Retail Customer Experience: Should Retailers Replace the 4 Ps With the 4 Cs?

Discussion
Jun 12, 2013

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from Retail Customer Experience, a website devoted to helping retailers differentiate the shopping experience.

The 4 Ps of marketing and retailing — Product, Price, Promotion and Place — were relevant when product was king. Today, the consumer is queen and makes the rules of how, when, and where she shops.

Successful retailers are quickly finding that this has become an environment where omni-channel is the new normal. In this consumer-centric world, virtual shelf will be as important as physical shelf.

Whether it’s in stores or online, consumers are voting for the 4 Cs:

Connections: The key here is plural. In an omni-channel world, retailers have to expect to connect very early in the consumer journey, when they first start researching online. And they expect to continue that connection in store.

Choice: Today’s consumers are not limited by what they can find in a store, or even the goods they find in their own country. Store-based retailers must connect their virtual shelf to the store shelf. This will require not only rethinking assortments, but technology to enable "seamless" shopping.

Convenience: This C is closely related to Choice. Today’s time-starved consumers are expecting the convenience of shopping online or in-store, but also the convenience of ship-to-home, pickup in-store, or even pickup at a locker in another convenience location.

Conversation: The biggest miss of today’s retail stores is continuing the conversation after the initial sale. Again, technology becomes a key. CRM will not only be the lifeline of continuing the conversation, but also the key to connecting the consumer value experience to creating relationships based upon lifetime value.

In times of disruptive change, there is always a lot of conversation, and opinions. The great opportunity for retailers is that this does not have to be either/or. Investments in the 4 Ps can be measured. Likewise, rising value of the 4 Cs can be tested and measured. The BIG C for retailers is willingness to Change their heritage and safety of the 4 Ps — to test what works best in the 4Cs in a consumer-centric world.

Do you agree that the 4 Ps of marketing are becoming less relevant in an omni-channel world? What do you think of the concept of focusing on the identified 4 Cs (Connections, Choice, Convenience, Conversation) to reach the increasing mobile and social shopper?

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24 Comments on "Retail Customer Experience: Should Retailers Replace the 4 Ps With the 4 Cs?"


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Paula Rosenblum
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Huh? RSR has been talking about 5Cs for a couple of years now (Customer, Context, Content, Commerce, Community). I guess Cs are “in” this year.

Anyway context=relevancy. So whichever of those 4 Cs above include relevancy, that’s the one I vote for.

Dick Seesel
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

The idea behind the “4 Cs” assumes that product is no longer central to the buying decision, and I disagree. What has changed is the consumer’s decision-making power about where and when he shops, and what price she is willing to pay for the goods. While the “4 Cs” idea validates the importance of relationship-building with the shopper (before, during and after the sale), it ignores the fact that merchandise content is still at the heart of the matter. If anything, the consumer is armed with so much product knowledge that any retailer had better provide the right goods.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
Obviously, as a man, I really don’t have a valid opinion on this since, “the customer is Queen.” Physiology is apparently more closely related to consumption than I would have previously surmised. I have no clue what an omni-channel, (a phrase by the way that doesn’t make sense in many other languages making it particularly useless for global retailers,) world is, since shoppers don’t think in those terms. If there is anyone out there who thinks price and product aren’t still important, I’d strongly suggest they dissect the offerings in those “omni channels” a little more carefully. I think this article both demonstrates the danger of stringing too many “new” marketing concepts together at once, and why we shouldn’t always be in such a rush to create new alliterative frameworks for describing some fairly conventional behaviors. Shoppers—female AND male—have options and people with options exercise them but that doesn’t change the basic nature of transactions. I give you something of value for something I want. How we do it changes every day but, in the… Read more »
Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

For most of the stuff we shop for, e.g. groceries, omni-channel is much less relevant and social and mobile play, at best, a minor part. In that context, the 4Ps remain very relevant. Once you go off to fashion, media, durables, choice and convenience will remain critical, although I’m not sure how that differs from Product and Place. And I don’t see price anywhere in the 4Cs. Surely that was a mistake to leave it out.

Roger Saunders
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Is it a candy mint or a breath mint? Stop. It’s two mints in one. So it is with the 4 Ps and the 4 Cs.

The 4 Ps are far from irrelevant. The authors are correct in their assessment that is an increasingly consumer-centric world.

That factor merely means that Products, Price and Promotion have to be clearly defined in the minds, stomach, use, and service provided to consumers. Worry about the Place, as the consumer is increasingly comfortable wandering the brick & mortar as well as the internet to discover the Products, Promotion, and Promotional message that appeals to them.

The 4 Cs are equally important. They point to how, why, when, and where the consumer will choose to behave in their purchasing patterns. As the authors point out, these patterns can be measured and monitored, and the proper use of data analytics will guide retailers and other providers to make better decisions in which to remain connected to their customers.

Ben Ball
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Are the four (or five?) Cs relevant? Sure.

Have the four Ps become irrelevant? Hardly.

In fact, it wouldn’t be difficult to make the argument that the 4/5/15/whatever Cs are simply extensions of the original 4 Ps—adapted for today’s marketing environment.

We love to invent new acronyms and terminology because we get bored with the old stuff. And besides, it isn’t sexy and it doesn’t sell books or projects. That’s just the nature of the beast—no different than we change fashion.

But we might be better served to spend our time thinking about how the fundamental principles of our craft should be applied to the current environment than writing whitepapers that cry “it’s all different now!!!”

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

If a company has not become consumer-centered and switched to some number of Cs (I have seen anywhere between 4-7), it is time to make the switch. Continuing to make decisions from a product perspective is definitely out of sync with your consumers.

David Zahn
Guest
5 years 6 months ago
As I read the 4 Cs above, it is hard to dispute or disagree with any of them or challenge their appropriateness. In terms of supplanting the 4 Ps, I don’t know why it has to be an either/or. BOTH have to be in place. What I do take issue with is the (my perception of what is being shared) reliance on technology OVER true sales, customer service, and relationship building. We as an industry have become so enamored of measuring (because we can), that we have lost focus on what we are in business to achieve in some instances. We hide behind spreadsheets rather than talk, interact, engage with customers, suppliers, shoppers, consumers, etc. Using the “Cs” above – CONNECTIONS should include more than just tallying where communication occurs, but also truly building a relationship (and that does not mean clicks, views, likes, etc.). CHOICE has to include the choosing of the shopper/consumer’s future, capabilities, education, etc. It is about THEM, not us. What is the choice made by the shopper for a better… Read more »
Todd Sherman
Guest
Todd Sherman
5 years 6 months ago

It’s all relevant—Ps and Cs and likely some other letters as well.

The way the shopper [wants to] interacts with retailers has changed significantly. A key catalyst for the change toward the consumer-centric model is that consumers are bringing their own technologies (mostly smartphones) into the buying process and are not waiting for retailers to provide it—or even catch up to it.

For retailers, the conversation should be on how to take advantage of these radical changes in consumer behavior and technology. It’s much more than a shift in concepts—the key change with mobile and social is about being able to have a 2-way, highly personalized conversation with each customer about what is most important to each of them. And then run the process through the Ps, Cs, etc.

Kate Blake
Guest
Kate Blake
5 years 6 months ago

A shopper rewards program is not having a conversation with the customer. Bombarding me with emails is not a conversation. Develop sales staff to have relationships with customers—train and reward them for maintaining these relationships. Give them the time and tools for achieving the goals. Staff properly. An associate that gets 4 hours a week will not have time to learn about new products, let alone know what to say for customer relations.

Rynder Klomp
Guest
Rynder Klomp
5 years 6 months ago

My first, flippant, thought is that the 4Cs should be more aptly named 3Cs, “Consultants Casting for Contracts.”

Having said that, I believe it makes a good deal of sense to understand and work with the 4Cs, as they are extremely relevant; however, you could just as easily incorporate the topics into the existing 4Ps structure.
The key is that whatever format used, 4Cs or 4Ps, the customer should always be considered first and foremost.

Lee Kent
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

The bottom line, IMHO, is that the consumer does not want to be marketed to. The Ps are pretty much about ‘what’ to market. I think the Cs are more about the new of ‘how’ to market. How ever many Cs you choose.

Retailers need to connect, give the consumer a choice, make it convenient and keep the conversation going.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

These 4 Cs are appropriate, especially convenience. But, isn’t “convenience” actually “place”? And isn’t “choice” actually “product”? Isn’t “conversation” and “connection” actually “promotion”?

The fundamentals haven’t changed. Just the application of them.

Larry Negrich
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

I do think that the retailer needs to put the customer at the center and reduce emphasis on the product. But the 4 Cs just look like a new way to package an old process.

Pamela Hutton
Guest
Pamela Hutton
5 years 6 months ago

I do not believe they are mutually exclusive. What happened to the idea that Place has to do with the supply chain ending in wherever the product is available for sale, which includes digital options? Etail is place. Mobile/digital promotion is, well, Promotion! It comes down to how we present the 4Ps—the old-fashioned way or how marketing is delivered today. The categories are still relevant.

My bias is that the 4Ps are still the all-important fundamentals of marketing, then add the 4Cs as the icing on an enticing cake.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Focusing and simultaneously committing to ALL of the 5Cs is imperative for retailers and brands in today’s reality of digitally empowered shoppers. Their relevancy and viability in tomorrow’s shopping choices depends upon it! This is no longer an option for brands. They can certainly compliment the traditional 4P model but the for 4Ps alone will not provide today’s shopper with what she already expects! Brands need to recognize this reality and design and activate solutions that will deliver their brand communication across all of her Connections, Choices, Convenience and Conversations.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

As I stated yesterday, “Convenience” is the key driver, as it has been for decades. Both online and offline retailers need to put convenience at the top of their priority lists.

We do need to be careful that we do not force-fit “rules” of retailing into simplistic categories. If the keys of success don’t happen to start with the same letter of the alphabet, hopefully most merchants will still be able to deal with that. 😉

Tony Orlando
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

When do I become irrelevant in this crazy world today? We can use all the Ps and Cs to achieve the ultimate goal of a perfect social media platform, and still fail, unless we engage the customer in a real life scenario. B&M stores like mine use the social media as a tool to advertise, and respond to the new age way of communicating to our potential and existing customer base.

Unlike Amazon or Zappos, we really must perform at store level with outstanding customer service, or everything else goes by the wayside. So whatever letters you want to create, never forget the final and most important element, which is how we serve the customer at the point of sale.

James Tenser
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Let’s add one more big “C” to the list: Conversion.

All the other practices listed here should be aimed at maximizing this metric.

Oh – and here’s another one: Conceptual Framework. Without which it would be hard to have meaningful conversations about all this marketing stuff.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

Like many of the commenters here, I don’t see this as an “either/or” choice, but rather a rebranding of basic concepts (how could anyone argue product or price aren’t still essential?). Perhaps we should just call it the 4 X’s, to accommodate whatever alliterative quartet of letters is in fashion.

Doug Garnett
Guest
Doug Garnett
5 years 6 months ago

I don’t agree with these theories. They’ve been wandering the echo-chamber of the internet marketing enthusiasts for quite a while…primarily to justify ineffective efforts (“But you made connections and started a conversation.”….riiiight).

People buy products. All those other things are interesting theories we can play with. But people buy products. These marketing theories that encourage companies to shift away from that are distractions that drop sales.

Shep Hyken
Guest
5 years 6 months ago

This is simple. It’s not about replacing the 4 Ps. As the retail world changes, we must adapt. If that means more acronyms or 4 Cs, the so be it. In the competitive world I think that it makes sense to marry Price, Product, Promotion and Place with Connections, Choice Convenience and Conversations.

AmolRatna Srivastav
Guest
AmolRatna Srivastav
5 years 6 months ago

I would rather argue that the 4 Ps are now more relevant than ever before for an integrated marketing or retailing strategy. What probably has changed is that these 4 Ps need to be consistently and constantly used (2 more Cs) for enabling the 4 Cs… i.e. you need to be extremely sure of your 4 Ps in a multi-channel world. Would you go in for a similar price-promo or different ones for different channels? Which products should you keep for online vs offline channels? What quantity? Etc.

Alexander Rink
Guest
5 years 5 months ago

I wouldn’t say that the 4 Ps of marketing are becoming less relevant—for example, price is consistently ranked as one of the top factors influencing purchase decisions. I would agree, however, that the 4 Cs are becoming increasingly relevant. It also seems to me that the 4 Cs are not entirely independent of the 4 Ps—connections and conversations, for example, are an in vogue way of promoting to your customers, and convenience is, in a way, highly correlated with place.

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