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January 12, 2015

Retailers of all kinds look to the holiday season as a time for revenue-generation, as shoppers fulfill their wish-lists with purchases big and small. What often emerges following this time of year, are the trends that have shaped and influenced customer spend and behaviors. 

In this edition of Action Matters, A&M Global Marketing spotlights retail in the UK with insights culled from our conversation with A&M Managing Director Simon Evetts on where he sees the industry headed, challenges for merchants and why the customer is always king.

Global Marketing: Purchasing decisions from mobile devices are no doubt on the rise. What does the trend say about today’s customer and ways in which buyers prefer to engage with retail?

Simon Evetts: The world of retail has changed significantly in the past decade, mainly due to technology. The advent of devices such as the iPhone and tablets have brought an ease and efficiency to customer experiences. The “next generation” of retail is about giving the customer more control over purchasing decisions and making it easy in the process. This means that retailers need to adapt their business models to reach and interact with customers via all the ways they are communicating with brands.

Global Marketing: With so many online purchasing options, retailers are challenged with maintaining customer interest. How are merchants not only enticing buyers but managing to build and maintain brand loyalty?

Simon Evetts: Brands are doing this in a variety of ways through rewards programs that grant shoppers vouchers and other incentives to encourage continued spend. What is key to the process is that such interaction is highly relevant to customers and requires a deep understanding of them as individuals. What is also important to building customer loyalty is flexibility and reliability in fulfilment. In the UK, flexibility is seen through a number of retailers who are now experiencing more than half of their online orders being collected directly at physical store locations. When orders are delivered to the home, however, it is critical that retailers keep their promises and deliver when they say they will. Ideally, customers are looking for advanced tracking facilities to allow them to have confidence in the retailer’s supply chain. It is when things do go wrong in fulfilment that a retailer has the potential to impact loyalty the most. A well-managed experience where the customer is proactively contacted and offered alternatives may increase loyalty, while a failed delivery with a customer left waiting at home is likely to have the opposite effect.

Global Marketing: Social media allows customers to have an active voice which helps shape brand perception. What are retailers doing to ensure positive community conversation and engagement?

Simon Evetts: This goes back to building loyalty while recognizing the influence of today’s consumer.  Retailers are not only rewarding shoppers for their purchasing decisions, they are saying thank you to those who serve as brand ambassadors via their endorsement on social media. A happy customer can be worth his weight in gold. More and more, retailers recognize the value that a satisfied consumer can have on public perception and are listening carefully to social conversation to pinpoint shoppers who lend influence and spark involvement. These customers can then be engaged to drive their positive influence even further.

Global Marketing: Retailers may find themselves behind the curve when it comes to evolving their business models to keep up with today’s customer. What are your words of advice to the retailer struggling to emerge as a player in today’s digital revolution?

Simon Evetts: Adapting for ecommerce can require a significant investment but is one that will prove to be imperative for any retailer hoping to remain competitive in today’s market. Retailers should focus on the end-to-end customer experience optimizing each step of the customer’s journey from online, to in-store and every conversation and interaction in between. Retailers do however need to keep a strong focus on costs, as there is often little value in investing heavily in unprofitable customer journeys. There are many levers a retailer can pull to drive success in ecommerce. The key is knowing which ones to choose in order to lead to an increase in profitability.