The Changing Face of Retail

Customer Experience
Retailers need to bridge their online and brick-and-mortar departments to deliver a personalized experience across the board.

It is human nature to want to be treated as an individual. Armed with data, savvy organizations have been able to turn online interactions into truly personalized communications that cater to the individual needs of each customer.However, many times there is a disconnect between the personalized experience a customer gets on a company's online property and the generic one that tends to be offered when he walks into the same brand's brick-and-mortar store. As Ariel Luedi, Hybris' chief executive officer, commented last week during the SAP Retail Forum 2013, "why should a company treat a loyal customer well online but like a shoplifter when he walks into a store wearing shorts and a t-shirt?"

This question is on the forefront of many retailers who are recognizing the importance of bring the personalized customer experience they're able to deliver online to their brick-and-mortar stores. The answer lies in being able to identify customers when they walk into a store. As experts outlined during last week's conference, this can easily be done by tapping into mobile technology, allowing customers to opt into the system so that they can be identified when they walk into a store.

But beyond that, organizations need to be able to rid themselves of silos so that they can bring customer data from both online and in-store interactions into one single repository, allowing organizations to have a single view of each customer and delivering a seamless experience across all channels. Chakib Bouhdary, SAP's executive vice president for corporate strategy and industry solutions, used Burberry as an example of an organization that is merging the two touchpoints and seeing results. When a customer walked into one of the stores to purchase a gift for his wife, the sales associate was able to pull the recipient's purchase history and make a relevant recommendation.

However, such an experience would have been impossible if organizations are still grappling with silos. Many retailers struggle with breaking down silos because of competitive elements between different departments, especially when it comes to compensation strategies. If, for example, the e-commerce department shares customer data with a brick-and-mortar store, which entity gets compensated for an ensuing sale? According to Mark Ledbetter, global vice president for SAP Retail, some organizations are overcoming this challenge by compensating both departments. "This is a real reset moment for retailers who need to get all their siloed systems together," he said.

Retailers are aware that unless they deliver a great customer experience, customers will switch to their competitors. As the SAP conference heard, "the balance of power has shifted to the customer." Retailers have to tap into the necessary technologies to make the customer experience as personalized and relevant as possible, both online and in stores.