Connected Devices Wreak Havoc on Retailers, Foreshadowing a New Era in Customer Experience (and Control).

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‘Tis the season…to get the best freakin’ deal you can.

If Christmas 2010 is any indicator, the average customer will have a great deal more to say about what they pay, who they pay it to, as well as where and when they pay it, in the years ahead.

The holiday season has long been a key indicator of overall retail sales’ strength, with over a quarter of all retail sales for the year occurring in this period. Starting with Black Friday and Cyber-Monday sales and online deals and continuing on through December, retailers fight for the largest chunk of the average household’s $1,700 share-of-gift wallet they can.

With billions in revenue at stake, big bucks are spent across all media to drive buyers to websites and retail stores every year. But what happens when your advertising succeeds in getting customers into your store…and they buy IN your store… but buy FROM someone else?

Today, customers are using smart phones to “remotely access” savings wherever they are.

As described in “Phone-Wielding Shoppers Strike Fear Into Retailers“, a front-page story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal and the most popular article online, there’s a retailing revolution in progress. Dubbed a “new era of price transparency” by Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke, the retailer’s traditional advantage – getting customers into their stores to buy – is quickly eroding.

After all, customers can now try your product (try it on, see it, touch it, listen to it) and decide to buy – then scan your price tag and find a cheaper product online. Adding insult to injury, they buy it on the spot (free delivery, on your customers front porch the day-after-tomorrow!).

Even more interesting, some of these Apps can also tell you – by tying in to inventory and pricing databases – how much money you can save on the exact same product by walking just a half-block to a competitor. If this trend continues (and it will) almost every retailer has the potential to be fighting a low-price battle which simply cannot be won by everyone.

Customer experience is going to look a lot different tomorrow.

The ability of customers to get this kind of real-time pricing and availability data is a variation on one primary theme: bridging the gap from the real world – in this case, the world of retail experience – to the virtual, online world. To many, this shift might seem like science fiction, or a problem to deal with a few years down the road. But believe me – it’s real and it’s happening now.

Just one year ago, consumers using mobile devices on Black Friday accounted for only 0.1% of visits to retail websites. This year, Coremetrics reports that the number has jumped to 5.6%, a 50-fold increase in 2010 over 2009. And this is just the beginning. Over the next five years, the amount of merchandise compared, purchased and analyzed via mobile phones is going to explode.

121710 blog 300x245 Connected Devices Wreak Havoc on Retailers, Foreshadowing a New Era in Customer Experience (and Control).

“Remote Access” – the ability to support on-the-fly exchange of information between customers’ devices, corporate systems and others – is just one of the “disruptive forces” driven by integrated, mobile technology that we see dramatically changing customer experience.

Growing 10-times faster than any other previous technology, the proliferation of the ever more powerful, interconnected mobile devices currently carried by nearly 137 million customers in the United States alone, is changing the face of customer experience forever.

Over the internet, through mobile devices, and on desktops, this new transparency combines with unprecedented access and mobility to ever more frequently make customers smarter about pricing, options and competition than many of the companies they buy from.

Are you looking at how this will affect your customer’s experience today…?

Together, these trends are indicative of the changes happening everywhere. Whether you’re B2B or B2C, in healthcare, financial services, retail or anywhere between, the ways that you interact with customers tomorrow is going to look a lot different than it does today.

Yet just as customers are getting smarter, many companies still make their customers jump through hoops, driving them into the arms of their competition. Forgetting 90% of what customers tell you? Chasing after transactions instead of building relationships? Making customers tell you the same thing two, three or more times? That’s not just bad business. In this world, it’s potentially suicidal.

Disruptive forces like this are driving a flood of customer experience innovation that will cause headaches for companies in every industry – creating huge opportunities for those that recognize and react, and significant threats for those that don’t.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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