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So now that I have you all wondering how a pop group from the 1990s could possibly be linked to modern retail engagement strategies, here’s the answer: Tell me what you want, what you really, really want. Ok, all cheesiness aside, that mantra from over two decades ago could very well be the single most important theme for retailers in the new millennium. 

In today’s always-on, always-connected world, customers expect to connect with retailers in the same way they connect with their friends and family; they want one-to-one interactions that are personalized and meaningful. To accomplish this, retailers need to treat the customer as an individual and literally ask them what they want—what they really, really want. More so, they need to take that information and actually deliver.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, there are only two sides to marketing: the message you market and actually living up to what you market (the far bigger challenge). In this case, “living up to” is all based on personalization and delivering on what people—as individuals and not demographics—actually want. 

And though that may sound odd to some, knowing your customer as a person is, in fact, the new standard in customer relationships, customer engagement, and customer loyalty. And it’s all based on data. For all the time spent on social media, apps, e-commerce sites, and so on, people have evolved. Gone are the days when people ran away from so-called marketing campaigns. Now, as people share their lives—and hence their data—with the world, the expectation of that data being used to cater directly to them is front and center. 

In many ways, it’s basic human nature; everyone wants to be recognized as an individual and treated like they matter. To prove the point, the numbers don’t lie. If we start just with social media alone, 3.48 billion people now use social media—45% of the total global population. 

Then, of course, there are the online shopping aspects of mobile engagement. By the end of this year—a whopping four months from now—the total value of global retail e-commerce sales will reach $3.45 trillion. Further to that, ecommerce retail sales are expected to account for 13.7% of global retail sales by the end of the year. 

Now, I know what you might be thinking: 13% isn’t that large a number right? That still leaves an 87% share to bricks-and-mortar stores. Well, you’d be right. That is, if everything were to stay at the current status quo from now until eternity. However, that is not going to be the case; it’s predicted that, in just 20 years, approximately 95% of all purchases will be made online. 

But let’s take all of this one step further and look at how people interact with mobile devices and how they communicate. Looking back just two years, to 2017, there were 178 billion app downloads worldwide. That number is projected to grow to more than 205 billion this year, and 258 billion by 2022. That’s a 45% increase over five years.

Oh, but I’m not done. If we look at them as a whole, these stats demonstrate that customer engagement, data, and mobility are all playing a major role in our social evolution and in how customer interact with retailers in general. In fact, recent studies show that retailers that adopt omnichannel strategies achieve 91% higher customer retention rates year over year compared with businesses that don’t. 

And remember that family analogy? Well, it’s very real: more than 35% of customers expect to be able to contact the same customer service representative regardless of channel. Furthermore, 87% of customers think retailers need to put more effort into providing a seamless personalized experience—so much so that retailers with extremely strong omnichannel customer engagement retain 89% of their customers, on average, compared with a retention rate of only 33% among those companies with weak or antiquated customer engagement practices.

And lastly, what do customers really, really want? It’s now a fact that 90% of customers expect consistent interactions across all channels.

So with all of this data, paired with a shift in customer expectations, the ONLY thing retailers MUST do to remain competitive in delivering real customer engagement is to ask each individual customer one very simply yet important question: Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.

Andrew Armstrong

Andrew Armstrong

Chief Customer Officer

Andrew Armstrong is the Chief Customer Officer at omNovos – working globally with customers to design world-class customer engagement programs. He’s a prolific writer and speaker on topics including customer loyalty, personalization, and retail marketing technologies. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter - his open approach to all topics usually leads to a fun discussion and a few laughs.