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Blog / Sep. 01

Customer Engagement: Retail’s Fourth Dimension Holds the Key to Becoming #1 in Your Customers’ Minds

Sid Suss

I’ve always maintained that every retailer’s #1 job, from a marketing perspective, is to position their brand in first place within their target customers’ minds: you always want to be their first thought when they are ready to spend money in your categories, thus giving you the best chance of being visited by that customer and closing a sale. When you are #1, you gain wallet share from existing customers as well as greater market share overall.

So, if you are not yet #1, how do you get there?

Traditionally, retailers have fought for brand positioning on three dimensions: product, service, and price. Within each dimension there are specific characteristics around which retailers have vied to stake their claim.  For product, the key characteristic might be quality, selection, or the brand name itself; for service it might be the in-store shopping experience, return policy, or the availability of private label credit; and for price, the defining characteristic might be an everyday low price strategy, targeted promotions, or pricing that reflects the status of a luxury brand.

While your brand identity is a function of all three dimensions, to be the market leader, history tells us that you need to be the clear #1 on (at least) one dimension, strong on a second, and not off the podium on the third. When you effectively establish the identity of your brand within these dimensions, you will have positioned yourself in first place in a high percentage of your customers’ (and target customers’) minds, setting you up for a cycle of repeated successes over time.

While all of this still rings true today – retail is still retail, after all – those are no longer all of the elements of the #1 spot. In today’s retail environment, there is an all-encompassing fourth dimension that your customers are including in their evaluation of your brand: Customer Engagement. And in today’s shopping environment, for many customers, it is the most important factor.

In today’s retail environment, there is an all-encompassing fourth dimension that your customers are including in their evaluation of your brand: Customer Engagement. And in today’s shopping environment, for many customers, it is the most important factor.

Customer Engagement is measured by how convenient and consistent retailers make their customer’s shopping experience, regardless of the point of interaction, and how well they leverage each customer’s specific likes and dislikes to deliver experiences that are relevant and meaningful to them. From the retailer’s perspective, some may say that Customer Engagement is an extension of the service dimension. In some ways this is true, but because Customer Engagement strategies also affect the product and price dimensions, it’s a bigger and much different dimension. I prefer to think about Customer Engagement in relation to the traditional brand dimensions, and in my view, Customer Engagement expands upon and envelops all three, and looks something like this:

 

In my experience, I have seen several common attributes of winning strategies when retailers embrace Customer Engagement as the fourth dimension of their brand strategy:

1. Product selection is no longer defined by just what’s in the store. Successful engagement strategies make the full product assortment available to every shopper, on every device and in every channel. And perhaps more importantly, winning engagement strategies also provide inventory transparency throughout the buying journey. Studies consistently show that shoppers want to be able to see what’s available where – in what quantity – and that visibility into chain-wide inventory (combined with the opportunity to purchase from any location) has a consistently positive impact on conversion rates. In addition, and not surprisingly, shipping options are also an increasingly important part of the product offering. Once shoppers make their product choices, speed (and cost) of shipping can often make — or break — the sale.

2. In winning engagement strategies, the definition of service has been extended to include fulfillment flexibility. Successful engagement requires retailers to give shoppers pickup and delivery options that match their busy lives. And while many retailers succumb to competitive pressure and simply add options (e.g. same day delivery, pick up in store, etc.), winning retailers understand that simply offering an option is not enough; market leading retailers understand that successful execution of these new fulfillment options is imperative and can’t be left to chance. Shoppers have little tolerance for failed deliveries and broken promises.

3. Finally, price transparency – and consistency – has become a major component of nearly 100% of the successful engagement strategies that I have seen. As a customer, I’m comparing prices, promotions, and offers in real time, and I expect them to be consistent from channel to channel and location to location, and I expect them to be competitive.

So how do you get to the #1 spot, and stay there? How do you make it easy for your customers to access your full assortment, enable them to transact consistently from anywhere, and cater to what’s most important to them? How do you get your brand to occupy first place in your customers’ and target customers’ minds, knowing that these criteria are front and center for them?

If you want to engage your customers differently and become the #1 brand in their minds – you have to think of customer engagement from their point of view. You have to stop thinking about channels. Because shoppers don’t think channel, they are thinking about your brand. They expect every journey to be seamless, no matter when or where each journey starts, no matter when or where each journey ends. They want every journey to be personalized, empowered, efficient, and continuous. To live up to those expectations and become the clear market leader, successful engagement is now mandatory. Disconnected, disparate, and duplicated systems will no longer suffice, as they are roadblocks to seamless experiences.

Seamless experiences require a platform that provides the “power of one” to your entire enterprise: one customer system of record, one repository for your orders, and one view of product and inventory for your customers and employees.

Seamless experiences require a platform that provides the “power of one” to your entire enterprise: one customer system of record, one repository for your orders, and one view of product and inventory for your customers and employees.

At Aptos, “engaging customers differently” is more than a tag line. It’s core to what we do every day and how we do it. We put our customers’ success first, and measure ourselves by their successes. We engage our customers differently; by investing in strategies that ensure that we engage you with the people, processes and technology you need to engage your customers differently – and to stake your claim as the leader in your market. I am excited to be a part of this exciting new brand, and I look forward to engaging with you, to discuss how Aptos can help you engage your customers in a better way and ensure that your brand is #1 in their minds.