If embracing new technologies wasn’t enough of a challenge, today’s marketplace presents an increasingly difficult challenge to provide the right service to the consumers that shop within them. Given the penchant for being constantly connected, the consumers of today are more informed today than any previous generation, and therefore are requiring a different approach when it comes to ‘closing’ the proverbial sale. The retailer is faced with a consumer that is often more informed about a given product than most of the staff within the stores they are shopping.
Understanding and knowing our customers is key to moving forward in retail. This seems like common sense, however, being something that we take for granted it is very easy to become complacent about this simple fact. The old adage, “I ‘know’ my customers!” only holds true if you bottom line backs up that statement. Do you really know them? Do you know what they are saying about this season’s lines? Do you know what they are saying about your store? Do you know where they are having all of these discussions? If not, the time to begin finding out is now, and the answer lies within Social Media!
Social media isn’t just a buzz-word any longer. When was the last time you heard a media spot that didn’t mention Twitter or Facebook? Social Media is one of the key manners in which consumers are being driven toward the latest trends and the latest sales on the hot items. These communication forums are commonplace and it is all but assumed that you as a retailer have some means of working within them. Whether you are using it to build a community or extend and expand your loyalty programs it should be high your list of importance this year.
Simply put, retail isn’t immune to this cultural and communication shift. Embracing twitter, Facebook, or any of the other common social media avenues is key to maintaining the relationship between the retailer and the technology savvy consumer. It will help us build and foster the idea of a community around your stores, and ultimately drive the consumer to purchase the “OMG” item from your store over the retailer who isn’t participating.
At this year’s NRF ‘Customer Centricity’ did not stop at the lines drawn around Social Media. Much was discussed on the power of making the consumer feel like they are part of the whole retail process. As most of us are consumers ourselves it is not too difficult to understand the importance of feeling like we are not just a number on a bottom line when we are shopping. It is critical a retailer has as much detail about their customers as possible. Knowing what they have purchased previously, what trends they are partial to, or simply when they were last in is key to making them feel needed and more importantly like they matter – They are the center of retail.
The consumers of today do not always adhere to the traditional methods of marketing and sales strategies. We must adapt. We must change and begin to embrace the technologies available to us to mold the customer experience back to one where the consumer feels they are part of the process akin to that of the shopping experiences of the ‘50s era or the old-world marketplaces. Technology used in the right doses and manner will make the transitions to this new era of retail a painless one.