By Dee Houchen, Senior Marketing Director, ERP/EPM, Oracle
Today’s consumers have expectations that a simple "service with a smile" just can’t meet. Buying what they want, when they want, with purchases delivered at their convenience. Being able to make enquiries, ask questions, and chat with someone about their purchases on their chosen social media or messaging platform, any time of day or night.
In other words, consumers aren’t looking just to purchase a product; they want an enjoyable and engaging brand experience. Perhaps this explains why 75% of consumers are actively changing their buying behaviour to support ethical trends such as going plastic-free.
As a result, retailers need to ensure they’re doing everything possible to offer customers the same consistent, on-brand customer experience (CX) across all channels and touchpoints: online, offline, and everywhere in between.
This flawless, holistic, end-to-end brand experience is wholly possible, thanks to the massive leaps and bounds in technology solutions and SaaS platforms. But CMOs and CTOs seem to be leading the march on transforming CX, when it’s clear that CFOs should be the primary driving force.
Why? Let’s consider some of the reasons.
As McKinsey has pointed out many times, one of the main reasons why CX programs stall is because they fail to demonstrate clear business value to the board. To counter this, the CFO’s involvement in defining the customer experience should be strategic from the very start.
Finance is best placed to ask and understand fundamental questions about the future of the business. This will range from issues such as how CX tools connect with the supply chain, so the business has reliable sales information and stock availability combined, through to ensuring the right investments in specific areas of the business.
This is an important part of the CFO’s role in making digital transformation a day-to-day success: looking for ways to optimise efficiency by becoming more data-driven as an organisation, and considering the 360-degree impact an enhanced customer experience will have on the different areas of their business.
Even though digital retail continues to go from strength to strength, the value of bricks and mortar cannot be dismissed. In fact, retail is moving to an integrated "phygital" way of operating, in which stores are reconfiguring as "experience hubs" where consumers try before they buy.
This kind of shift has many ramifications for finance, particularly when reconciling the experience and the purchase. Data plays a crucial role here, alongside technologies such as near-field communications, to tailor the buying experience and enhance valuable brand loyalty as a result.
In the UK, any consideration of issues impacting retail businesses would be remiss if the "B" word wasn’t addressed. Changes in the country’s political climate are hitting the high-street, with the prospect of a weaker pound and possible trading difficulties in the wake of Brexit. It’s important that retailers have contingencies in place—particularly when trading with, or receiving goods from, overseas.
Understanding and anticipating customer needs and buying behaviours will be front of mind for the finance function, if they want to keep profits up. But this focus will also include the impact on supply, demand, availability, and delivery—key areas of ensuring overall CX capabilities remain as stress-free as possible for new and existing customers, even in these uncertain times.
Technology and data can help retailers to provide assurance of ethical provenance, supply-chain transparency and flexibility, and a much more personalized brand experience. But only the CFO and the finance team can provide a clear and consistent framework to make data-driven CX profitable. Ultimately, if a retailer does everything right by their consumers—and achieves it efficiently—it will be ready for whatever uncertainty there is, now and in the future.