LAS VEGAS — Retailers operate today in a “B2C” — business to consumer — world in which they try to predict what consumers want, but in the future successful retailers will adopt a “C2B” or “C-tailing” view in which “consumers dictate the terms of their relationship with retailers,” said Michael Webster, vice president and general manager, retail and hospitality, NCR, Duluth, Ga.
Increasingly, consumers are expressing what they want through a multitude of channels, including the Internet, mobile phones, call center and the store, Webster said last week during a technology workshop at the Food Marketing Institute show here. In an NCR survey, 83% of consumers said they want to interact with businesses “that offer them a more seamless experience across multiple channels,” he said.
But this will require integrating what are still different “silos” of applications, he noted. And most retailers are still “struggling with the idea of converged channels,” as evidenced by the fact that online retailing divisions sometimes compete with their own parent company.
The investment in C2B, Webster acknowledged, may be significant, with “a lot of infrastructure behind it.”
There are two key consumer attributes that retailers need to recognize in the new C2B world — presence and preference. Presence is which channel consumers are operating in at any given point in time. Preference indicates the retail experiences they wish to have, such as preferred method of tender, preferred language or whether they want a receipt printed or emailed. “The result is a more personalized experience that allows the consumer to control and tailor their experience in the store,” said Webster.
Consumers can also declare their preferences on a retailer's website through the creation of shopping lists. Then, when they enter the store, they can use a kiosk to have the deli start preparing the order indicated on the list and receive offers relevant to their list of preferred products.
Personalization will also be reflected in the self-checkout area, where shoppers will be able to indicate if they are left-handed or color-blind, and have the screen tailored accordingly.
On the other hand, consumers do not need to provide “a deep psychological profile of their needs,” said Webster. “It just needs to be simple things over time.”
Mobile phones are an important part of the C2B vision, said Webster. He suggested that consumers will be able to link their phones to a kiosk upon entering a store and have their phone lists converted to a map showing where each item is located in the store.
Another example is that a mobile phone, with the shopper's permission, would notify the store manager of the shopper's arrival at the store. “Mobile will converge with in-store,” he said.
But he does not see this tighter integration between mobile phones and other points of service until 2011 or 2012. “It will be enabled by the proliferation of NFC-enabled phones that allows consumers to interact with kiosks and are driven by application functionality not in the market today.”