The practice of ‘owning’ shoppers in separate channels – and even worse, competing internally for their dollars – is fast proving detrimental for retailers. Savvy retailers – like Amazon and Shoes of Prey – have caught on, creating easy, omnichannel experiences that set the benchmark. And customers are expecting that brilliant CX everywhere.

In the eyes of the shopper, a retailer is one brand, not a series of separate channels. Their loyalty, if earned, is to the brand not to the channel. So it’s pretty clear – each channel needs to work together to drive the best customer experience, as well as the highest-margin, best-converting baskets, wherever they might be.

Putting the customer at the centre


In recent times, there's been a real power shift. Growth in technologies, particularly mobile, has empowered customers, giving them access to everything imaginable the instant they want it. The result is that customers are now fully educated and in control of their shopping journeys.

Any retailer that isn’t operating with a completely customer-centric view has failed to recognise this subtle shift in power. And, if recognised, the power transfer is a good thing. An empowered shopper is a fantastic customer to have, provided you embrace and enable their journey.

Customer-centricity in retail is definitely not a new concept. But, it's time the industry starts living and breathing it, putting the customer at the centre of everything it does. There’s been much talk – and trepidation – about Amazon entering the Australian marketplace. But one thing the industry can be grateful for is that the change Amazon will bring will be a catalyst for mobilisation.

Customer-centricity starts with an omnichannel CX


Historically, the path to purchase has always been quite linear and easy to track. Now, we know, there are multiple touch points with a retail brand before the customer makes a purchase. Because of this nonlinear behaviour, retailers need to make it incredibly easy for customers to move between channels. We can’t be trying to funnel customers into a particular channel or obsessing over channel attribution.

Unfortunately, amid these fast-changing times, we've seen the retail industry adopt a very destructive distinction between the online and in-store environments. It’s become commonplace for a brand’s retail channels to compete against one another – at the expense of the customer, who’s left with a very disconnected shopping experience.

3 key steps to successful omnichannel transformation


A great shopper experience is one that resonates with the needs of the customer – it’s personalised, easy and has no channel barriers. To achieve this, three things require attention:

  1. People – Transformation has to start with people, and particularly leadership. Technology is often wheeled in as the answer. But, if internal cultural barriers remain, no technology can solve the business’s problems. Ultimately, it’s about empowering the business, and ensuring the people and culture are aligned and engaged on the direction forward.
  2. Technology – If people are on board with change, technology is the big enabler of Australia's retail future. It allows retailers to understand context – who a customer is in relation to their business – and then deliver a personalised experience at scale.
  3. Process – The process has to complement the people and technology. You cannot have a successful business when the process is in charge. Why? Because the personal touch is lost; the flexibility to ensure every customer experience is a great one is lost. For example, why should the customer need a receipt if they want to return something? It’s the process driving the customer experience. Really the salesperson should know who that customer is in context to the business, and be empowered to override the process if the situation warrants it.

Tips to help make the omnichannel change


Retailers exist because their customers give them permission to exist. Therefore, the customer has to play a central role in actualising a future state. Retailers need to be engaging with their customers on a deeper, more meaningful level. They need to make sure they’re serving their needs, and that there's no dissonance between perception and reality.

Retailers should be getting among their peers, sharing best practices, hearing the challenges of others and the initiatives being put in place. Everyone is dealing with the same global competition and the same shift in customer expectations, and there’s comfort in knowing you’re not alone in that.

Finally, good leadership is key. Leadership that empowers employees, treats them with respect, makes them proud of the brand they work for and encourages customer obsession. These aren't easy things to do. It takes commitment and investment. But, for retailers that want to win, it’s essential.

The retail industry has never been for the faint-hearted, but disruption goes hand-in-hand with opportunity. We’re in exciting times, and unchartered territory as global borders dissipate. Australian retailers are posed to take on the world – providing they get the foundation right by listening to the shopper and delivering the personalised, easy omnichannel experience they want.

Learn more about how technology is transforming the shopping landscape and what this means for retailers. Download the Empowered Shopper 2017 Report.