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Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Customer-centric Retailing


With the ups and downs in the economy over the past few years, all businesses have had to rethink how they operate. It’s no different for retail – doing the same old, same old will no longer deliver the same results. And this is where customer-centric retailing (CCR) comes in.

The basis of CCR is understanding customers better and using that understanding to correctly segment and target sectors of that customer community.  By focusing more effectively on customer behavior and identifying customer behavior – not to mention wants and needs – the customer is returned to the heart of the retail strategy, which of course, is precisely where it should be.
While CCR is hardly new, it does offer a new dimension to the retail space thanks to the ability to identify customer segments using loyalty card transaction data. Getting your client to sign up for your reward card is about more than simply wanting to reward them for shopping with you. It gives you the potential to see how they behave when they do business with you.
By better understanding the dynamics behind your customer’s shopping behavior, you are able to offer them more of what they want and need, when they want and need it. It’s good for the customer and it’s fantastic for you. However, there is more to it than simply punching a ticket nine times so your customer gets free coffee on the tenth visit – although that is part of it. To be really effective as a strategy CCR needs to be applied globally within your retail business; in other words, it applies to all parts of the business.
For many retailers – particularly in the SME space – this kind of thinking can represent a major change but many large international retail brands – including Tesco and French hypermarket chain Carrefour – have had immense success.
In order for CCR to be successful for both the retailer and the customer, businesses need to begin with a deep seated belief in what it is capable of delivering. Reserving judgement with a shrug while you wait to see what will happen does not work with CCR. If you don’t trust the system you will appear phony and your clients will  withdraw from the sales process. Remember it’s not about who is right and who is wrong – it’s about being able to cater effectively to your customer’s needs and requests.
From there you need to be fairly ‘bloody-minded. There is no place for thin skin in a successful business, especially retail. Keeping the customer experience of your retail brand at the forefront of your efforts and strategy can be exhausting. Not every customer will buy today. Some will walk away; some of those who do walk away won’t return. The key here it focus on the customer buying cycle and the customer experience. It’s not easy but it’s not impossble. Remember you are earning not only sales but the long term relationship with this customer; you need to earn their sales and their loyalty.
This may go against everything you have been taught but it’s true: employees come first. If your employees are happy – genuinely happy – you will soon have happy customers. When your customers are happy with your business, they are much more likely to not only return but to spend. An employee’s attitude toward their job can make or break a sale by having an impact on their ultimate experience of your retail business.
- John Caldwell

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