For the Retail industry, nothing sums up the challenges of 2016 better than this quote I read recently in the Marketing Industry blog, Marketingland:

In the “Year of the Customer,” retailers that truly embrace omni-channel strategies across the entire organizational ecosystem will win over the increasingly selective, bargain-focused shopper who doesn’t care how they get their items or where they come from — they just want their expectations to be met.” (Source:

As the digital revolution disrupts every corner of the economy, retail brands must reimagine the very essentials of their business model in order to respond to what we call “The Age of the Shopper”. This is the reverse shift from Business-to-Consumer (B2C) towards Me2B. That response, we believe, requires a radical pivot from on-premise, siloed systems of record to agile, digital systems of customer engagement...or be disrupted by those that have.

But what does “pivot to the customer” even mean? It means diverting focus from a product and supply chain to customer and consumer engagement. Traditionally the Battleground was the back-office in the old days of ERP or a “system of record” focus. Whoever achieved the highest state of efficiency here, won the most market share. But this is no longer where competitive advantage is won. It is the now front-office or the point-of-engagement - be that customer (CRM) or employee (HCM). In both cases the experience must replicate what employees/consumers experience elsewhere in their daily lives - social, mobile and omnichannel. Moreover processes must be simple, pain-free and most of all FAST. This is now where the competitive edge can be found.

We see that engagement battle being fought in these 5 places and this is where the CIO needs to bring the innovation focus:

We call this the “Store of the future”:

1.   Mobile: Shoppers are mobile-first, followed by tablet. They are desktop LAST.  Retailers need to ensure they are engaging using a responsive mobile web UX at all points and are leveraging SMS and push notifications wherever appropriate. Finally they need to begin to explore the new world of geo-targeting based offers,  starting at the macro level (e.g. store parking lot/threshold) and moving down to Beacon-enabled shelf level (see 5.).

2.   Personalisation Everywhere: Retailers (including grocery) can now use sophisticated marketing automation technology to send personalized communications (initially to loyalty program members but extending to non-anonymous online and mobile shoppers) recommending products and offers that are predicted to be relevant based on past purchases and behavior via mobile apps or Communities. If you aren’t already doing this you need to catch up!

3.   Social: Social listening and engagement to identify and address issues and to publish locally relevant content (store level Facebook pages) is essential to bring personality to the brand and to maximise this huge opportunity to be relevant to your customers.

4.   Agility and Innovation: Retailers like Macys are creating shopper process-centric lean teams to optimize each stage of the shopper’s journey (e.g. browsing, shopping cart, payment, etc. via digital.) Enabling rapid innovation within the organisation is fundamental to defending against disruption as well as growing market share.  

5.   IOT: While still in its infancy, we are starting to see retailers use Internet of Things technology to provide staff guidance and customer interaction.  This is mostly in apparel/high value items where it is cost efficient to RFID  tag merchandise.  Between beacons (see 1.) and RFID tags the retailer can identify who picked up what merchandise, where.

A useful way to think of that last point is bringing to a real-life store the same functionality we typically expect from a website.  Back-end website analytics already understand the impact of merchandising, shopping behavior, abandoned shopping carts and, ultimately, conversion. The IOT will bring this same insight to the real world, allowing retailers to correlate events from different streams of information and be in a position to immediately react to events and extend the best service or offer to the customer in real time.

A good example of an organisation that has done this very well, combining the insight from the website AND the store to maximise retail opportunities is Room & Board who have “pivoted to the customer” using Salesforce Marketing Cloud: Room & Board


The consumer changes all the time. Successful brands, in order to remain relevant and compelling, must understand that change AS IT HAPPENS and be able adapt rapidly to it.  To achieve all of this requires a very special and sophisticated innovation platform. Its virtues should include:

  • A platform on which rapid technological innovation is possible with little or no cost; and on which applications for all sorts of new innovations such as VR, AR or wearables are easily incorporated.
  • A (multi-tenant) cloud-based app development platform not only requires no hardware/infrastructure investment, but also little or no additional skillset investment
  • A platform that is very low-risk to adopt - (i.e. easy-to-use and easy to throw away in the event of poor adoption) thereby shortening the internal decision-making cycle and time-to-market.  
  • A platform that enables consistent and seamless deployment of new apps and services across multiple channels at the click of a button, ensuring a consistent experience for the customer. Even if a customer drops out of a transaction on one channel mid-way through, it can be picked up later on another channel as if uninterrupted.
  • A platform that can accommodate seasonal changes in demand and traffic without radical planning or cost implications; that can organically scale up and down according to the whims of the market.
  • A platform rich in embedded and native predictive intelligence that can be served up in REAL TIME to ALL employees, on ALL devices, in an intuitive and accessible way that is easy to collaborate around.

But it’s important to remember not to focus too much on the technology, it is just the tool for facilitating the transformation needed. At the macro level the customer’s needs remains at the forefront and you work backwards from there. In the same way that a balance sheet isn’t thought of as an Excel spreadsheet. The technology shouldn’t get in the way, it should slip into the background. You need a platform that creates as little friction as possible.

The Salesforce Customer Success platform is that platform; it can also be called a “Shopper Success Platform” - a technology innovation platform for disruption, innovation and survival in “The Age of The Shopper”.

See how Coca Cola has adopted the Salesforce Customer Success Platform:

Watch demo: