Customer-Centric Sales: What Modern Retail Success is All About

cloud-based pos systemCloud computing isn’t just for the 2000s anymore. The dot-coms of the 1990s paved the way for a new business model, even if it was a bit sloppy. Rudimentary cloud-based computing promised software in the cloud and provided simple word processors and video players. While that might be fine for the retail market, businesses’ main concern is sales and consumer-grade products just don’t cut it as “innovation.”

However, advanced POS systems are changing the way many companies look at cloud computing. In fact, the term “cloud computing” is itself dated and is being replaced with the term “cloud-based POS.” That’s something many companies, like Apple, Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters, can and do embrace wholeheartedly. Just like consumers, businesses want to be sold not features, but benefits. And, a cloud-based POS system is loaded with them.


Move To Actual Consumer-Centric Marketing Plans

For years, companies have relied on their sales force to drive sales. But, when the web started to become more social, many businesses sensed the need to change to consumer-centric marketing – except they never actually changed anything.

It became a frozen abstraction. Marketing firms and divisions within companies would give lip service to consumer-driven marketing initiatives, but they would simply revamp tired sales-force-driven initiatives instead.

The market fatigue is now undeniable. Most consumers are 80 percent certain of their purchasing decision before they ever step foot into your retail store. They won’t be hassled or “educated” by your sales staff. In fact, your customers will likely be more informed than your staff, because they have a serious vested interest in obtaining the best possible solution for their problem. Your sales staff, understandably, only have a vested interest in selling your brand’s solution which may or may not be what the customer needs.

The Internet, and the ease of researching products and services online, are to blame for this consumer-centric revolution. That doesn’t mean you’re helpless as a business. It just means that you have to use data more intelligently. Stop trying to sell. Instead, facilitate the sale.


Revamp Marketing Initiatives To Include Social Interaction

There are few things in marketing that have been hyped up more than social media. While some businesses have gotten in and out of this space, many more are realizing that social media holds value if only in the sheer volume of marketing data available.

Before customers buy from you, they hop onto Facebook or Twitter and ask their friends about you. After they make purchases, they hop online to tell their friends about you. Where are you in that conversation? Most of the time, you’re nowhere to be found.

And, it’s usually a bad idea to try to inject yourself into the conversation, but you can use these types of data to influence marketing. Take Facebook, for example. You can cultivate customers’ news feeds and comments to gather information about what’s being said about your brand.

Then, you can use this data to change your marketing to address customer concerns, complaints, or requests.


Use All Data Sources To Craft Marketing Initiatives

Data sources like social media, user-generated content (i.e. blog posts), credit scores, purchase history, call-center transcripts, and email marketing triggers (opens, replies, and clicks within emails) can all be used to sculpt your marketing message.

Yes, this does get complicated very quickly, but here’s a scenario to help you visualize the benefits of using big data for marketing.

Suppose you set up a cloud based iPad Point Of Sale software system to track sales. You integrate this system with social media and your in-house email marketing campaign. You notice that prospects  routinely go online to Facebook to check out your brand before they come to your website to buy from you.

After a seasonal promotion, your Facebook page views jump, mentions across all social platforms increase, but sales don’t immediately increase. Past customers buy from you, regardless of your sales promotions, so you can deduce that these are ineffective for that segment. But, why are prospects not biting immediately? Is it your sales message? Maybe.

But, with all of the integrated data sources, you can dig deeper to figure out where the sticking point is. Maybe there’s a small negative ad campaign being put out by your competition – social media monitoring will uncover this. If the problem is with your ad campaign, you can split test it and see if that drives sales. A red flag is that your closing ratio with existing customers is unaffected by sales promotions. Customers are buying from you out of loyalty – which is good. But, ineffective ad campaigns are always a net negative, even when revenues are up.

Without big data, figuring out a problem like this would be impossible.


Note: This post is a guest post from a member of our DMR Insider Community.

Image Credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis via flickr