Customer value, brand purpose key to omnichannel retail success

Salesforce industry strategist for retail talks about the rise of customer values and purpose and the impact on the omnichannel retail approach

Amid talk of a retail recession in Australia, there is a real opportunity for savvy brands to meet and exceed customer expectations to create a retail renaissance. 

This is the opinion of director of industry strategy for retail and consumer goods at Salesforce Retail, James Johnson, who spoke to CMO during the vendor's recent Connections event in Chicago.

Johnson said the level of experience and excitement consumers now expect is only going to increase in the future. Those brands that evolve to meet these needs will flourish, but those that don’t, won’t. He also told CMO as millennials age and the consumer becomes savvier, brands that have a purpose and stand for something are the ones which will do well.

“The level of experience and excitement customers expect now is the new norm,” he said. “Expectations have increased, and many retailers are meeting and exceeding those, and many aren’t. Those that haven’t continued to evolve and meet expectations are finding it tough. 

“However, we see from a whole variety of data that 80 per cent of consumers say the experience they have is as important as the product or service they are buying, so we need to think about it from that context. Those experiences are everything from marketing messages, to in store experience, to contacting service people - all of those interactions are the experience." 

The upside is,according to Johnson, is 72 per cent of people are likely to tell others they’ve had a great experience when they find one.

"If you get it right and use experience as a differentiator, understand the consumer and meet their needs, you can have the opportunity to charge more," he continued. “But if you don’t have a differentiator or a value proposition, you will struggle.” 

While some brands will always be largely transactional in nature, Johnson saw an opportunity to also make transactions more emotive. What's more, customer experience (CX) needs to be offered across all touchpoints because the savvy consumer requires a value exchange. 

“Consumers know a retailer should know something about them, and should do something with this knowledge. So, as a retailer, am I making better product recommendations? Am I filling the expectation gap? Consumers expect a brand to be able to meet their needs," he advised. “For some it will be a simple transaction, for some it will be a full experience. By understanding the customer, and using that data, both explicit and implicit, and making it come together, I can execute experiences, and build better journeys." 

Mobile's expanding role

Johnson also noted the rising trend of transactions exploding out of the store and into social channels such as Instagram, as well as via mobile devices.

"Beyond the transaction piece is the ongoing nurturing lifecycle. We are seeing this being increasingly important, and mobile being the glue that facilitates it," he said. “We know mobile is where people begin their journey. Increasingly they are transacting on mobile. In Q1 this year, 51 per cent of A/NZ consumers transacted on mobile, and we expect to get it to 60 per cent by end of year. 

“So that’s happening now. But brands are also using mobile as the glue to push people into store, or to have the experience flow into store, because the store is still really important in terms of overall transactions. In fact, 83 per cent of 18-44 year olds in Australia are using their mobile devices in-store. About 30 per cent use it to understand more about the products while in-store. We see 32 per cent are taking product photos in-store, also.

“I also expect we’ll see more of a rise of social commerce, with transactions moving outside the controlled space of a retailer. People will find new ways to interact, so retailers need to be flexible to participate in that, and adapt with the consumer."

Meanwhile, as an example of the types of experiences retailers are expanding into, Johnson noted MeccaLand was recently in Australia, with consumers buying tickets to attend this event.

"This is an amazing example of connection to the customer driving value,” he said.

And supporting brand purpose will only get more important in the coming years. “‘Woke as a strategy’; it’s syncing with millennial values, like Patagonia is doing,"Johnson said.

"The key thing is having authenticity and purpose to back it up. It’s a not a marketing exercise. For example, Everlane, an apparel brand, does this. Every single item has the Co2, water, and waste impact of the product, so consumers can make an informed choice and align their purchasing with their values. 

“Millennial values will continue, so savvy brands that have a point of view and are authentic about it will continue to do really well. Standing for something, having a purpose, and driving an outcome from this will be the difference.”

Vanessa Mitchell travelled to Connections as a guest of Salesforce. 

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.

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