In a recent Forbes article, Contributor Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle argues that retail today “isn’t what it used to be,” particularly in the area of customer service. She argues that while “consumers and retailers have the chance to be more in touch than ever… [but] Customer service as we know it today is often automated, nearly always less personal and lacks in the majority of shopping experiences.”
While there’s no doubt that retail today is different than it was in the 60s and 70s, I argue that it is not worse. In fact, when done right, it is actually better. Here’s why.
One of the main differences in retail between now and many decades ago is the increase in number of channels through which a retailer can interact with consumers. While in-store and direct mail still remain, the Internet and mobile devices have completely changed the retail game in a great way, providing consumers easier access to find what they want, offering numerous options for making a purchase and giving them access to more products and retailers than was ever possible before. With each of these additional touchpoints, retailers gain valuable insight into who its customers are as individuals, which in turn enables retailers to personalize communications with its customer base.
Now here’s the tricky part. I am not talking about “Gen 1” personalization, the kinds of tactics most immediately think of when anyone says personalization, like the “you may also like” product recommendations on websites that are fundamentally based on cookies. These approaches are simply not enough, delivering the aforementioned automated and less personalized experience Leinbach-Reyhle describes. Instead, I am referring to next-generation personalization, which tailors every message each individual customer receives – regardless of which channel a customer chooses – to make it as relevant as possible, whether that’s the products shown within an email, the offers sent via direct mail or the categories shown on a website. Next-generation personalization puts the full view of the customer at the heart of a retailer’s marketing strategy.
The result? Relevant messages are delivered to consumers across every channel they choose, driving brand loyalty, encouraging repeat transactions and proving to each customer that the retailer delivers greater value than the competition because it actually knows them. Creating that feeling across all channels gives retail today the clear edge.