Retailers must embrace the Me2B revolution

Digital disruption is driving consumer demand for personalisation and the retailers that are adapting are staying ahead of the consumer game

Traditional department stores must be reimagined as showrooms or experience centres in the digital ecommerce revolution, and as just one touchpoint in a shopper’s journey.

According to Salesforce senior vice-president of retail, Shelley Bransten, the industry is moving from a B2C to a “Me2B” world, where demand for a more personalised shopper journey is more prevalent than ever before.

“In a B2C world, the retailer serves and the customer responds. But in the Me2B world, the customer serves and says today, I might buy from my couch, or tomorrow, I might buy from your store,” she told attendees at the recent Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. “In the future, who knows what might happen, but at the moment it’s all about the consumer, knowing them and personalising the experience in the new Me2b world.”

Even if transactions still occur in a physical store, 100 per cent of those will be touched by digital, Bransten said.

“The store is going to get completely reimagined,” she said. “We’re going to have experience centres, fulfilment centres and showrooms. And all these three mega-trends will see the new concept of retail revolutionised, but still an incredibly relevant part of the shopper journey.”

While the shopping experience is going to get more interesting for the consumer, Bransten said, it is going to get more complicated for the retailer.

“You’re listening to all these difference signals across the shopper journey, so you sense and respond,” she said. “We are really talking about precision retail, which is smart, one-to-one, and it’s everywhere.”

In order for stores to meet these personalisation expectations, Bransten said employees need to be ready, willing and able to respond to customer needs.

“Retailers need agility, innovation and the speed to sense and respond to all the different applications along the shopper journey,” she added. “Historically, retailers have invested in systems of record, which are very important in terms of the circulatory system of a retail operation, but they’re only optimised for operational concerns. You need a system of engagement that integrates with your system of record. It needs to be all in the cloud, mobile and social first, plus it has to have all the data science to drive engagement for your customers.”

Macys.com and Bloomingdales.com brings agility into innovation

Macys.com and Bloomingdales.com group vice-president of customer applications and platforms, Yasir Anwar, agreed agility and speed are the cornerstones of the retailer’s innovation strategy.

“Macy’s has an appetite for disruption, innovation and transformation, which has turned out to be a very big issue,” he said. “All my senior leaders supported that innovation path and led me forward, and that’s how we founded Macy’s Idea Lab.”

Anwar said the Ideas Lab concept as a set of tools, processes and frameworks that can allow the retailer to further innovate.

“It allows us to source ideas from our employees and Macy’s communities, and then we quickly prep them into rotational cycles,” he said. “All our employees get to work in that rotational cycle for two weeks where you can test the feasibility of your ideas. Most of the time, ideas come out much stronger.”

When Anwar joined Macy’s from the customer-facing side, it would take at least 12 months in terms of innovation to get from the idea to the hands of the customer.

“It went through various processes and portfolio management and product management,” he said. “But what we have done is reduce that 12-month forecast to just one month.”

The focus on grassroots innovation has ensured innovation is now part of the retailer’s digital marketing DNA, Anwar claimed.

“It will help us to further leverage the omni-channel journey,” he said. “I believe we are one of the pioneers of pushing this forward.”

Mobile is of course a core part of this strategy, and Anwar said it is one of the most digitally connected devices a retailer could utilise, provided the experience is a personalised and customised one.

“When mobile devices came in, it disrupted the entire ecosystem, whether it was shopping or social,” he said. “Then smartphones took this further. But now, the mobile ecosystem is being disrupted by apps, by people’s consumer behaviour, so the customer journey is getting disrupted every single month. “We need to deliver more personalised experiences into the palm of our customers, so they can buy whatever they want, wherever and whenever.”

- Azadeh Williams attended Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce.

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