There is nothing more important to your business than creating and keeping customers. And if you want to do that well, your company must defend against the threats and capture the opportunities that have emerged since e-commerce got started about 25 years ago.

I recommend that you start this journey by choosing a specific North Star for your company -- such as always aiming to give your customers a delightful experience. To get there, you should start by understanding the specific factors -- such as quality, selection, price, and service -- that customers use to decide whether to buy from you or from a competitor.

What's more, you should ask the customers to rank those factors in order of importance and to describe to you how well they think you're doing on those ranked purchase criteria.

Given that many of your competitors are investing to improve on those factors, you might be surprised to learn that while you were ahead, say, two years ago, today you might be way behind. If so, you need to know more about how the competitor that's winning over your customers is doing it.

Big box retailers like Walmart and Target faced this challenge from Amazon. And over the last several years, they've invested to improve their customer's experience. Now they are enjoying faster revenue growth.

How so? With their thousands of conveniently located stores these retailers are delighting customers who order online, pick up in the store, and stick around to buy more because of the compelling product selection, competitive prices, and great customer service

The way they've managed that transformation suggests five things you can do to delight your customers.

1. Create a culture of customer delight.

Many companies don't bother with culture -- they just urge employees to sell more and cut costs. But if you want to delight your customers, you must give employees a higher purpose. Such a purpose will inspire employees and make them feel empowered to do the right thing for customers.

In 2014, Target hired its first outside CEO, Brian Cornell, who did this. His mission? To make Target "America's easiest place to shop," according to the Star Tribune.

2. Hire leaders who embrace that culture

While such a mission is a great place to start, it is not enough to get results. The next challenge leaders face is fielding a leadership team that truly buys into that mission of delighting customers.

If your department heads resist the change needed to realize this mission, you ought to replace them with ones who do. Indeed, Walmart jump-started its efforts to improve the customer experience by acquiring an ecommerce startup,, and in September 2016.appointing its CEO, Marc Lore, as CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S.

3. Invest to improve your customer's experience

With the right team in place, identify a bundle of changes to your strategy and operations required to win back and delight your customers.

For big box retailers, such changes are broad and fundamental. In early 2017, Target, for example, announced that it would invest $7 billion in improving customer experience -- a move that shocked investors because they could not envision the long-term benefits, according to Fortune

The money went to changing almost everything -- such as the way it displays its merchandise, replacing tired products from outside vendors with private-label products and new branded items such as Vineyard Vines, stocking up stores to satisfy local demand for in-store pick up of items ordered online, and boosting worker pay to give customers better service, 

4. Hold people accountable and encourage departments to work together 

If you make such investments, they will only lead to a better customer experience if you hold people accountable and encourage different departments to work together. To make this work, you ought to experiment with the change in one location, learn from your mistakes, and then try adopting the change more broadly.

For example, Target was able to lower its costs by as much as 90 percent by getting customers to pick up online orders at the store near their home rather than shipping it from a more remote warehouse, according to the Washington Post.

But making that work required coordination between people in purchasing, warehouse operations, app development, and the local stores which Target tested gradually rather than rolling out the changes all at once.

5. Monitor changing customer needs, technology, and rivals' strategies

Competitors keep moving, so your company should not rest on its laurels. Instead keep an eye on changes in your industry, envision a brighter future for your customers and invest to make it happen.

These five steps will help you to delight your customers. Start today.