Creating a Seamless Customer Experience

iStock retailRetail companies should focus on backend systems that connect engagement portals with customers to ensure a seamless retail experience. By Antoine Rizk

Looking back on the evolving retail industry over the last 10 years, it’s clear to see how much the landscape as a whole has changed, just as industries like healthcare, banking and supply chain have evolved as well. The one thing that hasn’t changed in the retail industry is the overall focus on the customer and their experience.

With today’s evolving technology landscape, we have seen a shift in how retailers are interacting with, tracking and facilitating solid customer experiences. As technology advancements and new customer engagement portals — such as web, mobile and social media and e-commerce giants — entered the scene, tracking customer data and turning that into actionable results has become more complex.

Backend systems for retail companies have evolved from siloed ERP, CRM and order management systems, to an integrated platform that provides a single source of truth for customer, order and inventory data in real-time, making that data available to all existing and future front-end, customer-facing systems. This evolution is causing modern retailers to rethink their utilization of data to build better experiences for their customers.

Rethinking Data Utilization

Now the question is, how can modern retailers take what they’re learned from the past and focus on the utilization of data to build better experiences on the backend today? Everyday new retail models are entering the scene and out of those models surface new ways to connect with consumers. The only way to stay on top of these new and emerging trends is to track, analyze and develop concrete strategies for customer data.

Consumers today are more dynamic and complex than ever before, and retailers must be able to keep up and shift their own strategies to make sure that customer retention is maintained. An integral part to providing the best customer experience is managing data. Luckily, technology in the form of data and application management platforms now exist. These types of platforms can be used to manage data from the application layer and beyond, allowing for secure, adaptable and scalable data management, and a real-time customer view based on relevant data.

By using data, retailers can really get to know the ins and outs of their customers, and tailor experiences exactly to them. It’s just like any good relationship – in order to make the other person happy, one must pay very close attention and learn as much as they can about them. This includes their preferences, habits, likes and dislikes. Same goes for the relationship between retailers and customers. To maintain a good relationship with customers, retailers must pay very close attention.

Putting Customer Experience First

Retail organizations and retail professionals need to re-think their approach to customer experience to be successful in today’s evolving – and competitive – marketplace. The following tips lay out how to put the customer’s experience first and thrive in today’s retail space:

1. Focus on the customer – The customer experience must be considered from a customer-centric perspective, not from an enterprise-centric perspective. This means acknowledging that the entire ecosystem is at the service of the customer journey.

2. Create a backend system using an omnichannel approach – The backend system must allow sufficient integration to ensure that a customer purchase process will flow seamlessly across the information systems: e-Commerce catalog, payment services, order management services, fulfillment services etc. It must also provide the ability to federate identity across systems. Throughout the purchase process, the customer’s identity needs to be recognized and security of payment flows need to be ensured.

3. Utilize data and turn it into actions – Retailers need to allow for information to flow seamlessly across their entire network of suppliers, distributors and partners to enable them to make proactive decisions and optimize the customer experience. By sharing data, they will be able to optimize and monitor supply chain processes, deliver tailored customer profiling and services, and make the customer journey seamless across all entities in the retail ecosystem.

Data: The Key Puzzle Piece

Evolving to the needs of the customer has never been more important than it is today for retailers. Using data to do this is not only wise, but also necessary to stay on top of industry and buyer trends. Retailers need to put a data-driven focus on the customer, develop strong backend omnichannel approaches and utilize all of the data that they can get their hands. The key piece of this puzzle is ultimately data. Data can unlock clues to what the next emerging retail customer experience trends may be and help retail organizations and professionals prepare for what’s to come.

Antoine Rizk is vice president of global supply chain solution marketing at Axway. He is responsible for developing global strategies for product implementation and integration, as well as taking Axway’s API and B2B offering to market. 

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