Connecting in real time

I have long believed that the lines that traditionally divided one channel of retail from another are long gone. It’s almost like looking at the business through the Hubble telescope; like looking into the farthest reaches of the galaxy, the view is already ancient history.

And that was even before e-commerce was much of a factor.

In real time, I believe the relationship between the customer and the retailer is evolving at a rate much faster than our ability to measure it.

According to new research from PricewaterhouseCoopers, to optimize against today’s consumer requires a “total retail” view of the business.
“It’s more about customer centricity than channel centricity,” said Tom Johnson, advisory principal PwC Consumer Practice. “It drives the next level of a connected experience, which could play out in terms of personalization; it could include loyalty; it could start to include some customization.”

What has been largely overlooked, according to Johnson and the PwC research, is a need to reinvent the stores “around total retail and the customer-centric approach,” and with that, to maximize sales across all channels — stores, web, mobile and social.

Some eye-openers from the report:

  • Customers are reducing the number of brands they shop — both online and physical stores. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of consumers who said they only shopped with one retailer over the last 12 months through any channel climbed from 8% to 15%.
  • Favorite retailers are a dime-a-dozen. If their favorite retailer shut down their closest store, 42% of consumers said they would find the next closest retailer.
  • Consumers want two-way engagement when it comes to social media — they don’t want their favorite brand to just speak at them, but to hear them as well. That’s where customization can play a stronger role; 61% said attractive deals are what attract them to a brand’s social media presence.

That had me thinking about some other recent news — the agreement between Amazon and Twitter that will allow Twitter users to shop directly from posts on the micro-blogging site by replying with the hashtag “#AmazonCart.” It’s part of a push to add e-commerce options for Twitter advertisers, according to a Bloomberg report.

Twitter won’t make any money off the purchases, but it will keep users on the site longer, and also it will learn a lot more about its users’ interests and shopping habits. That will help it sell more ads long term.

Welcome to the word of total retail. Just don’t get used to it. Because by the time you do, it will have changed again.

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