There is nothing like a crisis to get people to finally wake up and realise that an online marketplace is essential for (almost) every retail business these days. But if I read one more article about how you need to pivot your business to think digital first, I may scream. I know, I am a retail girl and that does mean I think and act like a retailer. That is, I think customer first. Not sales channel, customer. See the difference?
Let’s throw some jargon around. You see everyone in their values and mission statements these days say that they put the customer at the heart of everything they do. But were these businesses ready for a crisis? Did they really put the customer at the heart of what they did, or did they just say it? If it was the former, then a business (whether retail or service) would not need to pivot their strategy, they would have just to change their marketing message for the sales / service channel they needed to deliver their product / services. Maybe that is a pivot, but it doesn’t seem that extreme to me.
This isn’t out of the realms of possibility and if you truly put the customer at the heart of what you do, and for retailers in particular, all you need is a multi-channel strategy. I know we do go on like a stuck record about it but there are many in the NZ retail sector that have placed the blame on international online players “stealing” retail sales from poor NZ retailers. The reality is the majority of sales which go to overseas sites are driven by choice and convenience (convenience in terms of an online store, yes that’s right they actually have an eCommerce store for consumers to purchase from. Shut The Front Door!)
So what is a customer-centric strategy?
Technology has given people more choice than there has ever been before. But this choice has created a new battleground for businesses. The fight for meaningful differentiation comes by excelling at delivering an outstanding and integrated customer experience. In today's connected world the customer has more information at their fingertips than ever before. They have more choice and they are more connected to the purchasing process than at any other time in history. Whether you are a B2B or B2C you ignore the customer at your own peril. They demand what they want, and we must deliver, we must innovative, we must be customer centric.
Businesses today no longer get to determine what they want to supply, they must adapt to the demands and lifestyle of the consumer. In doing so they deliver a customer-centric model to the market in such a way as iTunes changed the way we listened to music, which then evolved further to streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora. And some may say that this killed the music store model, we could also say that perhaps the music sector didn't listen to the demands of the customer, they didn’t put the customer at the heart of their strategy. And we're not just pointing the finger at the music sector, retail in general, the taxi industry and many others have all had to innovate to keep up with the consumer of today.
It wasn’t a “pivot”, it was putting the customer at the heart of the strategy to innovate.
Technology has given people more choice than there has ever been before. This choice has created an environment where excelling at delivering an outstanding and integrated customer experience is the new battleground for differentiation. The consumer now demands that businesses create a personalised approach to customer experience, that's not pivoting it's customer-centric.
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