Retailers of all sizes have renewed their focus on making their operations customer-centric. Unfortunately, for many that will mean no more than deploying a CRM system that tracks customer contacts and ties them into mass marketing efforts and loyalty programs. For many small and mid size businesses (SMB) the initiative will be limited to getting to know their customers more, and creating retail “Cheers”. While these are good places to start, there are many readily available, inexpensive and simple to implement applications that can provide retailers with in-depth analysis of customer interactions.
Any comprehensive attempt to make an operation customer centric must start with identifying the target customers, and understanding what they are they looking for in their retail experiences from SMB retailers. A plan that is comprised of only “Knowing your customer’s name” is like having a list of 1000 friends on Twitter or Facebook and not knowing anything about them other than their screen name. To have a customer first operation, the focus has to be on customer engagement and interaction. To get to know those 1000 friends you need to invest some time in reading their messages so that you can get to know what their interests are. Similarly, to be effective a SMB retailer should track customer activity at a transactional level, so that they can understand what needs they fill for their customers. What are they buying, are they a discount shopper, do they favor certain manufacturers or product lines?
An effective Retail CRM should allow retailers to gather transactional level information at the Point of Purchase, and in return offer customized promotions and recommendations at the point of purchase that are tailored to each customer’s buying habits as well as the retailers inventory levels. This simple step goes a long way in optimizing your Customers Experience. Every interaction with a customer at the Point of Purchase should be used to provide relevant information to the customer.
So where to start, it is not practical for SMB retail operators to immediately adopt extensive CRM applications, both from a financial and a technological expertise point of view. Determine the capabilities of your point of sale software in tracking data. Identify your inventory patterns and know what products are slow movers and tie up resources. Any effective CRM should tie in your inventory trends with customer interactions. Start with small manageable steps and take additional bites out of the pie as time goes on. Finally watch your investment, it is very easy to invest tens of thousands in solutions that work for large enterprises, a single store retailer can create a comprehensive CRM solution for less than $2 a day per Point or Purchase.