Plenty is currently being discussed in business circles and financial publications about the state of the American retail industry, which is experiencing a big shift in operations and strategies toward a more omnichannel focus. Most of that discussion is rather grim, highlighting store closures for brick-and-mortar brands and the growing e-commerce competition. It’s also way overblown.
This month alone, the New York Times has published two detailed reports outlining retail’s future as being in dire straits — one calling it a “historical tipping point” while the other focuses on “zombie malls.” I’m not debating that retail is changing, but the analysis being offered to make sense of this is insufficient — made up of only the most visible trends. To truly understand the future of retail, you must first understand retail customers. Businesses are well aware of this fact, and are making increasing investments into Customer Experience (CX) Intelligence and Voice of Customer (VoC) technologies, such as those offered by ForeSee. With an increasingly complex customer journey and an onslaught of new retail competition, the real key is putting the customer in the center and above the organization, making decisions based off more rigorous and actionable insight.
The omnichannel experience era demands better CX measurement
Rather than focus on arbitrary numbers of stores closing, it’s more helpful to analyze why those stores are closing. Obviously, it’s due in part to the new era of increasingly omnichannel experiences, which means consumers who used to interact with retailers primarily in physical stores now have access to websites, mobile sites, and mobile apps. Customers just don’t interact with physical stores like they used to.
These changes to physical retail would happen regardless, but understanding how to execute a shift from full retail store chain to more of a warehouse/showroom requires advanced insights about the customer experience. For instance, being able to measure the customer on every part of the journey is more important now than ever, and in doing so allows smart retailers to measure for things like BOPIS (buy online pickup in store) and Store Non-Purchaser (measuring visitors that don’t make a purchase in-store).
Don’t count out physical retailers yet
It may seem like physical retail is at a tipping point, but much of the same rhetoric was used as the age of Internet shopping rose over a decade ago. There were winners and losers of the e-commerce age, but the one constant was that the retailers who adapted using a customer-centric strategy were largely able to survive.
The best way to ensure that the new omnichannel experience measurement era goes smoothly is to crank up support for CX measurement. As I mentioned above, measuring every part of the customer journey is extremely important. Doing so opens up the door for measuring the digital contribution each customer channel has on the overall experience. Physical retailers mounting a new omnichannel strategy are becoming more aware of this every day, and the steps being made now (store closures, investing in digital channels) is just the beginning of a new retail revolution. And how well you measure the customer experience will determine your place in it.