Australian Retailers Well Poised to Meet Consumer Demands in the New World of Retail

Posted by Mark Troselj, Vice President and General Manager, ANZ, NetSuite

The biggest challenge for Australian retailers today is attracting and retaining customers, yet some 42 percent don’t have a customer experience management strategy in place, according to a recent study by Frost & Sullivan.

It’s an especially alarming number given that increasing expectations of the consumer are driving the biggest transformation retailers have seen since the dawn of ecommerce. Not only do consumers expect to be able to buy products online or in-store they expect the buying journey to be seamless and personalised to their needs irrespective of the channel.

When they walk into a store for additional buying assistance, they want the sales associate to ‘recognise’ their needs and serve them in a way that will help them make a decision.

The pressures on retailers to deliver truly exceptional customer experiences -- wherever the customers shop -- are higher than they have ever been. But the good news for Australian retailers is meeting that reality may be easier for the Australian market than the rest of the western world.

It’s well known that Australian retailers lag behind in providing digital touch points to make buying products easier for customers. But on the flipside, US-based retailers are trying to retrofit existing systems to consumer demands (such as buy online, return in store; buy online and pick-up in store) that didn’t exist when they implemented them.

Many US retailers have tried to glue disparate systems together with best-of-breed software to achieve enterprise level inventory visibility and a seamless buying experience for the customer. But retailers are finding that because the data in the back-end systems is inconsistent and fragmented, there’s no way to provide reliable data or consistent experiences where the customer shops. To execute a seamless experience, retailers need to harmonize customer, order and inventory data on one platform that is integrated with customer-facing POS and ecommerce systems. Clean, reliable data drives positive customer experiences online and in the store – where a sales associate armed with a mobile device can tell a customer at the point of interaction whether they have the product available or when it will be in stock.

Australian retailers can learn from these issues as they adjust their own business to adapt to the new consumer reality – one that may require new investments in core systems. As one leading Australian retailer said in a whitepaper developed in conjunction with the National Online Retailers Association: “We made a decision to throw everything out the window and start from scratch; that’s the only way to move forward.”

A system that provides a central repository of inventory, product, order and customer data allows complete visibility not only into stock and availability, but can provide a complete view of the customer’s buying journey across all channels -- the new “marketing currency,” according to the whitepaper. This can be as simple as having the in-store associate reconcile the customer’s main email address by entering information for an emailed receipt that then cascades to the customer’s master record. Or it can be as innovative as an in-store associate being able to access information on all the items that the customer - who walked into the store - had viewed online, and even the ones they put in their cart for possible purchase.

Today’s successful retail brands drive buying experiences that are convenient for customers and consistent in how they reach them, bolstered by relevant and personalised experiences.. Having a standardized platform for customer, inventory and order data that can power point of sale and ecommerce systems with relevant and consistent data allow these goals to become realities for retailers.

“Retailers Beware! The Customer is Making the Rules,” examines the strategies of leading Australian retailers and can be downloaded here.

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