In the last century, new technologies have been instrumental in increasing both sales and customer satisfaction. Things like Sabre in the 50s (the first electronic reservation system), the introduction of the barcode in the 70s all the way to the expansion of the World Wide Web in the 90s, have been put to good use to automate tasks and try to better understand customers’ needs.
The explosion of social media platforms — which changed not only how people communicate with another but also how they research, shop and make purchasing decisions — is a defining moment in the retail space. As more and more people are armed with mobile phones, tablet devices and computers, the ability to seek information whenever, wherever and however is virtually limitless.
A recent study of more than 28 000 people around the world found that not only is technology playing a significant role in how people shop, but that a large percentage use at least three technologies to shop. Participants of the study even say that because they have access to so many different shopping sources, they expect more personalised conversations with retailers through preferred digital channels.
With information readily available with the click of a button, retailers are now, more than ever, faced with the challenge of maintaining a transparent and personal relationship with people in order to develop a sense of trust.
In fact, the study showed that 16% of consumers trust reviews over the input from their friends and family.
The last century was all about helping make shopping purchases more seamless. This century will be about building trust and personalising the experience of shopping.
Retailers must now not only reach consumers through preferred channels, with individualised methods, but they must now maintain positive online reputations amongst various digital communities. Where we once saw the power lying in the hands of the retailer, that power is now in the control of the consumers.
Fortunately for retailers, analytic tools can help retailers offer location-based service programmes and compete with the endless number of brands that are available.
Imagine, as a retailer, receiving an alert that a past customer is shopping at your store. You immediately send them a coupon via text message for 20% off. The customer uses the coupon and takes a picture of their purchase, which they then upload to the same online community, praising your brand’s customer service.
As we move forward in this new and exciting era of business, the lines between retail and social business will begin to blur. Brands that understand the needs and values of their customers and connect with them through preferred digital channels, will be this century’s examples of companies that don’t just stay afloat, but set sail in a sea of competition.