This article was originally published on the Salesforce blog.

Everyone’s heard it: “Retail will change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50.” And although advances in digital technology have been driving this change, it’s the consumer that’s in the driver’s seat. Armed with a smartphone, this consumer has the world’s largest shopping mall in her pocket. She can access her friends and their friends via social channels for inspiration on trending products. She can showroom, webroom and access product pricing faster than your typical store associate. She can pull up a competitor’s digital coupon at your point-of-sale when she’s ready to make a purchase. And finally, she can access service, anytime and anywhere.

In short, she’s in control of today’s path-to-purchase. She can deftly perform product comparisons, including price checks, without the aid of an associate. She has a wealth of channels to choose from (and she does). And thanks to daily deal and promotional aggregators, she knows when and where to hit the “buy” button.

Competing on the traditional marketing levers of price, product, place and promotion is extraordinarily difficult in this environment. As a result, brands well-positioned for success in the coming years have adopted a new strategy; in other words, they compete on the customer experience.

But according to research, brands are struggling to pull together a compelling experience. Based on insights from consumer surveys, there has never been a greater opportunity to redefine the customer experience, across marketing, sales and service. All stats below are from the 2016 State of the Connected Customer Report.

Great Expectations

Today’s consumers are looking for every brand interaction to be connected, relevant and convenient. For example:

  • 75% consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage (e.g., website, social media, mobile, in person).
  • 64% consumers want personalized offers from retail brands
  • 56% consumers willing to share data to receive faster and more convenient service

Stakes are Higher than Ever

Switching costs are low when the world’s largest shopping mall rests in every customer’s pocket. Retailers grapple with the consequences of in-store showrooming while customers seek out the best deal on their smartphones. If a retailer isn’t making an effort to understand the shopper and tailor offers, the shopper is willing to move to greener pastures:

  • 70% of consumers say technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.
  • 52% of consumers are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalize communications to them.
  • 50% consumers are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t anticipate their needs

Stores Struggle to Deliver

Today, most stores are not meeting the expectations of today’s sophisticated shopper. While “cash and carry” has been a part of the rich history of brick-and-mortar retail, the reduction in delivery times has enticed many consumers to embrace the convenience of online shopping.

  • Only 32% shoppers visit stores because they like the overall in-store experience
  • 77% shoppers avoid stores

Employees Need to Up Their Game

According to shoppers, employee knowledge and availability is an important component of the customer service experience. Consider these findings:

  • 75% of consumers say it’s absolutely critical or very important to interact with a salesperson who is available when they need them.
  • 68% of consumers say it’s absolutely critical or very important to interact with a salesperson who understands their preferences or needs. (
  • 44% consumers typically know more about a product than a store associate

Transform the Customer Experience Today

Everyday, innovative brands are redefining how they engage with today’s consumer, whether it’s personalizing every path-to-purchase, creating a seamless journey across all channels of engagement or providing faster, more convenient customer service.

Industry thought leaders, like retail futurist Doug Stephens, are deconstructing how the most successful brands are re-engineering the store experience to secure their place in the hearts and minds of today’s consumer. Get the full rundown of Stephen’s latest retail customer experience research in this on-demand webinar entitled, “Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World.”