April 2, 2021

How Retailers can Pivot from Pandemic Recovery to Profitable Growth: A Lesson from SXSW 2021


How Retailers can Pivot from Pandemic Recovery to Profitable Growth: A Lesson from SXSW 2021

On Wednesday March 17, Accenture’s Interactive Chief Strategy Officer, Baiju Shah, and Best Buy’s Chief Customer Officer, Allison Peterson, met virtually at SXSW to discuss why retailers need to evolve from a culture of customer awareness to one of customer obsession. This culture of customer obsession, they argued, will enable organizations to pivot from a position of pandemic recovery, to one of profitable growth.

The session opened with Accenture’s route to profitability: elevate customer experience from a workshop or a workstream, and make customer obsession a top priority across the entire C-Suite. This approach pays off: retailers who adopt the strategy see a 6x faster growth in profitability than retailers who don’t, and this growth is durable.

Baiju and Allison discussed how retailers can best re-imagine their businesses through the lens of customer obsession. Allison detailed the three guiding principles at Best Buy that were put in place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic:

    • Keep customers and employees safe
    • Protect the employee experience
    • Emerge from the pandemic as a vital and vibrant company

Employee obsession breeds customer obsession, explained Allison, and companies perform best when every company stakeholder owns the customer experience. Together, the team identified four adjectives to describe their ideal customer: confident, excited, appreciated and safe.

The next step was to identify the employee actions that could bring those feelings to life, and infuse empathy throughout the organization. Best Buy launched and iterated a number of measures at the onset of the pandemic that both anticipated and met customers’ needs:

    • Increased safety protocols such as mask-wearing in-store
    • Implementation of digital queues to streamline in-store visits
    • Installation of a customer host in-store to direct and guide customers to relevant departments
    • Deployment of curbside pick-up chain-wide in 48 hours
    • Transformation of stores to fulfilment hubs to facilitate same-day delivery
    • Elevation of customer service via video chat and digital consultations with team leaders

This omnichannel approach enabled Best Buy to meet their customers’ needs wherever they were in their purchase journey, and drove Best Buy’s success during the pandemic. However the question remained: will an in-person, in-store experience continue to exist for customers post-pandemic, and what will it look like in three, six, or even nine months’ time?

Allison countered that the in-store experience is still, and will continue to be, a cornerstone of Best Buy’s strategy. Customers rely on this in-person moment to touch and feel the products, experience the technology first-hand, and get immediate advice and support from Best Buy associates. Omni-channel prowess, however, is crucial to unlocking customer obsession.

Lastly, Baiju asked Allison: “What advice would you give for C-Suite leaders at major retailers looking to pivot from a position of pandemic recovery, to one of profitable growth?”

In response, Allison explained that in addition to creating a culture of employee obsession to breed customer obsession, it’s important that retailers create feedback loops in order to optimize their customer experience efforts in real time. Research, insights, data and analytics teams will need to be mobilized to power this feedback loop, and the impact of each initiative will need to be measured to determine its efficacy.

Ultimately, both Baiju and Allison agreed that retailers need to adapt to a new normal post-pandemic, and quickly developing a culture of customer obsession will be critical to their success.

Learn more about SXSW 2021, and how Connexity can help retailers to recover post-pandemic, by scheduling some time with Chelsea.

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