The retail landscape we once knew is gone. Over the last 10-15 years, we’ve seen the  power shift from retailers/brands to consumers and this new scenario continues to evolve as the consumers themselves plot a new course.

Fueled by access to information and zero tolerance for brands that don’t understand their preferences, today’s consumers – Modern Consumers – are demanding an experience. Products alone aren’t enough to capture and keep their attention. Retailers are now challenged with learning what experience their customers want and discovering innovative ways to offer that experience in stores, online, and through every piece of marketing they produce regardless of the media. One clear takeaway from CRMC 2017 is that the experience itself is what will set retailers apart from the crowd.  The key to quickly and accurately creating the right experience for each brand is using data to understand who your customers are and what they want.

Changing Whats In Store

E-commerce continues to surge, up 14% thus far compared to 2016, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing brands should focus on. Creating a unique, not to mention enjoyable, consumer experience is challenging. Amazon Prime, for example, is currently doing exceptionally well, but it’s also failing in some ways to provide an experience. Prime is convenient, but it’s not fun.

Doug Stephens of Retail Prophet feels that brick-and-mortar stores are well positioned to bridge the offline to online gap. To do so, the purpose of a storefront will need to change in response to changing consumer demands. While leading a conversation about the consumer experience and questioning what retailers should be offering , Stephens emphasized his belief that the store is the media and the media is the store. While retail stores have historically been thought of primarily as hubs for the distribution of products, they’re now positioned to offer unique customer experiences first and products second.

For example, e-commerce allows you to buy a running shirt from Adidas while sitting at home, but the brand also offers a truly unique in store experience by letting you use VR to custom design that shirt  and then wait while it is manufactured – in store. Stores allow retailers to break through digital barriers, interface with consumers, and show them how their brand – the products they sell and how they’re sold – can enhance the consumer experience before, during, and after the actual transaction.

This change means that traditional measures of store performance need to evolve as well.  You have to create experiences in the store that not only drive purchases, but create buzz and improve brand engagement across all channels.  What retailers offer in their brick and mortar locations will not always equate to in store dollars and therefore should no longer always be measured in that way. Instead, experiences build loyalty and develop brand advocates – leading to both short term and long term sales. Fortunately, understanding how to craft this experience is relatively easy because the consumers themselves are willing to tell you what they want. All you have to do is gather the data and listen to the story it’s telling you.

Let The Data Drive The Experience

Consumer behavior is forcing retailers to behave differently. With information readily available from countless channels, consumers often work their way well down the purchasing funnel before choosing to interact directly with  a brand. Smart retailers are willing to listen, and they maximize the available information and signal data to deliver the experience Modern Consumers expect.

A great starting point is always your first-party data. When paired with relevant third-party information and attributes, you have everything you need to send the right message to the right people at the right time. Proper alignment of content, timing, and targeting enhance overall engagement and demonstrate to your customers and prospects that you’re listening. But it’s more than that. Creating a truly customized  experience is powerful because it helps establish trust and that ultimately leads to lasting loyalty.

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