It’s Time for Customer-First Commerce

The retail world has been referencing “omni-channel” for quite some time. While it was intended to reference a customer-centric strategy across a retailer’s integrated sales channels, in practice, “omni-channel” today is really more retailer- vs. customer-focused. It refers more to web and store integrations to standardize pricing and promotions of virtual inventory. This is not about putting the customer first.

Similarly, retail giants Walmart, Target and Macy’s have all emphasized a greater focus towards enhancing the customer experience – both online and in stores – but what they are really doing is ensuring consistent pricing and promotions across all channels. Unfortunately, this approach is more producer-focused, rather than customer-focused.

We need to shift the focus of commerce to the customer – irrespective of what devices or channel they’re on or whether they are in actual retail locations.

Shoppers are looking for a consistent and singular brand experience; they feel it when experiences are disjointed. To succeed in customer-first commerce  (as opposed to channel-first), you must be able to understand the individual intent and preferences of each customer in real-time.

It’s time for companies to pause and evaluate how well they are responding to consumers’ increasing expectations, and benchmark where they rank against their competitors. Unfortunately, many companies are still struggling to transition from a multi-channel mindset to an omni-channel one. Meanwhile more agile competitors have simply skipped those stages and moved to placing the customer first in their strategy. While omni-channel was about giving a shopper a single view of the brand across touchpoints, customer-first commerce is about giving the brand a single view of the shopper. Too many retailers are still unable to understand a single customer’s path to purchase across all touchpoints and technologies in their stack. Customer-first commerce is about understanding what makes your customers different and unique. It’s about looking past averages to the diverse individuals in your customer base – and exploring how to maximize the value of each one.

Customer-centricity is not a new concept; but the ability to implement it at scale is. The wealth of data generated by eCommerce combined with new tools powered by advanced machine learning have given marketers and merchandisers the means to deliver on the age old dream of targeting the “right customer with the right channel and right message – at the right time”. Customer-first commerce also helps teams align around a strategy that will drive long-term value to the business: acquiring high-value customers, and using their unique intent and preferences to increase affinity and loyalty. The result is deeper, more meaningful, more profitable relationships with each individual customer.

Matt Helmke

Matt is the senior director of communications and content at Reflektion. He’s led global communications, content and brand strategy programs for high-profile, culture-shifting Fortune 500 business divisions, as well as innovative, early-stage startups. The common thread running through his career is a passion for disruptive technologies focused on improving and redefining end-user experiences. Outside of technology, his passions include his family, music, bourbon, craft beers, fishing and swimming… but not all at once.