Customer centricity.. we've heard it time and time again. But with the rise of buzzwords like “omni-channel” and “digital transformation”, the focus on the customer has got lost in the fray.

This became apparent during Salesforce's first Unified Consumer breakfast, a new event hosted at the Langham Hotel in London. The breakfast brings together professionals from various consumer industry sectors to discuss key topics such as the role of the store, frictionless experiences, and the real impact of new technologies like AI and voice. Based on the success of this launch, Salesforce will be running a series of similar breakfasts over the rest of the year - keep your eyes peeled! 



Doubling-down on customer centricity

Martin Newman, an industry thought leader with over 30 years experience in multichannel retailing, set the scene at the beginning of the day with his presentation. His main message was all about doubling down on customer centricity, along with an emphasis on culture and people. In fact, keeping your customer happy is now, moreso than ever, a critical factor - especially when a 5% increase in customer retention leads to 25%-95% increase in profit. Therefore judging success on driving the first purchase will no longer cut it. In order to become that truly customer-centric business, Martin also asserted we need to get better at asking for feedback.

In the second half of the day, our very own Wendy Gardner, Retail Industry Director at Salesforce, hosted a panel of leaders from White Stuff, Feelunique, and The Co-op, who added great depth to these topics with their personal insights and brand stories.



What are the 5 hot topics in the retail & cosumer goods industries today? 

These were the main topics covered in the panel discussion:


1. What is the role of the store today in the age of digital?

The first question asked to the panel is a key one that is especially interesting to explore given the sombre “the high street is dead” narrative we've become accustomed to in the press versus the more optimistic “the store is the ultimate media” perspective that was visible at the largest global retail conference earlier this year.


2. Removing friction out of checkout and delivery.

We are living in an era of instant gratification. In Martin's words, “your brand is not the most important thing in your customer's life - convenience is!”. Payment at checkout and frictionless delivery were identified as the top two priority areas to remove friction for the benefit of the customer. In terms of the latter, our current delivery experience is still very much limited to a dropdown list of timeslots. This is a stark contrast with the food delivery sector, exposing us to real-time tracking and live notifications down to the minute. However, for many retailers today free returns are already costly, so there needs to be careful consideration about how to sustain frictionless delivery.


3. Voice-led commerce will happen... just not immediately

Voice technology is rightfully a hot topic at the moment, so the panel touched on how much was fact or hype. In the UK, voice is still alien and comes at odds with the British culture - In truth, we don't see many people talking to Siri as they're moving through the tube station. We may also be asking ourselves why should we even voice command our phones when it's still seen as very straight forward to simply type it in. But given the scale of investment being poured into this technology, the retailers did agree that adoption will start to pick up. In fact, Martin predicted that by 2025 we will be voice-activating most things.


4. Culture eats strategy for breakfast

This quote, from legendary business mind Peter Drucker, still rings true today and highlights how customer-centricity needs to be inherent in the company culture. Companies need the right internal mechanisms to move away from short-termism to making decisions based on what is best for customers in the long term. Besides the right leadership incentives, this also includes how frontline employees can be financially empowered to do right by the customer.


5. Amazon and Alibaba can actually deliver opportunities for retailers

Unsurprisingly the panel touched on the competitive threat of the two big As: Amazon and Alibaba. In response to these online behemoths, the panellists reminded the audience to find the company strengths that satisfy what Amazon can't do (WACD). Instead of being too threatened, they also noted to learn as much as you can from them, and become a fast follower. The success of the two As will provide useful consumer insights that will also benefit other companies when it comes to their own investment decisions.


As the first in a series of breakfasts, it was amazing to see a buzzing room of people sparking conversations about what is shifting retail today. New topics for future sessions also emerged out of the questions to the panel. For example: what is the place of discounting, and is it the right promotional strategy for today? 

Overall the general consensus was that becoming customer-centric has to touch everything in the business. To unify people, processes, and technology around the customer. Find out more about how Salesforce can unifiy retail businesses around the customer.


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