New retail: Experiential, consolidated & value-driven 

By Zuko Mdwaba, Salesforce SA VP & Country Leader. Gone are the days of referring to physical retail and digital retail as two distinct categories. Shopping today is increasingly seamless, with physical and digital channels having converged into one connected shopping experience.

Zuko Mdwaba

Connection, in this case, brings complexity as the customer journey is far from linear, and their expectations for convenience, choice and, ultimately value, are higher than ever before. But complexity also presents an opportunity for innovation, a chance to reimagine and deliver a value-first customer experience, underpinned by relevant data and executed using the right combination of technologies.

Experience is everything – but driven by personalisation

It’s tempting to reach for all the bells and whistles to enhance the customer experience, but rather than gimmicks and giveaways, retailers need to build the experience around the customer. Start by placing the customer at the centre of the experience, and understanding their needs and expectations, particularly in terms of speed, connectedness and personalisation.

Personalisation – by now well understood as a key part of customer relationship management – improves experience but comes with its own challenges. While 76% of customers want to be treated as a person and not a number, there are major trust issues when it comes to data collection, as noted in our State of the Connected Customer report, released earlier in 2022.

When personalisation equals growth 

Clicks, one of South Africa’s most trusted brands, makes for a great case study in this regard. Their efforts to personalise every single contact point with customers, whether in-store or online, has been rewarded with great loyalty. Their award-winning ClubCard programme has 9.5 million active members; and their online app has had close to 3 million downloads.

Effective personalisation relies on superior data, which in turn informs the creation of high-quality content that reflects an in-depth understanding of the individual customer’s profile, including interests, purchase history and browsing patterns. The purpose of personalisation is to build relationships with customers, which ultimately translate to loyalty. Going into 2023 and beyond, retailers simply can’t afford to ignore the business value locked up in an enhanced and personalised customer experience.

A single view of the customer 

Having data about the customer is important for retailers, but having meaningful information is the real game changer. Customer data, typically, comes from many different sources, making it difficult to consolidate or make sense of the result so the design of the customer experience never benefits from any insights the data could reveal. As such, retailers committed to offering a superior, connected customer experience need to prioritise the integration of data in a way that’s relevant to their specific customer experience objectives.

Consistency is an equally important part of the customer experience. Whether the transaction happens physically in a store, on social media, via an app or on a website, the brand experience needs to look and feel the same, as highlighted in the State of the Connected Customer report, in which 72% of South African customers want a consistent experience across all touchpoints.

Consolidating customer data and making sense of it can be very complex, with that data coming from multiple sources. Customer data is only meaningful if it can be employed to enhance the customer experience and eliminate pain points. A connected customer experience is the result of the integration of a broad range of business applications, as well as external sources, to create a consolidated, single view of the customer.

Value – the way the customer wants it 

However, South African consumers also switch brands for better deals, higher quality, and superior customer service. Introducing a loyalty program is an effective model to reward existing customers and attract new ones. Customers expect consistent, personalised experiences, integrated across channels. As many as 94% of customers say experience is just as important as products or services – but only 63% agree that companies provide consistent, omnichannel experiences, according to the State of the Connected Customer report.

As such, retailers have their work cut out for them in 2023. The silver lining is that it is possible to reward customers with great, joined-up experiences in exchange for their data.



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