Retail brands will be adding more artificial intelligence and providing increasingly tailored customer experiences, but just adding tech isn’t going to cut it, according to Consumer Experience in the Retail Renaissance, a report released Monday by Salesforce and Deloitte Digital.
The report was based on a survey of more than 500 traditional retail, pure play, consumer goods and branded manufacturing leaders from around the world.
The surveyed companies say that their consumer experience is disconnected, data usage is not strategic and there is confusion over who is in charge of the customer experience. But despite those findings, the report indicates that companies are moving toward more unified platforms and strategies in the future. Note that Salesforce, a co-author of the report, is a provider of such tools.
Investment in data pays off
Elite brands (those whose revenue increased 10 percent or more in the last year) “focus on data at nearly 2x higher rates than underperformers across all areas, on average.” Companies with a strong strategy in place around the issues of consumer data areas of security, governance and culture outperformed those that did not.
Currently, adoption of the artificial intelligence (AI) used to power the data is still lagging, with just over a third of the respondents saying they are using it in at least one application, mostly to offer customers tailored pricing and promotions and relevant search results.
Engagement & discovery: A double-edged sword
Technology that supports engagement and discovery is both a priority and a pain for companies. Thirty percent say they have planned investments in tech that support engagement, while 32 percent say improvement in their current systems is needed.
Many companies revealed that it’s unclear who owns the consumer experience.
From the report:
According to respondents, there is no clear role or department within their organization that owns this strategy and execution. Results ranged from 34 percent for the CEO to 12 percent for customer care and service to 8 percent for analytics/data intelligence.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, results change significantly when C-level executives are asked who owns this responsibility: Seventy-two percent of the C-suite say the CEO owns consumer experience strategy and execution. This is compared to 21 percent of SVPs and VPs and 7 percent of both senior directors and managers who point to the CEO’s ownership. Consumer goods companies are 1.4 times as likely as retailers to say the consumer experience responsibility belongs to the CEO (43 percent vs. 31 percent).
I spoke to Rob Garf, VP of industry strategy and insights for Salesforce Commerce Cloud, about the report.
“What we found is that the data within a retailer’s organization is really an absolute mess and that’s not anybody’s fault in particular,” Garf told me. “It’s just by virtue of the system investments that have been made over the last 15 or 20 years. And what we’ve found in the research is that, on average, retailers and brands have 39 disparate systems just to manage the consumer interaction. So it’s not a surprise that there’s data scattered everywhere.”
Two-thirds of the companies say that they have an active and funded unified platform initiative in play. Only 1 percent said it wasn’t a priority. Based on this report, we should start to see fewer cobbled-together systems and more strategic, central ways of handling data.