Westfield Shopping CentreWestfield shopping centre, Stratford, London - 30 Jun 2012

Retailers can’t seem to get out of their own way. According to a new Salesforce report, “Consumer Experience: In the Retail Renaissance,” this is largely due to retailers failing to collect and optimize available shopper data, despite the variety of solutions readily available.

“Consumers are enjoying limitless options in this [retail] renaissance. So brands must be laser-focused on the value proposition that matters most to their customers. Nearly 60 percent of brand leaders surveyed said their company’s unique value proposition is based on product quality and uniqueness — compared to 11 percent for price and six percent for convenience,” the report said.

To collect the insights, Salesforce surveyed 561 retail executives and professionals between December 2017 and January 2018. Sizes of the organizations ranged from $25 million to $50 billion or more in annual global revenue.

While brands continue to dedicate a heft of resources to diversifying product, the main target — the consumer — remains only a mild consideration in many cases. An underwhelming 10 percent of brand leaders said in the survey that value and emotional connection of shoppers were their focal point.

Global brands are beginning to turn a corner and refocus on the shopper’s experience — albeit, slowly. Bandaging larger issues within the enterprise with superficial, elevated consumer journeys will only go so far, the report suggested. Main challenges remain, the survey found.

Apparently, “functions and departments are too rigid and lack alignment,” the report said. This is likely due to legacy systems that continue to be deployed and slow down multiple areas of an organization. 
Convoluting retailers’ plight further, performance metrics can vary depending on channel or purpose.

“Data is scattered throughout the enterprise — product and consumer data is largely independent and cumbersome to synthesize into anything meaningful or actionable,” said the report.

These factors all result in a runaway train of troubles for retailers. “Problems are prevalent throughout the shopping journey, but brands rated the biggest challenge
as engagement and discovery (32 percent), followed by awareness and acquisition (24 percent),” the report said.

These mounting problems are also the result of internal confusion and debate over which department mainly owns the consumer experience. “According to respondents, there is no clear role or department within their organization that owns this strategy and execution,” the report said. “Results ranged from 34 percent for the chief executive officer to 12 percent for customer care and service to eight percent for analytics/data intelligence.”

Perhaps indicative of the perplexity, 72 percent of c-level executives pointed to the chief executive officer being in charge of consumer experience strategies.

Wise companies — regardless of the internal department — that are deploying data collection are increasingly taking strides to navigate and perform in the newly diversified commerce climate. But the report warns that many of the current companies obtaining shopper behavior information haven’t completed the puzzle in evaluating the information for appropriate next steps.

“But data is both the solution and the problem,” the report explained. “Survey results show that brands today aren’t able to translate data into actionable insights, hinting that they won’t be prepared to apply innovative capabilities such as artificial intelligence in the years to come.”

Elite performers, which Salesforce distinguished as brand leaders who increased revenue at least by 10 percent in the last fiscal year were two times more likely to leverage data insights. On the other end of the spectrum, underperformers lagged to organize roles focused on managing consumer data, respond to shopper demands quickly, or maintain the necessary security of customer data.

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