Everyday our customers process over 2.9 million commerce orders, 2.8 billion marketing messages and 4.5 billion service/case interactions. As the Salesforce offering has developed over the years it has become the platform of customer engagement, helping retailers and and consumer goods companies place the customer at the centre of their vision. This seems obvious now, but over time we have transitioned from a B2B offering to one that has an obsessive focus on knowing and engaging each and every individual customer by connecting every part of your business on a single, intelligent platform. 

When we then look at the breadth of sectors and industries, organisations and agencies that we are honoured to have as our customer Trailblazers, it can be argued that the sector that is the litmus test for innovation and the effectiveness of our complete capabilities in customer success management, is retail and consumer goods.

This is where we see super-critical use cases emerging. It is perhaps the sector in which a one-on-one relationship is most vital. It is an environment of immediate feedback – both good and bad. This feedback, whether offered voluntarily or identified by data, is central to the success or otherwise of an operation. That’s what we do best.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is known as the voice of the Australian retail community, but it’s so much more. It doesn’t just advocate for retailers every day. It has deep insight into what it is that retailers need, particularly during times of intense change in consumer behaviour. It represents the collective knowledge and experience of retailers across the nation. And it offers support and guidance. The ARA then, is the soul as well as the voice of Australian retail. It is a unifying force.

That’s why I believe Salesforce’s strategic partnership with the ARA is important, exciting and points to a bright future. It creates the potential for retailers to deliver exactly what their customers need and want during a very challenging period. That’s good for the sector, for the retailer and for the customer.

How retail has adapted so far

Retailers have faced an enormous challenge over the past 12 months. Long closures of shopping centres, sharp drop-offs in foot traffic when centres have been open, and new rules around customer numbers in store, have combined to issue a hammer blow to the sector.

However, many retailers have shown why they’re so good at what they do by quickly adapting, innovating and getting on with business.

The single commonality amongst all retailers that have successfully shifted their focus is technology. The digital imperative has never been clearer. It’s a trend that was already revealing itself prior to 2020, but that was dramatically accelerated by the pandemic.

We’ve seen the market shift, in some cases overnight. It means a retailer can have the best products and the best locations, but without the technology it’s less likely to be a long-term proposition. Technology is playing a lead role in helping retailers remain viable and relevant.

What the ARA/Salesforce partnership means

Paul Zahra, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Retailers Association, said the retailers that have done particularly well throughout the pandemic are in specific sectors such as household goods, supermarkets, and food and beverages. “And they’ve been focusing heavily on digital strategies, investing in talent, investing in their digital programs, but equally looking at ways to leverage their current performance,” Paul says.

The pandemic has brought forward around a decade’s worth of change, he believes.

“The Australian Retailers Association has a deep heritage in this country – it’s the oldest and largest association in Australia,” Paul says. “We’ve been looking for partners that will have a similar focus to us, but equally share the same values. Salesforce was top of mind, with a focus on digital transformation and change management, which is really important for retailers.”

“From a values point of view, I couldn’t see any other company that was so aligned from a perspective of diversity, inclusion, equality and respect for the individual.”

The partnership is important from multiple angles, says David White, National Retail, Wholesale & Distribution Sector Lead and Partner at Deloitte.

“The impact of COVID had an initial huge impact on the retail sector and how retailers were operating.  Through lockdowns and restricted trading conditions Australian retailers responded well, demonstrating resilience and the ability to rapidly adopt digital and technology solutions to meet their consumers where they were.

“With continued disruption and challenges to the retail sector, alliances like this with the ARA and Salesforce, will continue to be as critical as ever to retailers and their consumers, as we navigate our new normal.”

Why did Salesforce choose to partner with the ARA? It’s because of what the ARA represents in the industry as the voice of retail and consumer goods, as well as customers of member businesses.

It’s vital for Salesforce to deeply understand the messages and behaviours, wants and needs, of the community – all of whom have relationships with retailers. We also appreciate that technology is now playing a much bigger role in how retailers and customers thrive in the new environment. This year alone, we expect 2 trillion transactions will take place on Salesforce, and over 2.6 billion B2C messages and over 4 billion B2B service and case interactions to take place each day. 

Of course, our alignment of values, and our shared focus on innovation and customer success, on quality and trust, has been a driver of the partnership. But the fact that we have never been more mission-critical to the customers we serve is a serious motivator of success.

What do we see in the near future for retail? In 2021, growth will return across all retail, not just a specific sector. The investment of retailers must be in ensuring they’re ready and well placed for that growth. The behavioural change we’ve seen in customers means that investment must be in technology.

A significant trend, as technology continues to evolve, will be around headless commerce, or the separation of the customer interface from the back-end processes. This is exciting for retailers and customers as it allows for an increasingly seamless, simple and carefully curated customer experience.

This, and much more, will be in focus as the Salesforce/ARA strategic partnership gathers steam over the coming months.

To learn more about how RCG companies are moving to a digital operating model, check out Salesforce Live: Australia and New Zealand for Trailblazer stories from Super Retail Group, Mecca, Coca-Cola Amatil and Barbeques Galore on 1 April.