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Transforming Customers Into Advocates: Defining the connected customer experience

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Today’s Consumers are very demanding and selective. They want relevant, real-time and personalized interactions with retailers and brands and they don’t hesitate to abandon brands that fall short of their expectations.

The retail landscape has fundamentally changed, and gone are the days of spray-and-pray promotions and untargeted broadcast advertising campaigns that ignore customer preference and lifetime value. Today’s Consumers are very demanding and selective. They want relevant, real-time and personalized interactions with retailers and brands and they don’t hesitate to abandon brands that fall short of their expectations. In order to transform customers into brand advocates, companies must develop a technology framework and strategy that enables the following tenets:

• building emotional connections with the Millennials through ‘purpose’ driven branding and activations
• proactive notification on offers and packages on their preferred channel
• a seamless experience across channels
• contextual and personalized service
• enabling and empowering your customer associates with a 360-view of the offerings
• developing a next-generation customer engagement center that understands customer preferences

At the India Retail Forum 2017 – held on September 19 and 20, 2017 in Mumbai, experts from the CEOs and Directors of successful brands met to debate on ‘Transforming customers into Advocates: Defining the Connected Customer Experience’ powered by SureSolutions.

The panel included Karthik, Chai Point; Anil Patel, Chief Operations Officer, HotWax Systems; Manoj Gupta, Founder, Craftsvilla; Saurabh Kochhar, CEO, Foodpanda India; Ranjit Satyanath, CIO, Infiniti Retail (Croma); Benazir Miller, General Manager IT, Shoppers Stop; Richa Vipan Kalra, Founder, Candyskin; Sharad Walia, Brand Director, Park Avenue, Raymond. The session was co-moderated by Alan Thomson, Director IRISYS (UK) and Vinod Sharma, MD, Deki Electronics.

Route to Profit Maximization

Vinod Sharma MD, Deki Electronics, began the session with a presentation in which he highlighted the key elements offered by SureSolutions. SureSolutions with its innovative I+I3 (Information, Intelligence, and Imaging) platforms aims to transform customers into advocates. Technically, SureSolutions is creating a bridge between technical problems and solutions by offering a wide range of benefits including:
– Providing Big Data at your fingertips
– Map traffic flow (across stores, regions, and cities)
– Drill down for specifics (Learn about instore movement, plan efficient product placement, make the promotions work better)
– Digital Intelligence
– Combine legacy with the latest in RFID
– Track SKUs with ease
– Reduce errors to almost nil
– Redeploy Human resources and increase efficiency and cut down costs
– See what works for you, what meets yore budgets, what is scalable according to your needs
– Allow customers to see and select options, colours, choices virtually instantly

Alan Thomson, Director IRISYS (UK), analyzed the role played by technology in gathering information on both online and offline platforms. “For an online retailer, it is easy to collect information; Google analytics will provide every minute detail of people visiting the website in a single click. But for a brick-and-mortar store, it is a difficult task. We provide IRISYS Vector 4D technology that offers people and crowd counting with accuracy in excess to 98 percent. It also provides customer demographic insights to determine a better understanding of shopper group of dynamics. The dwell monitoring of the software provides a greater understanding of customer engagement with merchandise and POP displays. We use the time of flight technology which is taking distant measuring, the beam of light is sent back to the collector, where it is mapped to give precise data by actually counting the people, hence distinguishing the demographics of the shoppers,” said Thomson.

Ranjit Satyanath, CIO, Infiniti Retail (Croma), emphasized on the additional value that technology adds to a brand and its business saying, “We take loyalties very seriously in our stores. Why does a particular customer go and shop from a particular retailer or a brand? First thing is price, second is convenience and the third is experience. Retailers have to distinguish the offerings around these parameters. There is no real loyalty among customers. There are certain paths that the customer takes. Awareness, pre-purchase (research about the product), good service and feedback and only after this, does the customer turn into an advocate,” he stated.

Benazir Miller, General Manager IT, Shoppers Stop, agreed saying: “I feel experience, trust and connects are extremely important in developing a long-lasting relationship with your consumer and technology plays the role of a driver which brings all three on one platform. What we are trying to do across all retail categories is to connect multiple channels in order to understand the customer shopping pattern.”

Anil Patel, Chief Operations Officer, HotWax Systems expressed his views from the Millennnial perspective. “The brand experience and the cause are very important. The technology that we employ in our organisations has to be enabled. It must take care of feedback, care and direct connection with the customer on all platforms. The Millennial consumer wants a continuous and active loop of connection. It should not be a one-time thing, but it needs to be something that keeps them engaged.”

Richa Vipan Kalra, Founder, Candyskin spoke on how to ensure customer loyalty and advocacy on a personal level. “Building a customer base is one the most important and difficult things to do. But once you do have them, you have everything. For CandySkin, I chose to go with an online portal and instead of going in for high-cost marketing, I opted for high-value marketing. I distributed around 1,000 bras for free and asked for honest feedback on the quality and comfort of the product. Brand advocacy with customer care is very important.”

“I empathize with my customer. I put myself in their shoes and think – ‘What will I buy, why should I buy that and from where will I buy it’. Thinking this way has helped me improve my merchandise mix and increase my retail footprint, which has culminated into bringing me more customers for my brand,” she added.

Sharad Walia, Brand Director, Park Avenue, Raymond, applauded Kalra’s idea of brand advocacy on the personnel platform and intelligently pointed out how bigger brands should carry such ideas. “We are at a scale where we need to deploy more use of technology. Whether you call it advocacy or satisfaction, essentially what we all are trying to do is gauge the customer’s reaction and satisfaction to our services. Towards this, we have introduced an application called Litmus. As soon as a customer makes a purchase, a link is sent to his mobile with five-six objective questions in it. The advantage is that we get real-time feedback from the customer,” he said.

Manoj Gupta, Founder, Craftsvilla talked about how his brand figured out the white space opportunity in a scattered ethnic retail market. “In our business, product quality is very important. That is the only way we can get more customers on-board and keep them there.”

Saurabh Kochhar, CEO, Foodpanda India, concluded the session as he spoke about his company’s online buzz which was the outcome of their customer advocacy strategy.

“We focused on certain things to make purchasing food online more convenient for the consumer – controlled pricing, great service, and a fantastic experience. If you do not have a face to the brand, then the service has to do a lot more talking and we totally believe in this.”

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