Survey: Customer experience/engagement among top priorities for retailers

BOSTON — Many retailers are focused on providing a seamless experience in the store, on the web or anywhere customers want to shop as they strive to enhance customer engagement, collect and analyze customer behavior and personalize the experience, according to the newly released Boston Retail Partners 1st Annual CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey. But there’s still much work to be done.

Unified Commerce is the evolution of both multi-channel and omnichannel retailing. The key Unified Commerce initiatives — such as enhancing customer engagement, collecting and analyzing customer behavior, and personalizing the experience — emerged as top priorities for retailers.
The 2014 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey of top North American retailers offers insights into retailers’ current state and planned initiatives, priorities and future trends that relate to customer relationship management practices associated with the retail industry’s shift to Unified Commerce.
“It was impressive to learn how many retailers are now focused on implementing the technologies to deliver Unified Commerce, but there is still a lot of work to be done to deliver these capabilities,” said Walter Deacon, principal, Boston Retail Partners. “Delivering Unified Commerce requires seamless execution of the right strategy, technology and business processes.”
The looming challenge is that while marketing has become the center of the Unified Commerce organization, it often is still on its own with regard to developing marketing technology strategies and evaluating and selecting technology, according to Boston Retail Partners. With the importance of multiple key marketing initiatives to achieve a seamless shopping experience, retailers need to examine ways to improve the unification of marketing and IT to successfully implement these projects, research suggests.  Many larger retailers have developed a role in the organization that helps bridge this gap — a senior-level role responsible for working with IT to develop a marketing technology strategy and evaluate and implement the technology.

“To deliver the seamless experience, retailers need to gather, analyze and disseminate customer, product, pricing and inventory data in real-time,” said Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners. “Leveraging technology, Unified Commerce provides the platform and real-time retail is key to delivering the experience. Retailers that successfully deliver Unified Commerce will understand and adopt a ‘unified’ approach for strategic customer initiatives, technology, business processes and execution.”
Key survey results —

  • 95% of the respondents indicated customer experience/customer engagement is one of their top three current initiatives;
  • 3% have the ability to identify the customer when she walks in the store, and another 72% plan to implement this within five years;
  • 16% currently have real-time retail from POS (which offers the “Amazon” experience in the store) and another 63% plan to implement within five years;
  • 28% currently use mobile marketing, and another 62% plan to implement this within five years (56% plan to implement mobile marketing within two years);
  • 81% have implemented some type of customer database, typically as part of a CRM or loyalty platform; and
  • 22% of retailers have implemented real-time analytics and 61% plan to implement it within two years.
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