For many of us, geographical location has become less relevant — so long as there is internet connectivity. We have seen e-commerce strategies have shifted from a perpetual top priority on every retailer’s three-to-five year plan to a desperately needed lifeline that could enable them to survive.
Investments have been made in logistics to enable last-mile delivery; new business models like ghost kitchens (restaurants with a space for kitchen equipment and facilities, but without any dining area for walk-in customers); dark stores (retail distribution centers that cater exclusively to online shopping); and into AI capabilities and blockchain.
However, to have medium- to long-term success, organizations would need to address the issue of what consumer experience (CX) they need to offer. CX is rapidly evolving from one that’s built upon the transactional process of in-store shopping to one that’s rooted in deep, ongoing and enriching relationships.
But this is not just about being online — it’s about doing it right and continuing to consider how in-person shopping fits into the customer’s overall journey. With start-ups rapidly gaining ground, they too need to understand the same concept of consumer experience through the apps created for various services. As more start-ups succeed, they would need to be prepared for similar competition to arrive faster than normal.
Organisations need to check if their structure is free of silos — which isolate e-commerce, merchandising, store operations, supply chain, credit control and marketing — and if they are hindering the experience. They need to keep reviewing how they can be price-competitive and still maintain profit margins. And how they can orchestrate the consumer journey seamlessly from digital to physical - and back again.
Scale up on CX
The buzzword is that stores should be used as ‘experience zones’. While this can be a truly effective strategy, it requires systems and business units that communicate with each other to deliver on the promise. As scale up happens, so must retailers’ ability to deliver a consistent experience.
Whether it be distribution, supply chain, healthcare, energy, real estate, telecom or transportation, a lot more has changed in the last five years than in the three decades that came prior. The way forward would require to be on two fronts:
• While strategy is the key, a fair amount of focus would need to shift away from strategy. The world is beginning to realise that strategy relies on a model where various parameters and assumptions are predicted and simulated. And yet, with all intelligent minds putting together all possible assumptions and predictions, some unknowns could be completely missed out. Which explains why the most advanced nations have been caught grossly underprepared for many of the recent economic and financial upheavals.
A better approach would be to put more emphasis on identifying and building financial, structural and people capabilities as well as competencies suitable to any particular industry segment. Building upon rapidly scalable capabilities would make organisations more robust, agile, and ready for any future situations.
• The employees who are closest to the market, or understand the pulse of the customer, should be empowered to make better decisions. Which in turn makes for a faster response time. However, for this approach to work, a higher calibre and better trained people would need to be positioned from bottom to the top. More and more rapidly scalable digitization would be needed to handle repetitive activities.
Centred at the top
In the final analysis, the commitment, ethics and hands-on approach of any leadership team would decide how the end consumer views his or her repeated consumer journeys.
For those of us who live in Dubai, the best measurement is to see how the government has evolved its systems and procedures over the last two decades, and how satisfied majority of its residents are with their daily consumer journeys while interacting with the government.
Organisations only need to emulate them. A strong, clear vision; an absolute hands-on approach of the leadership team; and a sustained build-up of capabilities and competencies.
In the CX journey, it pays greatly to stay consumer-focussed. Going forward, Organisational strategy must revolve around building competencies that are consumer-focused and create a great consumer experience journey. The mistake many of us make is to stay competitor-focussed while doing incrementally better for the end consumer.