“The customer comes first” is one of the oldest cliches in retailing. But that adage has taken on a new meaning in the digital age: Not only is the customer first, he’s telling you how to run your business.
The problem is, many brands aren’t listening. They may collect reams of data about what customers do and what they buy, but they’re not paying enough attention to what customers actually want or value most.
As a result, many brands are facing threats to their very survival. So far, most have focused on integrating retail outlets with the company’s digital operations to give consumer a more “seamless” experience. But that’s not enough.
Companies need to understand what really matters to consumers. This “outside-in” approach should guide the company’s entire operations, from back office to top-level executives. Brands that can make that transition will not only survive but generate profitable growth.
Learn more about how to align your business to your customer’s agenda.
The new consumer powerhouses understand this. They’re investing heavily in knowing what consumers want and tailoring products and services to meet specific needs. They realize that today’s consumers will remain loyal only if the company offers superior products and services while making an effort to engage them.
This customer-centric approach requires companies to address eight key issues:
1) Are you offering the right products?
2) Are your consumers having the right experience?
3) Can your supply chain/distribution network respond to changing consumer demands?
4) Are your partners aligned with what your consumer want?
5) Are you using data and advanced analytics correctly?
6) Is your technology focused on the consumer’s experience?
7) Are your retail operations integrated to satisfy consumer?
8) Is your organization and staff set up to meet consumer’s needs?
More companies are already taking steps to improve in these areas. But success will only come when they’ve mastered all eight requirements. Here are some guidelines to help with that effort.
Unify data and analytics. Break down organizational silos that isolate consumer data. Create a culture and business structure that provides a unified view of the customer.
Go beyond the sale. Don’t just focus on the sales transaction. Improve the consumer’s experience before and after. Let them discover and research merchandise. Make sure orders are accurate and delivered quickly. And offer convenient, speedy returns and refunds.
Upgrade technology. Update and rethink legacy systems for more advanced and agile technology. Integrate commerce and mobile technology to support automation of routine interactions with retailers and customers.
Tackle supply chain issues. Brands often struggle with inventory and supply chain issues. Come up with a better way of anticipating supply chain disruptions, and make sure partners and suppliers are aligned with your customer strategy.
Improve ties with retailers. Although brands are increasingly exploring direct-to-consumer selling, they still rely on retailers for the bulk of their revenue. So invest in digital technologies to improve the performance of your existing retail outlets.
Expand partnerships. Go beyond the traditional retail outlets and work with fulfillment centers. Integrate your e-commerce operation with social media, and provide digital content to all your partners.
Investing in these areas is only part of the equation. Brands also must have a clear understanding of where and how they’re investing so they can fully benefit from the connected-customer approach. Only then will they be able to deliver what consumers want.
To better understand how to align your business to what matters most to your customers, read our full report.
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