By Amy Rybar Menefee, Business Assurance & Advisory Services Senior Manager | Manufacturing, Distribution & Retail Team
There are almost 4 million retail businesses in the United States which support 42 million jobs and contribute $2.6 trillion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product (according to the National Retail Federation). The overall economy is holding steady and is expected to continue to grow at a modest pace during the rest of 2017, but the question is, where the consumer will be spending their dollars. Retailers are facing major challenges and will need to remain relevant and adapt to changing consumer preferences to be successful. Customer relationships, including how technology is used to enhance customer experiences, leads to brand differentiation which is an important component of the success formula.
Customers want access to products on terms that fit their lifestyle and their personal preferences and will develop lasting relationships with those retailers that can meet those expectations. In order to accomplish this goal, retailers should use an omni-channel marketing strategy so that customers can engage with the company in a variety of ways which may include through a physical store, a website, a mobile app, a catalog, and social media, or some combination of these methods.
Technology should be used as a tool to enhance customer experience and strengthen customer relationships, and should allow a customer to access the retailer in a way that works for them. Retailers should ensure their website provides a positive shopping experience. In some cases virtual reality can be used in order to “try out” a product virtually before making a purchase. In addition retailers may have representatives, who are trained on product information and well versed on customer service, available to chat online with the customer in order to help them with their purchase. This increases the customer’s comfort level and resulting connection to the retailer and builds brand loyalty. In addition, technology should be used to ensure a retailer’s supply chain is working as efficiently as possible, in order to get products to the customer quickly, since in today’s environment quick response times have become a baseline expectation.
Brand differentiation is of extreme importance in today’s economy where there are new, more innovative products coming into the market every day. In addition, if brand differentiation is achieved, it will increase brand loyalty and may even allow for products to be sold at a higher price point.
Today’s retail industry is extremely competitive and is constantly changing. In order to survive and thrive, retailers must differentiate themselves and forge strong customer relationships. As discussed above, brand differentiation can be achieved through customer experience including the use of technology.
Keiter’s Manufacturing, Retail & Distribution team is active in various industry specific associations which enhances their industry knowledge and allows us to better serve our clients. We are focused on assisting retailers and distributors improve their bottom lines. Read more of their accounting and industry insights on our blog.
About the Author
The information contained within this article is provided for informational purposes only and is current as of the date published. Online readers are advised not to act upon this information without seeking the service of a professional accountant, as this article is not a substitute for obtaining accounting, tax, or financial advice from a professional accountant.