We’re racing through 2016 at quite a pace and, before you know it, Black Friday and Christmas will be here.

At this point in the year, however, retailers still have the chance to take stock metaphorically, and adjust their strategies for the next six months, so that they arrive at peak trading season in their own peak form.

Following on from my 3 retail lessons we’ve already learned from 2016, I want to talk about how retailers should be prioritizing their resources between now and the end of the year.

One big investment area, which I will talk about in more detail over the coming months, is customer centricity. So far, the bid to achieve an omnichannel retail model has tended to focus on channel.

Now, retailers must move away from a channel first approach, and start looking at their customer in the round – wherever they choose to interact. Creating a single shopper view is pivotal to securing their ongoing loyalty, and investing in omnichannel technologies is the key to enabling this.

Not only that, but retailers must be able to serve the needs of each customer holistically. This means being agile and creative with inventory management, to ensure that product is available when and where a customer wants it, to avoid disappointing them.

And in the event an item is out of stock, retailers must empower sales associates with mobile Point of Sale devices to look up its availability in other locations, and place an order on the customer’s behalf.

This brings me onto another important point: the store is still driving the most profit, so it needs to be at the heart of retailers’ customer engagement strategies. Up until now, bricks-and-mortar has proven the weak link when it comes to connecting experiences across channels, and therefore retail organizations must put a greater focus on bringing digital engagement into physical encounters.

One way to do that is to encourage greater shopper movement between channels – bringing in click-and-collect functionality, for example, to drive online traffic into the store, or embracing store browsers that go on to shop online. Too many retail organizations focus on where the sale is made, rather than the role of each touchpoint in the overall customer experience. Ultimately it doesn’t matter where they check out, so long as they come back.

To that end, retailers must fully understand the multi-purpose functionality of each retail channel, so that they can optimize the end-to-end shopper journey. For instance, many companies have enhanced their ecommerce platform to accommodate the increasing volume of research being done online before purchase, but how many are changing their store service to account for the fact that these shoppers are arriving with a targeted purpose?

One final thing I want to talk about is what brings all these challenges and considerations together: the end buyer. Ultimately, how retailers prioritize change should be dictated by what their customers want, and that rests on having a comprehensive data-driven business models.

Data insights and technological flexibility are the magic combination needed to personalize the customer experience, and make every channel drive engagement, however and where shoppers choose to interact. Putting these in place is the key to unlocking true customer-centricity.

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