Justin Stephenson Managing Director TPN Retail Marketing
An international communication specialist and business developer, Justin heads up TPN, a dynamic retail shopper marketing agency committed to helping the world’s leading brands increase sales and reimagine retail.
Few debates are more important within marketing today than that of customer experience. How that experience relates to the overall brand business, for instance. Or in what ways the experience needs to change on different channels, and how brands can best sell their products whilst engaging in conversations with their customers.
Because technology is developing with such rapidity and consumers are engaging with brands in so many different, and continuously evolving ways, the dilemma for brands is to offer a seamless, customised experience. Or series of experiences – to different audiences, at different times and on different channels – to create sufficient brand distinction that resonates with multiple audiences and thus fuels competitive advantage.
Instead of an ‘all things to all people’ approach, technology has enabled personalisation to become the norm. So businesses need to deliver a unified customer experience that can meet the expectations of all – from Baby Boomers to Gen Alphas. Each group need their own marketing messages if they’re to engage with brands – because they’re oblivious to each other’s conversations.
As technology has changed the way people engage with brands, products and services, there’s huge diversity amongst different generations as to what they expect from technology, how they use it, and what it delivers in terms of their own desired customer experiences. This reality is causing the need for more diversity in approach to better meet customer needs. This diversity suggests the need for hyper-fragmented environments to deliver separate connected customer experiences to different targets. But how achievable is this, especially within retail?
A massive generational divide in technology adoption and technology fluency is widening the gap in how retailers can effectively and efficiently connect with their audiences. The ability of customers to create and aggregate content the way they want it is also mandating retail experiences to become ever-more personal. The dichotomy within this shift is profound.
In retail, where the integration of physical and digital customer experiences is assumed, the physical space must deliver the emotional experience, whereas digital retail delivers a more transactional experience. This means different audiences will expect to have a completely different relationship in the physical and digital spaces, engaging with the retailer in completely different ways. The way technology is used by different generations means by default that their engagement and involvement around their own retail customer experience will need to be defined on their terms.
This is further complicated by the fact that, within a retail business, different retail teams (eComm, In-store experience, IT) will be chasing different deliverables, making a relevant, unified customer experience that much more challenging to achieve.
Retailers like Target are trying to bridge the expectation divide of how customers want to shop with a new ‘store of the future’ programme.
And while such attempts are beginning to make the customer experience more seamless, this will only really happen when the consumer can truly customise the experience for themselves. While this is the ultimate dynamic customer experience, we may have to wait for a couple of generations… to a time where there will no longer be a technology divide.