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Retailers turn to customer journey strategies for business transformation

Ever since the Web burst onto the scene in the early 1990s, with Amazon close on its heels in 1994, retailers have tried – and too many times failed – to staunch their declines in revenues and bottom lines. Fighting back trends ranging from stagnation to perilous decline, retailers have tested and launched a plethora of new and experimental approaches, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, in their efforts to fend off the looming specter of retail apocalypse brought about by online shopping. These often heroic efforts include, but are certainly not limited to, a discount/membership business model (e.g.,, selling exclusively via the Web (e.g., Zappos), merging with a competitor (e.g., PetSmart and, using location marketing (e.g., Starbucks and Coca-Cola) and beacons (e.g., Macy’s and Lord & Taylor) to attract customers, creating more cozy retail venues (e.g., Nordstrom), and positioning chains/stores to target millenials (e.g., Williams-Sonoma’s focus on millennials via West Elm).

Still, despite all efforts, retailers have experienced tough sledding as the third decade of e-commerce unfolds. Many retail executives have concluded there is no magic fix or perfect retail setting that will attract customers in droves. Instead, they have begun to see that customers want to buy in different ways, depending on factors such as convenience and the customer’s availability, mood, and attraction to discounts and loyalty programs. It’s not one single approach that works best, but instead a combination of 1) the customer’s ability to select the shopping approach in the moment that best meets his or her needs, and 2) the retailer’s relentless commitment to offer as great a customer experience as possible, across all retail channels.

The realization that many factors influence customer preferences is precisely the point where customer journey strategies should come to the forefront for retailers’ business transformation initiatives. According to Digital Clarity Group, a customer journey strategy encompasses:

the enterprise’s business technology plan to engage and delight customers by supporting all touchpoints that span awareness, e-commerce, store operations, digital marketing, and service, and by integrating the multiple devices, interaction channels, and application silos that support those customer touchpoints.

Customer journeys are highly strategic and – in a world where the customer truly is king – understanding them can literally make or break the future success of any retailer. Retailers develop customer journey strategies to understand what experiences the shopper has with the brand, encompassing its products, stores, e-commerce operations, and back-office processes, from the very beginning through the entire cycle of interactions. In a customer-driven world, it is critical to understand the moments of truth – the point(s) at which a customer decides to engage, continue engaging, or stop engaging – not only for a single interaction but also through every interaction. Finding and understanding the moments of truth throughout the journey provides crucial intelligence for crafting great customer experiences.

Retailers that embark on journey strategies and develop journey maps graphically depicting the ups and downs that customers currently experience are well positioned to win the ongoing, never-ending race to delight customers. Brands that stand back and wait will only have themselves to blame when customers abandon their products and turn to competing brands that delight them at all touchpoints throughout the full spectrum of their interactions. The message to the C-suite? Make sure your organization has a customer journey strategy in place and is proactively enabling journeys that delight the customer, support crucial moments of truth, and, ultimately, span all touchpoints.

To learn more about creating customer journey strategies for the retail industry, and to gain insights into how Rack Room Shoes embarked on its customer journey program using analytics and CRM, download Digital Clarity Group’s report on Retail Marketing: Get Started on Creating Great Customer Experiences with Journey Strategies.


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