After Christmas, the retail industry gears up for another year and they don’t wait at all. Earlier this month, right after the New Year weekend, electronics dealers shored up for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The second week of January brings NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) and NRF (National Retail Federation). Whereas CES and NAMM focus on new products, the NRF focuses on how retail can focus on the service and relationship between the consumer and store access. The NRF convention and Expo was at New York’s Javits Center from 1/10 to 1/12.
Shoppers are looking for enhanced personalization and more choices in how they interact with retailers through social media, according to a recent survey conducted by the NCR Corporation. The NCR survey polled more than 400,000 consumers regarding their experiences with social media and how retailers can better serve their needs.
The shift to online mercantilism provides retailers with lots of benefits and consequences. Shopping and buying is more intimate. Shoppers are visiting retailer websites from home, much as if they were clicking to a favorite program on TV. Shoppers can also visit many retailers at once by using several windows for cost and value comparisons. Shoppers may also real product reviews from other customers. Shoppers can seek out competitive pricing.
As such, click retailing (online) opens up a new scope of relationships with customers. While price and value are primary concerns to the shopper, satisfaction and repeat business appears to be associated with a new form of social consciousness that customers expect from online hosts. The levels of intimacy and control play very important supporting roles to help more customers decide to add and buy products in their carts. The 2010 NRF convention addressed these topics and the NCR survey highlights a few key issues.
Consumers want a personalized experience with social media. Survey results showed that shoppers are more likely to do business with a retailer who recognizes them as individuals through social media and incorporates their unique preferences. Every contact a retailer has with customers – from social networking sites such as Facebook, to status update sites, such as Twitter– can influence a buying decision. Results also showed retailers that provide customers more choices in how they interact with the brand (e.g. online, at the store, in social networks, or through their mobile device) and encourage customization of this experience can more effectively engage customers.
Retailers need to unify offers across social media channels. Consumers overwhelmingly stated they are more likely to respond to unified social media offers from retailers versus stand-alone offers. For example, consumers are more likely to select an offer where they could identify a program of interest through Twitter, review recommendations from their peers on Facebook and then complete the transaction through the retailer’s Website, rather than select an offer of an online coupon on a retailer’s Website.
Nurturing online communities adds credibility. Consumers want to interact with their peers through communities of interest or social networking sites and look to retailers to facilitate this, stating that the ability to view real customer feedback (both positive and negative), such as product reviews, added significant credibility to retailer’s social media marketing programs.
Put experts online and respond quickly. The ability to interact with domain experts was also a major perceived benefit. Many respondents stated that the ability to interact with experts and obtain fast and knowledgeable support was a major decision in where and how they shopped. Consumers also expect retailers to listen to feedback provided through social media channels and respond sooner, such as when they report a negative experience in the store or a bad link online.
The latter point was discussed further at an NRF meeting. During an economic crisis, shoppers focus on price. When the economy rebounds, buyers remember how Special they felt from one retailer to the other. There’s a level of specialness that a customer seeks from the website they choose to visit most.
For nearly four decades, J&R Music World has retained special relationships with their retail customers. The Park Row store was a budding flower many years before the downtown Manhattan area was considered an import, historic zone. By integrating the store’s personability onto its website , J&R continues to strive for more personal and special relationships with shoppers and customers. In addition, the website continues to nurture peer relationships on Facebook, Twitter, and various other social communities. In many ways, the NCR survey at the 2010 NRF convention only helps emphasize what J&R has been striving for since it began to grow.