The demise of Toys R Us and Maplin over the last couple of weeks brought home a stark message to retailers – adapt or die. According to the experts, Toys R Us in particular failed because it didn’t keep up with customer expectations on price and experience, its stores were ‘mundane and lacking in inspiration’ and, in the end, it ‘just wasn’t dynamic enough’.
To illustrate how things could have been different, here are four CX scenarios and how to manage them without disrupting business as usual or investing significant amounts of cash:
1. Your customer wants to buy something but it’s out of stock/online only
Offering customers the convenience of online services while in store can be achieved with limited integration work and IT impact (provided you have the right digital store platform) to allow data to flow freely between channels.
Placing the power to access online services while in a physical store into the hands of the people who are actively involved in buying and selling is one of the most straightforward ways of enabling omnichannel commerce. In terms of technology it’s a small step, but in terms of service it can represent a giant leap:
- Sales colleagues have the ability to not only offer the customer’s requested product – they can cross-sell, upsell and make recommendations relevant to their previous orders, wishlists etc as well as highlight cross-channel promotions and offers.
- Customers have the freedom to review and find stock online and in other stores, place an order and choose their preferred method of delivery – to their home or via click and collect, for example.
- At busy times of the year, staff equipped with the means to find stock, take orders and process payments while on the shop floor can help to reduce queues and maintain sales and service levels.
2. Your customer wants to feel like a VIP with personalised, one-to-one service
The difference between ‘good’ and ‘great’ customer experience comes down to the judicious, sensitive and permission-based use of data to provide a personalised journey with the customer at its heart.
Sales colleagues empowered with all-round knowledge of the customer’s wants and needs as well as stock availability and product information are able to provide exactly the right level of service, from online ordering in-store to upselling appropriate products to using beacons to identify and prepare for click and collect customers as soon as they enter the store.
The only way to make this ideal scenario a reality is to connect all in-store devices to each other in real time via digital store platforms as well as to back end systems such as eCommerce and CRM so that retailers can:
- Identify customers.
- Offer personalised service and increase loyalty by anticipating and delivering on needs.
- Enable seamless checkouts.
- Improve their operational performance.
Plus, by mixing and matching device types depending on the exact situation, sales colleagues and customers can always have the experience that best suits the sale.
3. Your customer wants to buy online and pick up their purchases when it’s convenient to them
Understandably, customers’ early (and growing) appetite for click-and-collect meant that retailers were keen to get on board with it – however, relatively few of them do it well. This is because of the lingering perception that doing it properly would involve major cost and changes to infrastructure and operations – the result is often a bolt-on, process-bound service, often paper-based, which is either tucked away at the back of the store or attached to the customer help desk or kiosk.
But this is one area where retailers can secure a significant win, if they stick to a few key principles:
- Give click-and-collect its own, clearly-identifiable area in-store, with dedicated sales colleagues.
- Use cross-department information to connect touchscreens, smartphones and wearables to engage customers and staff in one seamless, speedy process.
- Give sales colleagues the right devices so that they can access to the information they need to deal with customers’ questions, provide product knowledge and even upsell/cross-sell.
- Approach click and collect with an open mind – transcend the transactional by building in innovative touches such as identifying the customer while they’re parking their car and having their item ready as soon as they enter the store.
4. Your customer wants to enjoy ‘going shopping’ as an event
When it’s so easy to distil the act of buying goods down to ‘browse, point and click’, retailers need to give customers a reason to make the effort to visit a physical store. Going shopping can still be an event, provided retailers are prepared to invest in a certain amount of ‘theatre’. In many cases, they can achieve this quickly and easily by connecting their data and making the most of the assets they already have:
- Digital signage - integrate data with digital signage and enhance static displays with live data, connect sales colleague and customer devices for personalisation and dynamic content browsing and use customer profiles to show relevant content from items on wishlists, in baskets or similar key products.
- Mobile functionality – integrate functionality such as movement detection with in-store products and displays, maximise store space and stock by using captivating retail theatre to display variants and additional digital content for key products.
- Interactive changing rooms – connect changing room displays with product and stock information to show size in stock in-store, nearby stores, online or similar items, making it easy for customers to request new sizes without leaving the changing room.
While they may seem obvious to those forward-thinking businesses that have already implemented them at least in part, each of these scenarios is indicative of the challenges faced by a significant number of today’s retailers whose long-term future depends on facing and embracing them.
About Dan Hartveld
Dan Hartveld has a global reputation for excellence in the field of mobile retail. He has developed award-winning, first-in-class commercial solutions for leading retailers including Topshop, Burberry and MasterCard. Known for his expertise in the practical application of innovative technology to achieve measurable results for retail, Dan is a trusted expert and advisor with a proven track record in real-world business.
He was instrumental in developing Red Ant’s Connected Retail Platform and rolling it out across retailers, and he was a key member of the team which won the prestigious IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge for its cognitive sales associate app.