A certain refrain echoed in my mind throughout the time I spent at this year’s Global Retailing Conference (GRC) in Tucson, AZ: customer-led culture.
It is this very notion of a customer-centric culture, I’ve realized, that sat quietly in the background of nearly every interaction I experienced at this year’s conference. No matter what speech I was listening to or conversation I was having, somehow the topic alluded to the importance of focusing on the customer. This is why, after spending three days with leading retail innovators from across the country, I feel confident in stressing the importance of working toward creating a customer-led culture in any retail company.
What is a customer-led culture?
At its core, a customer-led culture demands that companies reexamine the notion that customers will be repeat-buyers because of the company’s reputation or past successes. Instead, companies need to be focused on serving customers’ evolving demands in today’s non-traditional marketplace.
Who are the customers and how do I reach them?
The first step to instilling a customer-led culture into the heart of your brand is to truly know your customers, as this enables you to meet customers’ ever-changing expectations.
I was struck by Jane Buckingham’s speech at GRC, Deciphering Generations: X, Y, and V, which stressed the importance of marketing differently to customers of different generations.
According to Buckingham, who is the CEO of Trendera, while Boomers are reasonably susceptible to traditional marketing and advertising efforts, members of generations X (36-50), Y (21-35), and V (5-20) don’t respond nearly as well.
In order to effectively connect with the 197 million Americans who make up Generations X, Y, and V, retailers need to reimagine ways of connecting to younger consumers. While Buckingham noted that recognizing the generational differences between younger Americans is critical, she also recommended focusing on three overarching initiatives, regardless of the target’s age:
- Using technology to your advantage to broadcast messages across multiple screens, at any size
- Beginning to listen to your customers’ opinions
- Encouraging the flourishing of the entrepreneurial spirit in others to discover new ways to improve products or efficiencies – listen to ideas from employees, as well as customers
A customer-led culture in action
Terry Lundgren’s keynote speech at the GRC made it clear that Macy’s is on the cutting edge of retail innovation. Lundgren, who is Macy’s current CEO, shed light on several recent customer-centric innovations that aim to drive incremental business through leveraging Macy’s prominent retail footprint.
One of these many innovations is Macy’s Labs, which finds success through harnessing individual’s entrepreneurial spirit and listening to the very people who interact with the customers the most, Macy’s employees. Through the Labs programs, employees’ ideas for improving the business are taken seriously, and the best ideas are vetted and ultimately tested in a lab setting before being implemented in actual store locations.
Another innovative move from Lundgren is the piloting of Macy’s Backstage, which takes its inspiration from the success that competitors have found in the discount market – e.g., Nordstrom Rack, T.J. Maxx. In order to leverage the sheer square footage that most Macy’s stores exhibit, Backstage opens off-price “stores within stores” that aim to boost traffic by drawing in price-conscious shoppers and, ideally, converting them into frequent shoppers throughout the store.
If this year’s Global Retailing Conference made one thing overwhelmingly apparent, it’s that keeping the customer and their opinions top-of-mind will become increasingly important as retail continues to evolve and adapt to a technologically driven world.