Customer-centricity is driving the future of retail

Right now, the retail industry is going through enormous upheaval, fuelled by technology. The customer is increasingly at the centre of this shopping universe and the sector is having to respond.

“The old models have changed. There’s a lot of emphasis on data, as well as data collection and how to turn that into a more personalised customer experience.” explains Douglas Hollinger, vice president of Consulting for PFS, global commerce services company.

Douglas Hollinger, Senior Vice President of Consulting, PFS

“This change opens up opportunities. If you can figure out where to solve somebody’s problem and be of service, you can really stand out and understand your customer. Those retailers who do, will capture the future.”

For retailers, there’s now a lot more to consider, including the evolution of the omni-channel experience and the proliferation of customer touchpoints. They need to get it right if they’re to thrive and survive, the stakes are higher with an increased risk of failure.

“Corporations need a plan and to look at their customers, as well as their organisation honestly. They must identify gaps where they are not coordinated. Ask questions such as: How much should I have in my stores vs online? Am I coordinated if I take the view of the customer and look at myself as a company, – what do I see?” states Mr Hollinger.

“It’s about making sure that when you’re building a buzz around a brand that you can actually support it with the in-store experience. If you can’t service the customer in store then being able to place an order through a tablet in the shop and get it to their home quickly is essential.”

The implementation of technology is only part of the solution for retailers. Logistics, fulfilment and customer service are also critical. “Technology is in the service of your business and if you don’t have the fundamentals of your business correct the technology itself is not going to solve problems,” he explains.

Customer-centricity is also producing its own challenges for retailers. Challenges that the industry is only starting to address now. “Businesses need to make the customer feel like they’re talking to them directly and that they have things that a customer wants. The issue is how do you stand out from the crowd?” emphasises Mr Hollinger.

“It’s also about utility: How do you be of use? How do you make things easier for people? One of the key elements to this is going to be a re-configuration of the in-store experience. But also realising that it has to be part of the whole -- in between your online offerings and your store.”

The digital shift today will certainly shape the future of retail tomorrow. Expect more showroom-type experiences, even more personalisation and concierge-style services. All of these ideas are being implemented so retailers can grab our attention. Competition is fierce. Staying ahead needs a defined goal. “You need to focus on the customer and make that the centre of what you do,” concludes Mr Hollinger.

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Douglas Hollinger

Senior Vice President of Consulting

Bio: Dr. Douglas Hollinger joined PFS in 2015. As SVP of Strategy & Consulting, he has global responsibilities for client services as well as the company's consulting and strategy offerings. With more than 12 years of executive experience and more than 17 years working in digital-focused consulting, Douglas specializes in helping B2B and B2C companies achieve measurable success by identifying and capitalizing on emerging digital opportunities.