This is a ‘new age’ for customers who have choice, options, opportunities to voice opinions and ways to give feedback. That makes for both an exciting and somewhat intimidating time for retailers.

On the one hand, remarkable technology is ushering in new customer engagement possibilities across multiple channels. On the other, you’re pressured to respond to the omni-channel expectations of your own customers: if they aren’t getting the experience they want from you, they will go elsewhere.

You hear a lot about how buying patterns and consumer expectations are changing. That’s happening thanks to mobile technology, increased intelligence and targeting, and the emergence of omni-channel models which allow customers to engage with retailers almost any way they – the customer – choose to.

And customers are being spoiled for choice as they hop between channels. From online browsing with web research, to in-store browsing of on-the-shelf products, to mobile comparisons of prices and deals and ‘click and collect’ – consumers have so many options available.

If they have this kind of experience from one retailer (which they will), they are likely to expect it from others.

But the problem for many established retailers is that existing systems were never built for these multiple channels. To put it plainly, those aged systems don’t provide the right kinds of insights into who the customers are – what they do, where they shop or what their interests might be.

Data is largely manual and reporting is stymied. Sales and marketing promotions are uncoordinated and success (or failure) can’t be easily measured, if at all.

Most importantly, customers are left confused, with no consistency in experience between one channel and the next. With big gaps between website, in store and social, customers fall through.

Even if some more modern updates can be introduced – like a web storefront, or a social media presence – it tends to sit on the side. There’s no integration. One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, and neither hand knows if the customer online has ever visited a store.

That’s why it is necessary to consider how to refine and revolutionise your customer’s engagement.

In the age of the customer, the three keys to success wrap around customer engagement. 

1. Understand your customer.

Not just where they shop or what they’ve bought, but who they are, what they love, why they love it, what motivates them and where they work. Customers are looking for more from the brands and retailers they interact with.

2. IT and marketing need alignment.

Marketers understand the customer; when marketing is empowered by IT, the results can be amazing. When technology is implemented with the customer in mind, usability and user experience become the focus.

3. Communicate one-to-one.

Customers are individuals. Mass personalisation is a reality we all experience today, and expect from our service providers. How does the retailer achieve that across multiple channels? With SAP Hybris.

Solving these challenges can’t readily be done using outdated technology. Those old systems just weren’t designed for digital business. They weren’t designed to integrate multiple channels to deliver a consistent, engaging customer experience. In fact, they probably weren’t designed to deliver any sort of customer experience at all; that just wasn’t a major focus back in those days.

That’s the gauntlet which is laid down for all retailers today. Omnichannel experiences, incorporating the multiple ways in which customers engage, are becoming a necessary ticket to the dance.

Doing omni-channel well is more than a ticket; it is box seats, and provides the opportunity to achieve customer delight (what an effective digital business is enabled to do). Through the power of analytics, insights and understanding your customer, you can surprise and impress with relevant offers, information and deals, delivered personally via the channel the individual prefers.

Find out more about SAP Hybris, how you can know more about your customers, integrate social media into your marketing and directly engage with the people who keep you in business.