Harry Gordon Selfridge, founder of the famous London department store, coined the phrase ‘the customer is always right’ in 1909. And today, more than 100 years later, it’s still the cornerstone of any modern retailer’s strategy. But what does it mean to be truly customer-centric in the digital age? Gavin Mee, Senior Vice President and Head of UK, Salesforce offers some answers

But while that strategy has stayed the same, customer requirements have shifted quite significantly. In fact,over the last few years we’ve seen a seismic shift in both customer expectation and technology innovation. This has changed the way customers interact with brands. Today’s connected shoppers dictate how, when, and where they engage retailers and make purchases. What’s more, purchase “journeys” are no longer linear – they can involve a blend of online and offline touch points, which further fragments the process.

It’s no surprise, then, that retailers have invested heavily to become more customer-centric in recent years. In some cases online only retailers and innovative startups have responded more quickly to these new customer demands, challenging some of the traditional players.

However while retailers across the board have made efforts to reimagine the customer experience, you only have to glance at the streams of complaints on Twitter and Facebook to see that the results have been fairly mixed.

Consequently, leading brands are starting to take a new approach to customer centricity and are redeveloping operational and organisational models to focus more heavily on the customer – and they’re drawing on the support of a collaborative ecosystem of partners that can enable retailers to offer a personalised blend of products and services to customers wherever, whenever and however.

This approach exists for one key purpose – to better serve the customer. And working alongside Accenture, we’ve explored this next stage of retail transformation. Based on our conversations with brands at varying stages of their journey, we’ve identified six key characteristics retailers need to develop in order to thrive in the coming decade.


Organisational culture is one of the most difficult of these six characteristics to change, but it’s also one of the most powerful. There are two key elements that retailers need to focus on when considering their company culture. First the culture should ‘empassion’ all employees to focus on continually improving the customer experience. Second, employees need to be empowered to achieve customer…