Annette Franz, founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc., shares her expert insights on what businesses need to survive (and thrive) in today’s retail landscape.
Founder and CEO, CX Journey Inc.
What does “smart retail” mean to you in terms of customer experience in 2022?
In a nutshell, smart retail can be summed up by a few words: data, technology, omnichannel, and seamless. Data is at the heart of designing and delivering a great connected customer experience. Technology facilitates and enables those experiences. Expectations are high for retail customer experiences, including that they must be omnichannel and seamless, which is facilitated by data and technology.
More and more, customers are expecting personalized experiences. Personalization is no longer about “know me.” Now it’s “Hear me. Know me. Understand me. Show me.” And “show me” translates to a lot of different things, like context, relevance, and timeliness. Context is important to hyper-personalization and can come in the form of location, channel, time of day, product category, previous brand interactions, why a customer is buying, and more. Smart retail means brands and retailers will take the time to understand customers and deliver the experience customers expect.
What are the three largest challenges for retail owners given evolving customer expectations today?
The more products and services have become commoditized, the more customer experience is the one true brand differentiator. Brands need to make sure they deliver the best experience possible for their customers. What does that mean or what does that look like? Your customers will tell you. It’s more important than ever to keep tabs on their expectations and how those are evolving.
I believe the three biggest challenges are:
- Understanding customers. Taking the time to listen to them in order to learn what’s going well and what’s not. Staying ahead of their needs and expectations. Acting on what you hear. Designing for customers, with customers.
- Massive amounts of data. Brands need to centralize the data, analyze it, and get it into the hands of the right people at the right time to deliver the experience customers expect. Legacy systems and disparate data hinder this.
- Delivering the experience customers want. While the first two challenges are at the root of making this happen, ultimately, keeping up with these expectations is a huge challenge. For example, I’m aware of a brand that is working to get their delivery times down to four days, while current customer expectations are for delivery to happen in less than two days — or even within a day, for that matter.
What are the main types of resources companies are in dire need of right now to better cater to customer wants/needs?
Retailers need to spend time getting educated on a lot of different things, continuously: data, technology, artificial intelligence, automation, customer experience, employee experience, building a customer-centric culture, and so much more! They need to be in continuous learning mode as the business evolves, customers change and their needs evolve, new competitors come into the marketplace, product innovations emerge, their suppliers’ and logistics providers’ businesses change, and the technologies advance. Look to Amazon Style as one example of why retailers must keep their fingers on the pulse of all of these topics.
Sadly, there’s not a one-topic solution for learning these days. If you’re not reading every day about a variety of topics, you’re falling behind.