In 2014, retailers must be able to offer their customers a more personalised service, while still staying profitable. Consumers are more demanding than ever before and expect a personalised and fast service from their favoured retailers. They expect retailers to deliver more, faster and in a more targeted way. Herein lies the danger for retailers; they must ensure that they strike the right balance between offering high levels of customer service and delivering orders profitably.
One of the first steps retailers can take and one Manhattan Associates expects to see more of in 2014, is gaining enterprise-wide visibility of inventory and customers via the deployment of centralised order management systems. Embracing such technology will allow retailers to know exactly where their inventory is, to whom they can make it available and when it will get there, regardless of which channel is calling for it. This in turn will allow retailers to offer the best level of service to their customers.
Customers want their purchases – and they want them now. 2014’s shoppers will be the most demanding yet so availability will be critical. Too few retailers are currently offering customers next day delivery or two-hour click and collect services. For this to be possible, retailers need a 360-view of their channels. This will allow them to view inventory as a single, centralised pool and get stock to where it is needed quickly and efficiently. This will in turn allow them to offer a seamless shopping experience and increase the likelihood of them earning their customers’ loyalty.
Use of social media will also become a key competitive differentiator. Retailers who effectively monitor their online channels can give themselves a big head start and maximise their sales. The next development of social media usage in the retail sector will be retailers using social channels to take customer orders. Few larger retailers have capitalised on the opportunity of selling directly to their social channel audiences. Engagement has so far been driven by photos or discount vouchers rather than direct orders – something we are likely to see change this year as retailers become keener than ever to differentiate themselves from competitors.
So, we’ll see innovation in customer service this year, which will boost sales but retailers must never lose sight of profitability if they want a sales rise to really impact their bottom line.