Omni-channel, digital transformation, big data … and my favorite: Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net (thanks Homer Simpson). 

Look, all buzzwords or not, the terms used are not the issue that retailers are facing—the outcomes are what they are facing. The fact of the matter is that the world is changing and so are the expectations that consumers are placing on retailers. And whether you like it or not, those buzzwords aren’t buzzwords. They are very real and very important in how we all will do business now and in the future.

The challenge here is separating the buzz-speak from the reality of what needs to be done to save retail businesses. There is a reason why the big players that once used to reign supreme are now disappearing (Sears, I’m looking in what used to be your direction). The stark reality is that consumers expect to be treated like retailers know them intimately—a far cry from the old “How may I help you?” Now, it’s more along the lines of “Hi, how are the kids? And, by the way, how did that outfit turn out that you bought online last week?” regardless of whether the consumer has even been in that branch of the store before. Are you prepared for that? You better be.

Data is now king and leveraging such data is the new way that we must all do business. So, what does that mean as far as actually implementing a solution? Again, ignore the buzzwords. Start by creating a customer experience—not a journey. Seriously. The “customer journey” is a buzzword left over from the 70s, it’s dead. Let it go. 

Now, instead of placing gated scenarios to some fictitious persona, think about every customer you have as individuals. People who change their minds, habits, and buying mediums like they change their socks—real people. How are you going to speak to them? Easy: customer data.

Do you have a rewards program? Email programs? Sign-up-to-get-a-discount program? I will place bets that you do. But here’s another bet. The unfortunate thing is that your data probably resides in multiple places, represents different aspects of your customers, and doesn’t all link together. Am I getting warm yet?

The issue you have is not having the ability to create single-user-profile data: a ubiquitous data file that represents all the interactions by a single customer that tells you who they are, what they like, what they don’t like, when and where they buy, what they buy, and more. That’s the secret sauce. Not hard to get actually. Call me, I can tell you how in minutes … but I digress.

Most importantly, it’s about wowing the customer. The experience that they have with your retail business should be different every time. Not in an inconstant way, but in a highly personalized way. It’s this approach that enables you to better connect with the customer—online, in-app, or in-store—and to prove to them that you actually know them, value them, and so-on.

Then, it comes down to the magical aspect of the surprise. What if every encounter a customer or potential customer had with your retail business ended in something that surprised the hell out of them—in a good way, of course. Imagine the possibilities? No more gated journey stuff: just pure, unadulterated connection that made them happy.

This is where the future resides. The interconnection between technology and people that enables them to not only share an experience with the retailer, but also to share that experience with their friends, family, and outside network. The viral propagation alone can turn an okay business into an overnight success just because the customer experience was flawless.

The future is here my friends, so it’s time to embrace the change. Again, it’s not the technology that you need to worry about—it’s your customer. Making them feel special regardless of the channel is the new way of doing business. Connecting with them is the way that you track and keep them. Map out the experience you want to deliver and make it happen. And if you need help with that, call me—I can help with that too.

The question now becomes: Are you willing to make that call?