Cate Trotter
Cate Trotter Head of Trends at Insider Trends. I help large retailers innovate and create world-leading, profitable retail concepts.

First posted at

Author: Cate Trotter

The customer relationship is the most important part of retail.

It’s what gets a retailer the sale and hopefully more like it in the future.

After all engaged customers are more likely to be repeat customers.I

t used to be simple. A customer came into your shop and bought something.

From start to finish you owned that relationship.

Now technology has forever opened up retail and communication channels. Suddenly that all important connection is up for grabs. And everyone connected to a sale wants to have hold of it.

But who should own the customer relationship? And if it’s anyone’s game then how can you make sure it’s you?

Brand or retailer?

Take an Android phone for example. Is it the phone manufacturer/brand, such as Samsung, that owns the relationship? Or is it the network provider that the phone uses? For most customers this is where their money goes regularly, which is a strong influence on relationships.What if the phone was bought via a third party website? How much of that relationship do they own? Does Google have a slice of it because it owns Android which the phone runs on?

It’s easy to see how quickly the involved parties stack up.

And how many are vying for that customer connection.This is where companies like Apple have the advantage. They are the brand. They are the retailer. They make the product and the operating system. They make the programmes and software used by their customers. They make it easy for their products to work together, and hard for them to work with others. They own the ecosystem for their products.They own their customer relationships almost completely. And this is why so many of their customers are huge supporters of their products. Their link with the company is whole, rather than fragmented.

Getting social

At this moment any brand or retailer can talk directly to a customer through social media. As can delivery companies. And also the social media platforms (and their parent companies) themselves. Some customers even talk to the face of the brand or the celebrity sponsor.Even a simple purchase sees the buyer facing multiple companies competing to stay in touch. Pick up a new dress for example, and you may get an email from the retailer asking you to like them on Facebook. Or sign up to their newsletter.But you may also get the same from the designer or brand that made the dress. And if you do link with any of these companies via Facebook then that’s another party in the mix.

After all, retailers don’t have control over what their customer sees on social media. They can pay for advertising or to promote their posts, but they can’t guarantee who or how many they reach. Their conversations, their link with the customer, all takes place on another company’s platform.

Meanwhile the social media companies have all the data on the customer – what pages they like, what posts they like, who they’re friends with, what they share. Information that can help enhance their experience or what is sold to them.Social media has also been seized upon by buyers as a way of letting companies know when they’re not happy about something. This offers interesting insights into who owns the customer relationship. The company a buyer complains to is the company they see themselves as having a relationship with.Spot the retailer

Read all: Everything You Need to Know About Owning the Customer Relationship – Insider Trends

My point of view: it was, is and will never be about owning the relationship. Co-creation of the experience in an encounter should be your strategy. But realize, that your customer is in for thrills and cheapness in the encounter

Customer Relationship

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