The digital explosion of communication networks, personalized content and seamless, online experiences has led to a consumer-driven arms race that the retail industry is attempting to keep up with.
Customers demand easy and fast access to services and reliable products to ensure brand loyalty.
Their relationships with retail brands are defined by how they interact with companies and the onus falls onto those companies to ensure they’re positioned digitally to respond to an ever maturing consumer.
So it’s no surprise to learn that METRO Cash and Carry’s Chief Marketing Officer, Philippe Palazzi, claims his wholesale marketing strategy is “customer-centric; the attitude is part of our DNA, and at the centre of everything we do.”
The METRO Group wholesale subsidiary has around 21 million customers dotted around the globe, from Western Europe to India, and it’s important for the brand that they “know all our customers by name.”
This level of detailed knowledge is made possible by the METRO ID card which all customers use, and which gets tracked and updated daily within its master data centre.
The continual feedback from transaction touch points between consumer and wholesaler, and updating data sets, means that “when a customer approaches a point-of-sale machine at a store, the data is correct with current prices and our customer database,” in real time.
This is important if customers are to receive a seamless experience with the brand.
Companies and their marketing departments are increasingly turning to data and qualitative evaluations to best serve their customers and improve their external images.
The METRO ID card provides detailed information that marketing and sales teams can use to help improve products and services, and tailor marketing strategies.
For Palazzi’s brand, the campaign YOU & METRO clearly shows the direction it is travelling in: the customer is placed first with METRO positioned as the trusted partner.
And the wholesale marketing team can’t claim to be customer-centric without engaging with the technologies that people are using today.
“We touch customers at different times and through different channels, so it’s important that each time is pleasant, allowing us to personalize each touch point so we know what’s going on.”
METRO Cash and Carry’s shoppers have been using digital catalogs for a number of years, for example, which were launched to provide another emotional touch on a shopper’s journey, one that websites sometimes fell short in providing.
The catalogs are interactive, with video content included and are designed to be viewed on the consumer’s most important channel: mobile.
“We have been adapting to [consumers’] needs and predicting their behaviors since digital devices changed the scenery, and as a result we’re fully committed to bringing the latest news, technology and ideas for our relationships in the B2B market.”
Particular channels like mobile can be best equipped to handle personalized marketing because they are instantly accessible, and by their very nature personal to its owner.
Palazzi and his team have used this channel, and others, he says to “launch their personalized and specific, dedicated, offers based on shopping habits.”
It’s through a combination of utilizing modern channels most used by consumers and intelligent data that retailers and wholesale marketing teams have access to, in order to remain competitive in the industry.
Palazzi is aware though that these interactions need to be scrutinized to make sure they still appeal to their consumers.
“We don’t want to bombard our customers, but we want to target. That means finding a good balance between emotional messaging and distilling appropriate information.”
That’s because his customers are, “well known professionals, like hospitalities and small companies, who act differently to individuals.”
Just like individual consumers though, the more knowledge you have about the businesses you are selling to, the better service you can provide.
And the results are the proof of the pudding.
METRO Group, Cash and Carry’s parent company, is 23rd in the Internet Retailer Europe 500 – a ranking of merchants by their annual web sales – and the wholesale subsidiary achieved sales of around $30billion in 2014/2015.
To maintain these figures and positions, retailers and wholesale marketing teams are right to identify key trends like personalization and customer experience as imperative to their marketing strategies, as well as using digital and mobile channels to best leverage sales and annual growth.
Palazzi and his team seem focused on delivering these aims throughout their 750 self-service wholesale stores in 25 countries across Europe and Asia.
Although he admits that, “digitization requires time and resources,” when combined with foresight, it can enable wholesale marketing teams to future-proof their brand’s positioning in the B2B space, which, as with its consumer counterpart, the customer is now more in charge than ever.