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There is only one boss: the customer

Sam Walton, founder of Walmart,America’s largest retail chain, once said, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Though Walton is no longer with us, the core idea of his philosophy has not lost its meaning in the retail sector. Quite the contrary. Today, our customers have more choices than ever before. It only takes a couple of clicks and the customer is viewing a competitor’s selection. So, the customer is still “The Boss” who decides where to spend his euros.

Fortunately, in our world of unlimited choices, even the most spoilt customers still value personalised service. Service that is based on their needs and that makes their life easier. The first step in providing a service is therefore to consider customers and their needs on a personal level in the service provided, in service encounters and in communications.

A good example of the successful practical implementation of customer-orientation amidst this digital disruption is our old friend, Walmart. The retail giant that was established in the 1960s has retained its competitiveness and grown into a player that is worth over 500 billion US dollars.The development has focused on the desire to improve the customer’s purchase experience in all channels with machine learning. Walmart uses AI in logistics, marketing, selection, pricing and shelf space optimisation and also in customer-oriented timing of online store deliveries and management of checkout queues. New applications that improve the customer experience are developed all the time, like start-ups.

Here in Finland, the retail sector has all the same opportunities as the global giants to reinforce its competitiveness by using AI extensively. It’s better to set off on this journey today rather than tomorrow. The first step can be a small one ― what really counts is that you're going in the right direction.