When I ask retail CEOs about their top objectives, I often hear them say: “we want to put the customer at the center of everything we do.” This sounds easy, but it is increasingly difficult. Years ago, when I was a merchant for a retailer with a small chain of stores, I could walk the selling floor and ask our loyal customers for feedback. With 500 or 1000 stores, a rapidly growing e-commerce channel, and millions of customers, this is no longer possible.
An entire category of Voice of the Customer (VoC) tools has arisen to address this challenge, and these tools can help retailers shape their in-store experience, pricing strategies, and product offerings. However, even with the vast amount of data and analytical tools at an executive’s fingertips, there are still enormous missed opportunities. While many retailers in the fashion, apparel and footwear industry have embraced them, other industries are far behind the curve. There is a misconception that these tools are best applied to fashion, whereas in reality they can be applied to virtually every product sector.