Technology is bringing about some of the biggest changes to a customer’s shopping experience. Ivano Ortis, international director of trend forecasting agency Retail Insights, explains what this means for retailers
Once upon a time, the customer experience depended largely upon luck: the mood of a shop assistant, the time spent waiting at the checkout, being able to find the right product. All of these could make a difference between a boycott or a customer for life.
But with consumers more selective than ever about where to spend their hard earned cash, improving the customer experience has become even more critical.
According to Ivano Ortis, international director of leading analyst and trend forecasting agency IDC Retail Insights, customer service is only the latter part of the customer experience.
“There is an increasing focus on ‘immersive shopping’ which is the next generation of shopping experience for the customer,” says Ortis. “This is not only about providing an inspirational range of products and displays but also about the instant and accurate delivery of information from the retailer.”
It’s an experience that “can, and indeed must, be generated across any retail platform, be that in-store, online or even on a mobile device”, he says. That means a strong multi-channel presence is essential for retailers looking to maximise profitability in the coming decade and customers have the best experience within those platforms, he adds.
One of the key challenges for retailers is to use IT in precision retailing strategies, which target the marketing down to individual one-on-one customer communication and interaction.
“The point is for retailers to change from a mass-market type of operating company to a very targeted operation, by analysing the intricate characteristics of their customers in order to ensure the customer is seeing the right product, with the right price at the right time to ensure a sale. In other words, that the customer is having the best possible experience,” says Ortis.
As with any targeted marketing strategy, it doesn’t matter which platform the retailer is operating from. “It really depends on the customer you’re talking to, what time of the day it is, where the consumer is. I think the underlying technology infrastructure that needs to be put in place should be working regardless of the channels,” he says.
Ultimately, though, the key to success is for retailers to utilise technology to gather feedback and use that to develop a positive customer experience.
“An immersed and interactive experience for the customer can only mean improved revenues for the retailer. Those retailers who use different platforms to support and enhance the customer experience will truly reap the benefits,” says Ortis.
How retailers can improve the customer experience will be debated at the Next Generation Retail Europe Summit 2011, which takes place at the Hotel President Wilson, Geneva, 5-7 April 2011. Featuring the top industry voices, and hosted by GDS International, the Summit will also turn the spotlight onto how to build a customer centric multi-channel business, retail demand intelligence, and strategies for supply chain excellence and growth strategies.
Some of the key figures sharing their extensive skills and experience include Gil Guibert, CIO of Auchan; Marcus Schomakers, IT governance director of Carrefour; Jean-Christophe Hermann, multi-channel & online group VP at Carrefour; Stephane Bout, CIO of Casino; Oliver Kaye, head of retail operations Europe at Tesco; and Silvester Macho, CIO of METRO Group.