So we’ve survived the Mayan Apocalypse and a passion-filled election here in the U.S. only to face the “Fiscal Cliff”…will our troubles never end? New years are a chance for new starts so it would be great to start the year looking forward to something other than disaster. For us, there are many reasons to be excited about 2013, and not just for the new (future) writer we expect in March.
Despite the poor prognosis for Silicon Valley given by the former CEO of Yammer after he sold to Microsoft, we think there’s never been a more exciting time for technology. We agree instead with David Tisch’s Wall Street Journal article The Internet Will be ‘Fun Again’. We especially like his take on offline retail, which predicts 2013 to be the year that the pressure of e-commerce finally pushes the traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to modernize.
There is enormous room for change in a couple of areas that we see as critical to survival for traditional retailers:
1. Loyalty – High-powered analytics allow companies to understand a great deal more about their customer. When we shop we’re very aware of the retailer’s (online or off) awareness of who we are. Our biggest budget is for travel and adventure gear, and shopping in a ‘cold’ environment leads to poor purchases and low satisfaction. As more retailers understand the customer as much more than a zip code and purchase history, they will use much more holistic information and powerful analytics to make the experience ‘warm’ and satisfying. This high-touch approach was once reserved for the super-rich and their purchase patterns but technology makes it possible for even lower-end retail to play.
Since many retailers still rely on ‘green screen’ applications, getting their house in order for managing customer loyalty will mean a sizable investment in either software or hosted services that bring them up to date. The gap will be large enough for many that only infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) can be used in a reasonable timeframe. PaaS will also be the new game for small retailers that need to be thrifty but also be competitive with big chain stores.
2. Customer experience management – With smartphone penetration now well over half of the population in many countries, there is an opportunity to interact with customers in whole new ways using their camera, microphone, speakers, proximity, and sensors within and even outside the store. We can be ‘walked through’ a purchase rather than left to browse or find a sales person. The online experience of ‘intelligent’ selling hasn’t arrived yet in offline stores but we expect to see this happening in 2013.
Even better, customer experience management investment has a big impact on customer loyalty. They are complementary concepts.
So…the Mayan Apocalypse didn’t happen as predicted, but maybe those crafty ancients were predicting the end of the era of retail without loyalty and rich customer experience. We’ll soon know but wise retailers are already investing in these technologies.