Macro and Microeconomic Factors Continue to Impact Customer-Centric Merchandising & Marketing Market
‘The customer is always right’ is the oldest slogan taught to every marketing person, manager and prospective student. In reality, what the customer wanted (or thought they wanted) was decided not by them but the company corporate headquarters. This was the situation for several decades but not anymore. Customers today are well-informed, educated, and know exactly what they want. Higher customer expectations and rising awareness has led to the formation of the Customer-Centric Merchandising & Marketing Market. While many retailers are making great strides in customer-centric marketing and customer service, merchandising has not progressed as much.
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Gradually, retail has evolved from buying products and negotiating costs to deciding where products should be located in the stores and on which shelf. This then progressed into category management where the category manager was delegated responsibility to set prices and plan promotions. A further evolution of category management was adding customer insights into it to help decide pricing and promotion policies. True customer-centric merchandising in the Customer-Centric Merchandising & Marketing Market doesn’t attempt to impose customer insights onto traditional category management. Instead, it completely redesigns the process by allowing customer tastes to drive management decisions, which in turn helps to achieve sales targets rather than hinder them.
Customer-Centric Merchandising & Marketing Market Drivers
In order to gain new customers and retain existing ones, retail companies are paying serious attention to the Customer-Centric Merchandising & Marketing Market. The two key drivers of the market are –
Rising customer expectation- The customer is truly the king today and they have become even more demanding than before. Due to a proliferation of smartphones, mobile Internet and e-commerce, customers are fully aware of a product availability, its price across different retailers, and upcoming trends. They are also able to shop whenever and wherever they wish to with multiple options available at their disposal. A retailer must, therefore, make their presence felt across various channels like mobile Apps, physical stores, websites, and social media and provide a consistent and user-friendly experience across each. Customers might even expect a personalised experience according to their own likes, preferences or favoured trends.
Less brand loyalty- Millennial customers, in particular, are adept at ‘channel hopping’, i.e. they look up products in a physical store, read its reviews and then compare both online and offline prices before settling in on the best deal. Brand loyalty is reducing in developed countries and almost non-existent in developing ones, especially in fast-changing industries like fashion and electronics. Consumers are both technologically and product savvy along with having fickle tastes.
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Having the flexibility of payment options is also a major USP for some retailers. In order to attract and retain this demographic, retailers must manage operations across various channels and understand consumer buying behaviour. This will directly lead to greater sales volume, increased profitability, stronger brands and loyal lifelong customers.
Customer-Centric Merchandising & Marketing Market Restraints
Customer centricity is thinking and acting in such a way that individual customer preferences drive all business functions and decisions. However, there are still a few challenges in the Customer-Centric Merchandising & Marketing Market like–
Lower barriers to entry –
Most companies have access to the same customers and computing resources in our digital data-driven age. Thus, new competitors can easily enter the market and threaten incumbent players. Apple and Google entering the financial payments industry from the technology one is a great example of this potential disruption.
All communication channels matter- While online data is vital, retailers must also go deep to understand customer behaviour including product usage, CRM etc. Customer-centric companies need to effectively use these channels to get information about customer tastes, needs and preferences and communicate effectively with them.
Difficulty in maintaining loyalty- According to the Harvard Business Review, reduction in customers defecting to other brands by as less as 5 percentage points can double company profits. However, this is easier said than done in an era where a customer can buy a competitor product within one smartphone tap.
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Customer-Centric Merchandising & Marketing Market Key Regions
China has become the world’s largest retail market this year, making the largest Customer-Centric Merchandising & Marketing Market too. Mobile accounts more than half of all e-commerce purchases in the country making it very important for long-term growth.
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