Strategies To Engage The Evolved Consumer

By Rick Chavie, VP, Marketing Retail and Hospitality Solutions, NCR

Years ago, the relationship between the shopper and shopkeeper was dramatically different. Retailers knew their customers’ preferences, and customers trusted their shopkeepers’ knowledge of products and prices. Today, consumers are less loyal, time-starved and digitally empowered. Technology gives them access to limitless product information and shopping alternatives, making hunting for the best value simple.

The retail landscape also has changed. Retailers have spent billions of dollars to know the consumer better, utilizing highly targeted data, CRM systems and software that claim to predict the future. Ironically, despite advances in technology, we don’t know customers as well as we did 50 years ago.

Part of this challenge lies in the way consumers now shop across channels using many different technologies. They research and compare prices online, read peer reviews on social networks, and make purchases when, where and how they choose. This empowerment is forcing a polar shift in the way retailers market to consumers.


The BtoC (business-to-consumer) model in which retailers target consumers to sell what they think customers will buy is making way for a CtoB (consumer-to-business) model in which consumers determine the nature and frequency of dialogue with retailers. In the latter model, consumers dictate how they want to be served.

The key to success in the CtoB landscape is to offer consumers a way to manage their shopping experience based upon declared preferences and presence in a retailer’s channels. Referred to as “converged retailing,” or “c-tailing,” this approach is helping retailers create personal relationships with consumers in the same way shopkeepers did years ago.

Facilitated by the availability of wireless communication technology, c-tailing allows consumers to easily communicate their presence and preference via the channels they choose, delivering timely, personalized transactions, information and promotions seamlessly across all channels, including the web, assisted and self-checkout, digital signage, and mobile technologies. In fact, according to NCR’s research, 81% of North American consumers are more likely to choose retailers that enable them to shop consistently across multiple channels, including social media and smart phones.

With a CtoB model, retailers incorporate a preference-based management system; remove silos between physical and digital channels; and push beyond traditional marketing practices. Learning how the consumer wants to receive retailer communications (i.e. email, mobile, etc.) is a first step and retailers can then work to create personalized communication in the way consumers prefer. This leads to more relevant, highly personalized offers, and a converged retailing experience in which consumers can start transactions in one channel and complete them in another.

The CtoB Shopping Cycle
For example, consumers can begin shopping on their home computers, searching a web site that addresses them by name and in their language of choice. The site presents offers based on interests they have expressed and purchase history they have declared is relevant. This knowledge translates into tailored coupons, discounts, and new product arrival notices delivered to their mobile phones. Once the consumer enters the store, in-store devices and the consumer’s phone make it possible to maintain the dialogue. The onus is on retailers to continue to build-out their store infrastructure to enable this consumer desire to use the device of their choice as they shop.

For sales that occur at the physical store, customers who use loyalty cards can view their most frequent purchases. Customers will even be able to view coupons specific to the product they are purchasing.

Retailers can influence purchasing decisions and optimize sales by delivering relevant, consistent information to consumers from the beginning to the end of the shopping process. Offering this personalized consistency, not only online, but with in-store technologies drives sales and promotes consumer satisfaction.

I challenge retailers to flip the lens on their businesses. When customers have an expressed declaration of their preferences, retailers can build conversations that are relevant and, subsequently, engage consumers in co-creation models with brands they trust. When marketers go beyond targeting individuals with what they think consumers want, they provide an incentive for consumers to share more meaningful information and buy things they would not have otherwise.

The consumer shopping behavior has evolved and retailers must adapt. The tools now exist for retailers to develop their own converged experience for consumers, one that is tailored to the retailer’s brand and the preferences of their customers. Whether in-store, near store or out of store, retailers can offer customers the personalized, interactive experience they demand ― while differentiating their brands from the competition.


Rick Chavie is Vice President, Marketing, Retail and Hospitality Solutions, for NCR Corporation. Chavie previously served as Senior Vice President for Industry Solution Management at SAP; he led Strategy and International for The Home Depot including responsibility for Home Depot’s China entry; and played a key role in developing Accenture’s retail consulting practices in Germany and Japan.

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