With 30 years in the industry, I am still in awe of the changes that food retailers have undergone recently. But the current situation is no longer about being customer centric enough to make fast-paced, short-term tweaks to satisfy customer needs. It’s a massive transformation that will change how food retailers grow, consolidate, and defend their market position for decades to come.
There’s so much opportunity in being a customer-adaptive retailer. And perhaps the most important advantage is the ability to establish a personal relationship with customers based on trust, choice, and perceived value, not store presence.
It’s no longer about being customer centric enough to make fast-paced, short-term tweaks to satisfy customer needs. It’s a massive transformation that will change how food retailers grow, consolidate, and defend their market position for decades to come.
People may be using digital means to get their food shopping done and visiting the store less; however, they still want to be known, acknowledged, and treated like a premium shopper.
Wherever Customers Are, that’s the Channel that Matters
Think about everything that happened during the rise of internet mobility and social networks, supply chain booms and bust, globalization of food inventory — and a global pandemic to boot. People have dramatically changed their shopping behaviors and preferences. But one thing that has never changed and never will: the core principle of selling the right products to customers, when and where they want them.
From our perspective, customer-adaptive retailing is a higher order of evolution for the customer experience. It captures interactions across an increasingly diversified omnichannel environment into a single adaptive focus on the customer. By shifting away from legacy thinking around retail channels, grocers can now fully embrace a focus on the only channel that matters – the customer channel. https://risnews.com/sap-the-customer-channel
How to Reach Each Customer
Looking at the trajectory of customer experience maturity over the last 20 years, food retailers have adopted a broad spectrum of business models to expand their customer reach. For example, they’ve gone from adopting a multichannel approach to touch more customers across the internet to providing in-store and e-commerce experiences that are very transactional and product-focused. Now, as brick-and-mortar store traffic continues to decline, all these channels need to be combined into a seamless omnichannel experience that stays consistently focused on individual customers with unique expectations.
While most grocers have always put the customer at the center of their business, customer-adaptive retailing is challenging them to embrace the highly digitalized lifestyles of their shoppers. Customers have clearly evolved – not just millennials and Gen Zers, but baby boomers and Gen Xers too. They’re more confident, informed, aware, and connected than at any time in our history.
How to Leverage Customer-Adaptive Retailing
Customers have adapted – even my octogenarian relatives who realize how much easier food shopping can be when they don’t have to walk around a store to get what they want. Now, it’s up to retailers to acknowledge it and evolve with them.
However, customer-adaptive retailing is not a one-and-done shift. It’s a journey that stretches across five fundamental pillars:
- Single view of the business: Integrate the entire application landscape to provide all the information and insights needed to run the business – end to end, enterprise-wide.
- Customer trust: Leverage your customer data to create an environment that allows shoppers to trust the retail brand while keeping their information secure from bad actors.
- Personalization: Address the individual customer by knowing what they want, prefer, and expect and offering solutions that satisfy them.
- Unified commerce: Connect interactions in the store, on e-commerce sites, and many other channels into one smooth experience.
- Digital supply chain: Know when and where inventory is needed and deliver it at the right time – all while optimizing margins and profitability.
The journey may be unique for each grocer, but customer-adaptive retailing always touches all aspects of the grocery business. From HR, finance, and operations to supply chain, marketing, sales, and service, the whole organization can work together as a cohesive network satisfying and creating a “customer for life” from every individual customer.
But to be successful, retailers need a digital foundation that allows them to evolve their business processes at an as fast pace – if not faster – as their customers’ personal transformation. Plus, they need the technology that can help ensure employees across all roles have the insight to weigh decisions based on what’s best for the customers.
A Transformational Journey, Long Overdue
During the pandemic, food retailers quickly learned that falling behind really means that they’re not serving their customers. From empty shelves to supply chain gaps, all these events occurred because customers rapidly changed. Simply put, grocers and their suppliers couldn’t keep up.
So here’s the good news: food retailers are thinking differently, and they are creating a perfect gateway for establishing closer relationships with customers across every touch point. And that includes predictive, hyperpersonalized, and relevant experiences – whatever it takes to provide an adaptive and personalized customer experience.