Last month, a friend was looking to buy a mobile phone, and casually mentioned this on his social network. He was amazed by the response. He received opinions, links to sites that reviewed products, and even reviews of retailers who sold mobile phones.
Well, these days, buying has become a social experience and 70 to 80 percent of the purchase cycle is completed even before the consumer steps into the store. Retailers and consumer goods companies need to influence the consumer before he has made up his mind. One way of doing this is tapping into social networks, connecting with consumers and discreetly persuading them to buy your product
Other technology-related trends have also hit the retail landscape. Mobile shopping has caught on and m-commerce has gone mainstream, creating a business case for companies to upgrade to mobile-friendly websites and build and maintain an active and visible web presence. With competitors’ prices just a touch away, companies also have to keep prices competitive or risk losing business.
Another change in the retail space is the focal shift from fulfilling consumer expectations to delighting the consumer. With retailers and consumer goods companies sparing no effort in wooing and pampering the consumer, shoppers today consider a personalized shopping experience as a given. Retailers can stand out only through positive differentiation; say by combining different bits of available consumer information and using them to further enhance consumer experience. For instance, instead of making just any offer on a consumer’s birthday, a smart retailer sends a specific offer on a product which the consumer wishes to buy. Consider the case of a consumer who has an auto tool kit in his online wish list. The retailer, having tapped this bit of data, presents a 10 percent offer on such a kit. The result is – a delighted consumer and greater chances of conversion.
In the light of these changes, there is a compelling need for retailers to seamlessly integrate multiple shopping channels. This would lead to a unique shopping experience; one that will not only trigger a one-time sale, but more importantly, ensure consumer stickiness at a time when loyalties run thin. Achieving this with the existing integration capabilities between enterprise applications (A2A) and partners (B2B) is clearly not possible. Companies need to build middleware platforms whose event architecture supports real-time enterprise, and that have capabilities of integrating with mobile devices as well as social sites. In addition, the presence of a complex event-processing rules engine will speed up responsiveness on the part of retailers and companies. Also, with the exponential rise in the number of events and mobile applications, scalability is a must-have. Further, a cloud-friendly platform will enable cost optimization and faster time-to-market.
Such an integrating platform that enables the conflation of social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies will enrich the consumers’ in-store experience no doubt, but will also create a holistic multichannel experience for the consumer like never before. Don’t you think so?