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Monday, 31 August 2015

Understanding the 5 stages of the retail customer journey

It is of prime importance for retailers to track the retail journey of their customer in order to make the right moves and provide better customer service. It gives them an opportunity to align their strategies effectively to the customer journey road-map. Given the latest developments and innovations in retail, the customers of today are spoilt for choice and options. All this seems to make the customer journey very complex, however it can be construed that the journey traverses 5 fundamental stages.

Research – The trigger to every purchase is the intention to acquire that particular product that is desired or needed. This leads the customers into the first stage of the journey, which is research. They research the various aspects of the desired product such as its cost, features and specifications, alternatives and so on through means and methods available. Additionally, they also research about the retail companies offering these products thus making it important for the businesses to have an omni-channel presence, be relevant and have an edge over the competition when the customers are researching.

Identification and Consideration – Once the research is over, customers analyze the information they have gathered. Based on their inferences, they narrow down their options for the product as well as for the retailer from whom they intend to procure it. Further, they compare the options they have narrowed down to and consider the one that they feel is the best. The impact that the retail businesses manage to cast during the customers’ research will decide whether they fall into the consideration bracket of the customers or not.

Transaction – This is where the customer acquisition is realized. It is at this stage where the actual purchase happens – the customers buy the product and pay the stipulated amount for it. Though it looks like a simple process of give and take between the retail businesses and the customers, it is not merely that. There are other aspects that make the process complicated and critical leading into the next stage.

Experience – From the customers’ point of view, if the transaction process was simple, easy, engaging and left a positive influence, it can be said that they have had a good experience. This is very important for the retail businesses as customer experience is one of the key ingredients in establishing a retailer-customer long-term relationship.

Retention – After establishing the relationship with the customers, the retail businesses need to build on it further. The longevity of this relationship could very well be the ability of the retailers to retain and extract more revenue from the existing customers. Thus the criticality lies in not only delivering the right experience in terms of deliverables and processes, but also sustaining those efforts and even exceeding the expectations at times. This will help foster loyalty among the customers and build goodwill through positive word-of-mouth, which the retail businesses can benefit from.

So is your retail business making the right impact at every stage of the customer journey?

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Emerging retail trends in Southeast Asia

Emerging retail trends in South East Asia

The retail markets of Southeast Asia today offer a range of opportunities, depending on investor appetite for risk and maturity. Favourable demographics including a young earning population and the region’s high tourism potential contributes to rapidly growing economies and mature retail markets that in turn lead to the creation of new shopping venues of all shapes and sizes. In the coming years, as the region's consumers become more affluent and its cities expand, following are the top retail trends in Southeast Asia:

Consumers today expect quick and personalized customer service. They expect retailers to deliver a wider range of products, faster, through meaningful and targeted mediums. Omni-channel retail technology allows retailers to know exactly where their inventory is, to whom they can make it available and when it will get there, regardless of which channel is calling for it. This helps retailers to offer the best level of service to their customers.

Integrated back-and front-end systems
Retailers in Southeast Asia will continue to focus on ensuring their back-end supply chain operations are fully optimized and streamlined and are aligned and synchronized with their store/online operations and associated front-end systems. This will help improve product availability and order accuracy, reduce fulfilment costs, and improve service levels.

Fast and flexible fulfilment
Few retailers in Southeast Asia are currently offering next day delivery to customers, two-hour click-and-collect, or ship-from-store services. For this to be possible, retailers need to have a 360 view of their channels and maintain accurate demand planning. Omni-channel retailers with this level of insight into their inventory and customers will seamlessly control product, people and processes to dispatch and fulfil orders quickly and profitably.

Social shopping
The increased use of instant messaging platforms and m-commerce in Southeast Asian countries will see more shoppers embracing social shopping. The next development will involve retailers using social channels to take customer orders. The retailers who succeed in this difficult market will probably be those who see social media as a viable retail platform.

Hyper targeting
Big data analytics in retail has advanced immensely, making it possible to track customer transactions, online conversations and shopping habits in real-time. Through this, brands can understand better how to service their customers and engage them sustainably.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

The last mile in customer engagement

As the retail market becomes bigger for the global consumer, a premium is placed on creating extraordinary brand experiences. That is what keeps the customer relationships intact in an increasingly competitive arena. Following are a few examples of how brands have managed to carve out a superior brand image and relationship quotient with the customers.

Anticipatory service at the Apple store begins for customers even before they arrive in the flesh. With the Apple store app, a customer can schedule an appointment with the store staff – who will be able to prepare for their arrival at the Apple store and be available to personally guide them. The results are benefits for customer and company alike. For the company, the benefit is level scheduling of demand, a Lean process principle. For customers, the app eliminates wait times and promises undivided attention, something hard to find elsewhere in retail. Then it gets even more personal.

While IKEA’s print offering is its most enduring piece of content marketing, it only scratches the surface of the brand’s exemplary content marketing efforts, which are many and varied and all revolve around one common mission: to improve people’s everyday lives. “We really look at how people live their lives at home,” says Christine Scoma Whitehawk, Communications Manager for IKEA U.S. “So, we really start with the customer, and try to see what’s important to them… And then how can IKEA help them so that we are truly partners in making their life better at home every day.”

Starbucks is masterful at wrapping its product in a deeply-textured in-store experience. The choice of furniture and fixtures, the names of its drinks, the messages on the cups, the graphics, it's all been studiously crafted. It creates a unique ecosystem of customer interactions, attention to smallest details with quality products, all weaved together. It ensures value fulfilment across multiple channels. “The mobile-order-and-pay, a totally unique technology, is the single most important innovation that Starbucks will introduce this year.” says Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.