Retail firms need to embrace the movement towards an omnichannel environment or risk being left behind by customers who already think that way.
That was the stark advice from Federico Barbieri, SVP of eBusiness at retail conglomerate Kering, the Paris-headquartered parent of brands such as Gucci, St Laurent, Stella McCartney and PUMA, in a recent interview.
“Customers are omnichannel,” said Barbieri. “If you ask them what omnichannel means, they don’t know, but really they do: they interact, they gather information, they shop in different ways. And that’s evolving quicker and quicker.”
Indeed, Barbieri believes the explosion in channels, platforms, devices and other consumer touch points – not to mention the huge volumes of data produced as a result – has fundamentally changed the way companies approach the customer. “If you want to create and maintain a relationship with the customer, you need to deal with this complexity,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you need to use all the channels, but you need to find the way you want to use them, or which one you want to use to do what.”
Using Data to Understand Your Customers
He explained that because today’s consumer is empowered, informed and connected, data becomes critical in being able to deliver the right customer experience. For Barbieri, the critical element is to have a single, 360-degree view of the customer. “It’s key, it’s where you start. As we said in the beginning, consumers are omnichannel. They do different things based on each different moment of time, day of the week, their lifecycle with your brand, even based on their culture and the city where they live. So understanding that, putting that at the heart [of your strategy], is key.”
But Barbieri did sound a note of caution: having an omnichannel strategy does not give you carte blanche to bombard the customer across every available channel. In fact, there’s a very real danger of damaging that precious customer relationship if you fail to get your strategy right.
“You cannot do everything everywhere in the same way,” he warned. “There are touch points where the customer wants to interact with you, there are touch points where the customer just want to receive information from you, there are touch points where he wants to do business with you. So you need to define these roles, and these roles change.”
This new focus on the customer experience is one of the reasons behind the recent rebrand from PPR to Kering. “We used to be a conglomerate of different companies, different strategies, and different territories. And now we want to focus more and become more of a single-model business,” he explained. “Now we develop synergies across the division to empower the imagination these brands have, to help them reach their full potential.”
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Federico Barbieri was speaking at the recent NG Retail EU Summit. The next summit will take place at the Lyrath Estate, Kilkenny, Ireland from the 23rd – 25th September. For more information please visit ngretailsummit.com.