There is no doubt that customer expectations have changed dramatically in recent years. And when I say the customer, I am talking about you (yes you!) for we too are consumers. The majority of us have Amazon Prime accounts, we expect next-day delivery and to be able to easily return items and we happily complain on social media if don’t receive the service we expect.
We are indeed in uncompromising control of when, where and how we interact with a brand. The increased choice available to us means that if a brand mis-steps there are ten others willing to take its place.
The way we interact with a brand has really shifted. Smartphone visits have now overtaken desktop visits, which means we are engaging on the go. We are also tentatively using other devices for shopping, such as voice assistants. All of this means the line between offline and online is becoming blurred and this means retailers must marry both marketing and technology to understand and engage the modern customer.
In research we commissioned earlier this year, 67% of retailers identified digital transformation as crucial, while another 23% see it as important. Simply put, 90% of the Top 500 are clearly aware of the need to digitally transform their business. Whilst everyone realises it is necessary, this doesn’t detract from the fact that digital transformation is expensive, complicated and time consuming.
The customer is at the heart of digital transformation
We also asked retailers what was driving their digital transformation. Over half said the customer. This central position means that digital transformation has to be customer-centric across both the front-end and back-end functions to meet the growing needs of an ever more complex and demanding consumer.
Let’s look at the time factor. Often, by the time digital initiative has been implemented the customer has moved on again, leaving the retailers once again playing catch up. Our research found this to be prevalent, with 49% of retailers highlighting the speed of technology change – pitted against the increasingly fast-changing consumer demand, to be their biggest headache.
A problem shared is a problem halved
So, how can retailers keep up with the modern consumer and ensure they deliver the optimum customer experience every time? Digital transformation is clearly seen as the answer, but delivering the digital transformation they need at speed can be very costly. To overcome this, retailers need to look to third parties to help them with systems integration and the addition of more cutting-edge technology.
This will also increase the pace of the process and minimise the costs, allowing the retailer to meet the ever-changing demands of the modern consumer quickly and efficiently. Working with a third party also connects you to the future. A third party is working with other brands, partners, vendors and businesses that are all in the same race. In this context, the future is a problem that is shared and shaped together. The process of outsourcing also de-risks elements of digital transformation as there is a hive mind testing and failing together.
Keeping up with us, the modern customer, is not going to get any easier. We are speeding up. The answer for businesses is to join forces with others in the same race.