Benchmark Report, two key initiatives to keep retailers competitive in 2010 were optimization and streamlining of their internal operations to reduce operating costs and improving their customer centricity to win the share of wallet.

To continue achieving the profitable business growth in the future, the key priorities for the retailers remain improving quality of customer interactions in their stores, online and social network sites, and leveraging these insights to grow profitable customer relationships.

Majority of retailers are looking to imbibe customer centricity in key business functions including marketing, product development and supply chain. The immediate next steps in customer centricity journey involve enabling following key capabilities in area of marketing and customer relationship management:

  1. Personalized marketing to meet individual customers’ needs.
  2.  Providing consistent, seamless, personalized customer experience across channels.
  3. Capture customer insights across channels (online, stores, social, mobile) and leverage them in product/services development, merchandising, pricing, marketing and other business functions.

Enabling these capabilities requires detailed understanding of customer personas and various touch points along the customer relationship life-cycle with the retailers.

  1. Awareness. Understanding of customer personas and their channel of preferences is critical for marketers as refine their marketing strategy to reach out their customers and improve returns on their marketing budgets.
  2.  Engagement. Social networks have transformed the way customers interact with the brands and retailers. More and more customers are making their pre-purchase decisions based on the social intelligence gathered from these communities. Retailers need to not only become the active member but also encourage these communities among their customers. Recent uproar about GAP changing their logo and then reverting it to original is a great example of how retailers are listening and acting on to their customers’ demands.
  3. Purchase Experience. Retailers need to continue improving the customers purchase experiences in-store, on-line and increasingly on mobile and social commerce. They need to enable the channels for their customer to purchase what they want to buy, when they want to buy and where the channel they want to buy it from. Home Depot’s recently rolled out mobile POS in their store chain-wide to ease of check out for their customers in stores, significantly improving the overall purchase experience and dramatically reducing the costs in stores.
  4. Post Purchase. Similar to engagement prior to the purchase, it is extremely crucial for retailers to provide channels where customers can discuss their purchases and experiences within their social communities. In addition to this, retailers need to continue improving customer experiences during their post purchase support or return transactions on-line or in-stores.
  5. Loyalty. To continue winning the business from the customers in a price sensitive environment, retailers need to build loyalty with customers more than ever before. Understanding the customers’ behavior and needs will help retailers to serve their customers better and improve their relationship and develop a sense of loyalty.

Before embarking on the journey to establish next generation customer relationship management practices to provide a personalized, seamless experience to their customers, retailers must do careful evaluation of their vision, mission, and competitive positioning in the industry along with establishing deep understanding of their customers, their behaviors and needs.

This will help companies devise an end to end customer strategy to continue growing profitably by meeting their customers’ demands and strengthening their relationship. Taking a fragmented approach by business functions or channels often results in a situation where companies are doing well in pockets of business areas which negatively impacts business growth and profitability.

Akhilesh Srivastava is senior principal in the retail, distribution and CPG practice of Infosys Consulting. He focuses on helping his clients to achieve profitable growth in multichannel commerce environment. He can be reached at akhileshcs@infosys.com.