Jim Berkowitz writes in Customer Loyalty and Profitability that "To grow truly loyal customers ... what's needed is the 'Mom & Pop Store' factor". He goes on to say that while this is not possible the way it once was, given how times have changed, "it can be done with a database, some analysts, and a loyalty program". I think he is almost right - you certainly need a database, you probably need a loyalty program to incent customers to tell you thinks about themselves to ensure that this database has some useful information in it and you will need analysts both to derive insights from this data and think about how that insight will be applied. If you have a typical multi-channel, reasonably high-volume business however you will also need an Enterprise Decision Management approach and platform.
- Even if you know customers well enough to anticipate their needs you will want to be able to operationalize this anticipation by sending them offers, displaying targeted cross-sells on your website and so on. This means automating this anticipation so that it can be applied across channels and in self-service situations.
- If you stock a lot of products, you will want to use your ability to predict what to stock when for your customers to drive you ordering and re-ordering process automatically. You don't want someone to have to remember to run the analytics to predict future sales when they reorder nor would you want to wait until you hit some reorder level before predicting future demand in case you were already too late by then.
- If you want to deliver consistent service and insight to your customers you need to extend this to all your channels and to their ability to self-serve. Every interaction with them, whether conducted by a machine, a low-level staffer or someone with real people skills should show the same insight and commitment to service.
Now I would be the first to admit that an EDM approach is not going to help with friendliness or surprising customers from time to time but I do believe that higher volume, more self-serve oriented businesses must adopt this approach to really deliver on this corner store idea. Most of the areas Jim lists as offering potential here might be high enough volume in your business to require this kind of technology to get the benefits he outlines. Using business rules management systems to implement a decisioning backbone for consistency while retaining the agility to respond to changes and injecting precision or insight using executable predictive analytics let's you recreate the corner store feel and benefits while still delivering the transaction throughput and response times a modern business often needs.