Ten years ago, retailers talked about EDLP and Hi-Low pricing strategies as established methods to entice customers to shop. The customer was nowhere to be found on a list of technologies prioritized by retail CIOs. Collectively, the industry worked to grapple with the masses of data related to pricing, promotions and inventory levels. How to solve for the out-of-stock situations and how to avoid the “race to the bottom” were frequent topics of conversation among industry professionals.

But the world has changed. And every shopper with it. Cloud, mobile, social, IoT and AI has firmly placed the power in the hands of every consumer. For example, the convergence of cloud and mobile technologies have put the world’s largest shopping mall in the hands of every shopper. Or with the advent of social, shoppers are more connected than ever before. In the past, a customer may have shared a negative brand experience with less than 10 people. Just last year, the average female had 166 friends on Facebook. And with an entire network of 1.86B users, bad news can travel far -- and fast.

So now, many retailers have shifted their focus from optimizing levers to drive purchase, like pricing and promotional strategies to re-engineering retail touchpoints to deliver a better holistic customer experience.

Customer experiences can be defined in a myriad of ways. In the eyes of a shopper, their experience can be a single touchpoint, such as receiving a promotional email for an apparel and footwear brand’s new spring line, or a collection of interactions, such as purchasing online, receiving the delivery, then following up with the call center because the order shipment was not correct. Or, the customer experience can even be defined as the grand sum of all interactions with a brand. And across all of these interactions, shoppers want retailers to “know me, remember me, make it easy for me, surprise and delight me -- and increasingly -- make my life better”.

That’s quite a tall order. Breaking it down, a retailer has to ask three questions to evaluate whether they’re delivering on the promise of a desirable customer experience. If

Question #1: Will my customer find this relevant?

Batch & blast is dead. When 56% of consumers say they’re overwhelmed with retail marketing communications, the industry should take pause and rethink its strategy. Never has the “holy grail” of retail marketing been more critical: marketers must transition to mass marketing techniques to delivering personalized, contextualized messages and offers.

Aldo, a fashion brand focused on trendy footwear and accessories, seeks relevance in every interaction with its shoppers. During a recent interview at the NRF Show, Aldo CMO Erwin Hinteregger mentioned that relevance needs to be put into everything, including the content, the conversation and the brand story. The brand leverages technology to be more relevant to every shopper, including email communications. By understanding the shopper and learning about the shopper’s desires related to content and frequency of communications, the footwear brand was able to decrease frequency of emails by 40% but lifting email revenues by 70%

Question #2: Will this make the buying (or service) journey more convenient for my customer?

Click & ship is so “old school”. When 85% of purchases still occur in the store, but 80% of shoppers are starting their path-to-purchase online, retailers must infuse flexibility into the old paradigm of buying, selling and fulfillment. Moving back and forth across channels should feel seamless for shoppers, whether it’s before, during or after the purchase.

Although many retail brands are excelling in the area of bridging the divide between digital and physical channels, Amazon, is making this look effortless. It might be easier for the digital-first retailer, but its new grocery concept, Amazon Go, allows shoppers to walk out of a physical store, merchandise in hand, while their smartphone seamlessly picks up the check. No more lines, no more cashiers or checkout lanes. A few (or minutes) saved for the shopper and no more juggling with bagging the goods while dealing with the credit payment terminal. Now that’s easy.

 Question #3: Will this deliver shopper delight?

While some retail brands are responding to the call of the shopper to create rich and immersive experiences in the store, other stores still fall under the category of “scan & bag”.

Adidas is a retail brand that has embraced the notion of transforming the traditional brick-and-mortar store into something to talk about. In November, the brand opened a 45,000 retail flagship location in midtown Manhattan to mimic a stadium environment. Upon walking in the front entrance, a patron walks through an area reminiscent of the tunnels one would walk thorugh at a football stadium. Then, they can try on new merchandise in fitting rooms that seem more like locker rooms and get a personal fitness consultation to ensure they’re competing at peak performance. Celebrity events and a full snack bar drive traffic. All elements of this store experience are carefully designed to put the magic back into the moment of need, in other words, to surprise and delight the shopper.

Get smarter about your customers

Although today’s shopper is sophisticated, they’re still buying. Even though store traffic is on the decline, they still like to visit stores on the buying journey. And shoppers are even willing to pay more for better service. Deconstruct the mind of today’s shopper so you can reconstruct your customer experience to surprise and delight every shopper. Get the Salesforce Connected Shopper Report to get the latest insights on today’s shoppers today.