Customer Engagement & Personalization are HOT Topics!

CRM Study Report2A good barometer of what topics are hot is the media coverage a press release receives.  A week and a half ago, we issued a press release on the results of our CRM/Unified Commerce Study and there have been 24 articles covering this topic.  The key priorities identified by retailers in the Boston Retail Partners 1st Annual CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey focused on enhancing customer engagement, collecting and analyzing customer behavior and personalizing the experience.

This news has received more coverage than any other press release that I have issued in the past 15 years (including more than 100 releases at two $5+ billion companies).  This is real evidence that customer engagement and personalization are very hot topics in the retail industry. It also supports the priority that retailers are making on delivering “real-time retail.”

Here is a list of the media coverage to date:

93 Percent of Retailers Strive to Bridge E-Commerce and In-Store Supply Chains

Only 38% of Marketers Can Separate Prospects From Existing Customers

Most retailers plan to find out who’s in-store

Most Retailers Plan To Soon Be Able To Identify Customers When They Walk Into Their Stores
Business Insider

Customer Experience, Engagement Among Top Retail Initiatives: Study

Survey: Customer Engagement Top Retail Initiative 
Independent Retailer

Upward Trend: Identifying 75% of Customers When They Walk in Your Store
Loyalty 360

From omni-channel retail to unified commerce, smart shopping is on its way
Telecom TV

Most Retailers Can’t Yet Identify Shoppers via Mobile

Identifying customers in-store is high on retailers’ agendas

Unified Commerce- The New Mantra for Retailers?

75% of retailers will identify customers at hello by 2019

Study reveals within 5 years, 75% of merchants plan to ID customers
The Green Sheet

Only 3pc of retailers recognize in-store shoppers via mobile: report and

Retailers Must Merge Marketing and IT Strategies to Enhance Customer Engagement Experience
VSR Magazine

Survey: Three in four retailers plan to identify customers in-store
Chain Store Age

Retailers have plans to connect in-store


Customer Engagement Top Goal For Retailers
Convenience Store Decisions

Retailers want to gather all possible information about their customers – Shopping Center Industry News

Boston Retail Partners: Within 5 Years, 75% of Retailers Plan to Identify Customers when they Walk in the Store.

Drug Store News

Within 5 Years, 75% of Retailers Plan to Identify Customers When They Walk in the Store


Unified Commerce: The Catalyst to Move Beyond Channels

Retailers—pay heed to the new wave in retail, officially known as unified commerce.

Based upon the premise that customers engage with brands and not individual channels, retailers are shifting their focus to a holistic customer experience that merges the digital and in-store experiences. Unified commerce goes a step beyond omni-channel, putting the customer experience first, breaking down the walls between internal channel silos and leveraging a single commerce platform.

To put unified commerce in perspective and understand how it differs from its strategic predecessors, let’s review the evolution of retail sales channels:

  • Unified_CommerceFirst, was single channel, most retailers started with single channel offering (i.e. only brick-and-mortar or only Web-based)
  • Second, retailers evolved to multi-channel, offering multiple channels, but with little to no integration and frequently an inconsistent customer experience
  • Third, retailers attempted to adopt an omni-channel approach, integrating channels and the customer experience, but from a standpoint of still operating in separate silos and utilizing disparate technologies across channels
  • Enter, unified commerce, which eliminates individual channel silos and offers a holistic customer experience across all customer touch points, and solves the omni-channel integration challenges by leveraging a single platform

The idea of a common centralized and real-time platform for all customer engagement points is a key tenet of unified commerce. A unified commerce platform is not simply the future in-store or web platform, but combines POS, mobile, Web, and clienteling into one platform. The retail technology landscape is being forever changed as vendors and retailers work to build and implement new technology to support the rapidly changing face of retail.

The key to delivering on the seamless and personalized customer experience is real-time retail. Today’s customer can quickly, but not yet as effortlessly as needed, navigate multiple touchpoints, and expects real-time feedback, whether it’s inventory, promotions or product recommendations to personalize her experience. Again, the easiest approach to enabling real-time retail is a centralized platform that can support instantaneous transactions and access to CRM, inventory, and product information across the enterprise. Also needed, is a robust analytics engine to deliver real-time personalized promotions and recommendations, as well as provide the retailer with margin and inventory optimization.

Executing new strategies, let alone ones as transformational as unified commerce, are undoubtedly a challenge for retailers, but unified commerce presents a more relevant and simpler solution than previous approaches. Many retailers have embraced the imperative for change, but have struggled with the integration of existing channels, disparate technologies, and siloed processes. More so than ever, the customer is in the driver’s seat, and smart retailers are adopting a unified commerce approach to win and meet the expectations of today’s and tomorrow’s customer.

Within 5 Years, 75% of Retailers Plan to Identify Customers when they Walk in the Store

Unified Commerce is the evolution of both multi-channel and omni-channel retailing that provides a
seamless experience in the store, on the Web or anywhere customers choose to shop. The key Unified Commerce initiatives, such as enhancing customer engagement, collecting and analyzing customer behavior, and personalizing the experience, are the top priorities for retailers, as evidenced by the results from the Boston Retail Partners 1st Annual CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey.

The 2014 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey of top North CRM Study ReportAmerican retailers offers insights into retailers’ current state and planned initiatives, priorities, and future trends that relate to customer relationship management (CRM) practices associated with the retail industry’s shift to Unified Commerce.

Many retailers are now focused on implementing the technologies to deliver Unified Commerce, but there is still a lot of work to be done to deliver these capabilities. Delivering Unified Commerce requires seamless execution of the right strategy, technology, and business processes.

To deliver the seamless experience, retailers need to gather, analyze and disseminate customer, product, pricing and inventory data in real-time.  Leveraging technology, Unified Commerce provides the platform and real-time retail is key to delivering the experience. Retailers that successfully deliver Unified Commerce will understand and adopt a ‘unified’ approach for: strategic customer initiatives, technology, business processes and execution.

Key Survey Results

  • 95% of the respondents indicated customer experience/ customer engagement is one of their top three current initiatives
  • 3% have the ability to identify the customer when she walks in the store, and another 72% plan to implement this within five years
  • 16% currently have real-time retail from POS (which offers the “Amazon” experience in the store) and another 63% plan to implement within five years
  • 28% currently use mobile marketing and another 62% plan to implement this within five years (56% plan to implement mobile marketing within two years)
  • 81% have implemented some type of customer database, typically as part of a CRM or loyalty platform
  • 22% of retailers have implemented real-time analytics and 61% plan to implement it within two years.

To download the complete 2014 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey: Click Here!

CRM Study Graph1


Gaining Ground in the Retail Battle Against Amazon

When it comes to offering competitive prices, convenience, and a superior customer service experience, many traditional brick and mortar businesses are struggling to keep up with intermediating retailers like Amazon and Google. As these industry giants have drastically raised the bar in terms of customer expectations and satisfaction metrics, the remaining marketplace players are left strategizing on how to stay relevant to consumers.

AmazonUnder this industry backdrop, there are a few strategic elements for retailers to prioritize when fashioning their competitive approach to remain contenders in the retail game.

Marketing, Mindshare and Brand Awareness

Building top-of-mind awareness for the consumer is key, particularly in today’s vast e-commerce marketplace. Nearly every product imaginable is available for purchase on the web with a quick click of a mouse. Today’s retailers face unparalleled competition from intermediating retailers, who are remarketing product using browsing history and rapidly chipping away at the potential market share. Consequently, brand awareness is more critical than ever. To successfully compete, retailers need a clear, cohesive strategy to direct their online product offerings and brand experience in order to build lasting brand loyalty and affinity. Thinking outside of the box will allow retailers to craft creative and unique marketing initiatives to reinvigorate consumer affection. First and foremost, brand is king.

Fulfillment Experience

With Amazon now offering Sunday delivery via the U.S. Postal Service and expanding upon their existing 100 fulfillment centers, retailers are facing increased pressure to shave down delivery windows. Though most chain brick and mortar retailers operate largely from their legacy central distribution centers, they are nonetheless well positioned to offer same day and next day delivery utilizing ship from store services. Large store chains were built around servicing the surrounding population throughout the majority of the U.S., and as a result have great potential to compete in this arena. However, offering an improved fulfillment experience is contingent upon a retailer’s ability to expose actual store inventory to their customers across all channels in real-time and execute the last mile delivery, which takes us to the importance of unified commerce.

Unified Commerce

Hand in hand with offering all-star fulfillment comes the “Unified Commerce” model. To distribute goods as quickly and efficiently as possible, a retailer’s internal systems must fully support a real-time fulfillment strategy. By breaking down all of the traditional silos between store retail and online fulfillment and offering an “endless aisle” of goods, retailers provide consumers with a seamless purchasing channel between in-store, online, and mobile channels. Possessing unified commerce capabilities and executing strategic plans in conjunction with best in class fulfillment practices allow for enhanced supply chain efficiencies and customer satisfaction that significantly promotes industry advantage.

Posted by Laura Sossong

About Laura Sossong, Management Consultant
Laura is an experienced individual with core competencies in merchandising and retail strategy, product optimization, technological innovation, and team training and restructuring. Her efforts have been instrumental in the execution of various organizational strategies and solutions. She has effectively introduced and implemented initiatives for American Eagle Outfitters and MGM Resorts International, among others.

Customer Engagement, Enabled by a Unified Commerce Platform, is the New POS, New Survey from Boston Retail Partners Reveals

BULLDOG REPORTER – Customers engage with brands—not individual channels—and top retailers are now shifting their focus to a holistic shopping experience across all customer touch points, according to a new study from Boston Retail Partners.

Real-Time Retailing Turns the Store into the Network

CHAIN STORE AGE – Dan Berthiaume interviews Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners on how retail has changed. Ken Morris points to the evolution of networks the have enabled real-time retail, unified commerce and enhanced customer engagement.

WEBINAR REPLAY: The ABC's Of Delivering A Superior Customer Experience

RETAIL TOUCHPOINTS – So what are the best ways to enable store associates to deliver a superior customer experience? This webinar will outline 5 ways retailers can win the battle for brand loyalty and long-term success. Features insights from Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners.

2014 Review & Outlook

RIS NEWS – Whatever happens next year, whether it is surprising or epic, the following experts will be sure to see it coming and be prepared to manage it. See how a select group of retail’s thought leaders view the current state of retailing and what lies ahead for 2014. Includes insights from Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners.—Outlook89767

Cloud Update: Winning Retail Strategies

RETAIL TOUCHPOINTS – Retailers say that scalability, flexibility, reduced costs, greater uptime and premium brand experiences are just some of the benefits raining down from their cloud implementations. Hear the insights on cloud-based applications (including POS) from industry thought leaders including Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners.