3 Ways Retailers Can Build Loyalty in 2018

What Do Retailers Want Most?

IBM, Chain Store Age and John Lawson, CEO of ColderICE Media, recently held a webinar to help brands answer burning questions like these. While addressing the full spectrum of retailer needs may seem like a broad ask, the so-called “retail apocalypse” has got retailers down to bare-bones wishes this year.

From the Retailer Perspective

As the wide spectrum of new technology and channels for selling continues to grow, retailers are left to decipher what customers want out of this spectrum, and how they can get the parts needed from their suppliers (pun intended).

Customers are doing pre-shop product research, in-store research, and shopping on mobile more than ever before. Retailers and suppliers are left to work together to improve their processes, product content, and omnichannel merchandising to keep up with the times. Customers are looking for a more impressive buying experience, and that means companies must plan on utilizing the latest techniques and tools, like personalization technology, convenience-focused updates, and data leveraging. IBM made it clear in their webinar, that above all, retailers only want one thing for the holidays: to please the customer. So what do customers want?

1. Simpler Returns

Shipping has had time to mature as an industry, whereas we are just coming up on the Golden Age of returns. But before we dive into things like AI and robot-powered returns, let’s talk basics. Now is the time to ask yourself, how am I making returns easier for my customer?

Competing with companies like Amazon in this category can be tough, but start where you can. For example, how long does your payback take? If the average payback takes ten days, how can you shorten that? The answer could include in-store offerings to incentivize in-store returns, or offering a cheaper shipping rate for credits. Take Best Buy’s efforts in this area, for example.

Or, get ahead of the returns. Make sure your product content and promotion are explicitly clear to avoid customer confusion about features, sizes, colors, and functions. Think of Sephora’s use of in-store and online makeup demos, helping customers see the product in-action before purchasing; or Sam’s Club Scan & Go, giving customers all product info at the touch of a button (and skipping the register). All of these features give customers a better product buying experience, help increase product satisfaction, and decrease returns.

2. Stocked Inventory & Better Fulfillment

Your customers will give you return business if you give them speedy product fulfillment and keep their favorite products in stock.

If a customer visits your store (on or offline) and repeatedly finds their desired product out of stock, they can easily find it and buy it elsewhere. Because of this, retailer capabilities are moving from “nice-to-have” to “must-have.” These capabilities can include better insight into checking stock availability, return processing, and up-to-date product content. Retailers must do what it takes to make all customer-interaction as smooth and expedited as possible. So whether you use mini-distribution centers or provide a catalog showroom experience, your customers expect to be won over with a speedy and enjoyable experience.

IBM says 70 percent of customers have stopped doing business with a brand following a poor customer experience; for perspective, that 70 percent costs retailers $1.1 trillion in sales per year, worldwide. Don’t let your brand lose those sales because your data management processes kept your speed to market down.

3. Use of Dark Data

According to IBM, 90 percent of companies have dark data they aren’t taking advantage of. This is data that, because it doesn’t have the correct sorting algorithm, doesn’t get used. That can include users’ personal information, preferences, and all kinds of other tracked metrics. The trick to getting value out of it? Using it wisely.

Think of this unused data as a key to the mind of your end customer. To drive customer-brand loyalty, always make sure you’re using data in a way that is useful to the customer to avoid the “Big Brother Effect.” Once customers realize you’re using their data, make sure they know you’re using it to take care of their needs, rather than to target them and take advantage of your relationship. Customer loyalty is hard won and easily lost, and the way you interact with and learn about your customers (through data) can have a large bearing on forming that trust.

Some Assembly Required

Brick and mortar stores aren’t dead, but traditional retail is. Retailers are now being called to think in a millennial state of mind. Whoever is closest to the customer, wins. In that mindset, mobile empowers everyone, associates, and customers, alike. Retail shopping should be an experience, and retailers (down to the associate level) are all responsible. To understand and delight your customers, use data…but use it wisely, in an actionable way. Customers want what they want, the way they want it, when they want it. The only way to understand how to address those wants is by understanding your data, and managing it accordingly.

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