Connecting With Customers Across Channels

Saurabh Mittal heads the Customer Experience consulting practice and is a leader of Business Advisory Services at Wipro (

Today’s retail customers are both demanding and spoiled by extensive choices. Channels and touch points are proliferating, smart access devices have grown, and customer expectations around these have leapfrogged. More than ever, customers want a consistent, personalized cross-channel experience. Chain Store Age spoke with Wipro’s Saurabh Mittal about how retailers can meet these expectations. 

Retailers have so many channels today when it comes to connecting with their customers. What are some of their biggest challenges in this regard?
Let’s face it, today’s retail customers are very demanding and spoiled for choice. Channels and touch points are proliferating, smart access devices have grown and customer expectations around these have leapfrogged. Customers are evolving faster than the industry and expect innovation on part of brands and organizations; they want a consistent, personalized cross-channel experience.

Retailers need to segment and understand their customers using predictive analytics to stay ahead of their competition and ahead of what their customers expect. The data points provide invaluable insight that can be used in determining and optimizing the market-mix model and changing the messaging depending on channel preference. Ultimately, the biggest challenge is to leverage increasingly smart technology to redefine and reinvent customer relationships and experiences.

What kind of shopping experience do customers expect online?
Customers demand a smooth, rich and immersive shopping experience. They expect their online shopping experience to constantly improve and evolve as more innovative and next-generation technologies become available. As the social Web grows, people want an increased level of interaction between product pages on e-commerce sites and social media sharing capabilities, as well as consumer review sites. 

Additionally, online shoppers are looking for innovative and engaging widgets on their desktops and on their mobile devices. They are looking for shopping on mobile sites, which opens up new online shopping expectations, such as e-commerce sites that are mobile-friendly, providing them with easy navigation and a very simple checkout process to purchase directly from their phones.

Retailers need to build more intelligence into their online shopping initiatives to offer a personalized experience where the shopper feels more connected. Online shopping growth would increase if retailers were to innovate and provide better online experience to customers. It is constrained at the moment.

Are retailers meeting these expectations?
Retailers are meeting some of the expectations of their customers. But there is a long journey ahead in terms of catching up with customer expectations.  One of the primary reasons why retailers are falling short is because they operate on wafer thin margins and have been traditionally tardy in adopting technology. This is because their systems were built in silos, they don’t have cross channel visibility and a considerable amount of technological and process restructuring is required. Retail has piggy backed on outside innovation like devices, apps, group buying and location-based promotions for a while now. The bottom line is that it is time for retail to wake up and lead the innovation with partners.

How can retailers better connect with online customers? 

The key is leveraging customer insight. Although most retailers collect and track customer data in some form, the majority do not effectively leverage it. Most retailers can explain shoppers’ buying patterns and preferences, but they do not understand their buying values, or why the customer purchases what they do. Without this information, retailers are not able to have a dialogue with their customers and end up having a monologue. 

Retailers that have a dialogue with their customers are the ones that gain the greatest insights on understanding the buyer’s values, decision drivers, spending patterns, brand preferences, channel preferences, social influencers and peer behaviors. The end result is high-performance customer insight, and the ability to create a more innovative offering and enhanced online customer experience.

How are social media and mobile commerce impacting the customer experience?
Retailers must use social media to share information; enhance the brand; introduce new products; review and price products; run promotions and offer group shopping deals. Retailers must use social media to engage customers with reviews and ratings, and use the channel for two-way dialogue to acquire feedback. 

Technology today has social media listening tools that can pick up sentiment data, information on competition, changing customer preferences and provide retailers with that extra edge to enhance customer experience and maximize the share of the wallet of their most valuable customers.

Mobiles are quintessential to life — they bring together my online world, my social network and my real life. But to leverage this, business processes need to embrace social media and mobile technology. 

What is Wipro’s main area of expertise?
We work with the world’s leader global retailers and consumer product companies and many of them ask us questions like “How to conquer new geographies online?”, “How to improve the cross channel experience and drive consumption?” and “How can technology and analytics impact the buyer’s decision making process and transform shopping?”

Our global retail experience puts us in a unique position to understand the emerging retail landscape, create customer insight, enhance customer experience through engagement, create deep customer relationships through personalization and help our customers reinvent the future of retail with our service offerings around consulting and IT services.

How can Wipro help retailers provide a better customer experience?

There are three clear aspects to customer experience: adequate availability of information, a seamless cross-channel experience and personalization. Wipro has achieved this for some of the largest and most prestigious retailers in the United States and Europe. I’d go as far as to suggest that by enabling dependable customer insight, we have managed to help our retail customers do business better.

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