According to the CEO of retail software company Demandware, the increased availability of technology has caused the lines between retailers and brands to blur as they strive for customer engagement.
At Demandware’s latest conference, Xchange 2015, Tom Ebling said that technologies such as smartphones and internet access are everyday facilities now, allowing the consumer more power over retailers.
Ebling said: “There’s a word that describes these trends and also describes what is going on in retail and that’s
democratisation – the definition of democratisation is making something available to everyone.”
Ebling believes this has changed the relationship between brands and consumers as new ways of communicating with customers has led to retailers increasing their online and digital push.
He said ultimately the industry has shifted the focus towards “consumer reach” and “personalisation” making it difficult to distinguish between a retailer and their brand.
The pattern has been led by an increase in the need for social interaction between retailers and their consumers.
Ebling also pointed out that young people said they would be 75% more likely to buy from a brand if they felt socially engaged with it.
He added: “It used to be very linear, very straightforward. Consumers had one or maybe two paths that they would take to buy a product. Now that journey is incredibly complex.”
Ebling believes the journey of retail is constantly growing and changing.
He said: “The way things change is unbelievable and there will be more change tomorrow,” he said. “It’s happening at a rapid pace and, as a result, retailers are investing because they want to be where the consumers are, so spend by retailers on social is up 144% year-on-year.”
The social push is all part of making the consumer feel really engaged; creating an overall positive customer experience. Ebling said more than 80% of customers would be willing to pay more for a better experience in store.
Omni-channel and ecommerce senior vice president John Kalinich thinks embracing digital is the first step towards providing great customer experience.
He said: “There will be more digital in the future, in our homes, in our cars, and in our accessories. And those organisations who are helping transform and use digital will have a competitive advantage.”
Kalinich said that no matter what channel the consumer purchases through, retailers are serving the same customer and whether it’s online, through mobile or in-store, the experience should be consistent across each.
He added: “The consumer is really the same consumer across all of these different channels, and the consumer doesn’t care if we have, say, a fulfilment issue in one of these channels.
“They want the product where they want it, and they want a consistent experience and they also want to engage with the brand directly.”