Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 9, 2019
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4min345

Nearly half of brands have introduced a dedicated Digital Experience (DX) team to help shape their Customer Experience and journeys across digital channels.

That is the findings in a new report by from experience analytics leader Clicktale. The study, titled Defining Digital Experience shows that 48 percent of brands now have a DX team in place to oversee their strategy. 

It explores the current state of DX, with the help of 200 marketing and CX professionals working in some of the world’s leading US and UK brands. The report examines how brands are building a strategy around Digital Experience, including who is ‘owning’ the function, and how they’re harnessing new technologies.

Until recently, marketing and digital departments have taken the lead in DX responsibility, with 31 percent of respondents claiming ownership lies with marketing, and 27 percent saying it lies with their organisation’s digital team, the report outlines.

Now, dedicated DX departments are more common than data science teams (44 percent) but still behind design/UX and digital analytics teams (54 percent and 52 percent respectively).

The report also describes how the ownership of Digital Experience is still a shared affair in many organisations. Nearly half (44 percent) of respondents claim that digital Customer Experience is merged with other departments. This is also the case for digital analytics and insight (40 percent), design and UX (32 percent), and data science (29 percent).

Clicktale CMO Sara Richter said: “Digital Experience is now a key differentiator for businesses, almost ahead of the products they sell and the prices they charge. Many businesses today get few actual face-to-face interactions with customers. So, if brands want to foster loyalty and repeat revenue, it’s becoming ever more important to understand customers beyond just demographics and purchase history.

“Assigning a dedicated team may be a great first step to building this understanding, but without the right data and analytical ability, it’s difficult to create and shape an effective digital experience approach. Only by gathering true behavioural data and having technologies and analysts in place to draw insights from that data can brands begin to understand their customers on a more intimate level. That in turn will empower brands to build and optimise digital experiences that better serve customers and drive repeat revenue.”

The 2019 UK Digital Experience Awards are taking place in London’s Park Plaza Riverbank on July 12.

 


Andrea WilliamsAndrea WilliamsMarch 22, 2019
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9min591

If you’re reading Customer Experience Magazine, then you’ll be aware that CX is a much talked-about business concept.

According to Forrester, it can be defined as “how customers perceive their interactions with your company”.

This is a concept with a very long history – it’s just never had a catchy name before. Customer Experience has had different forms, as it’s been influenced by technology and the prevalent customer preferences of each generation and era over time.

It’s hard to pinpoint where it all started. We know that on January 1, 1876, the red triangle of Bass Ale became the UK’s first official trademark. While businesses had been marking their products to show origin since time immemorial, the modern understanding of branding was arguably born alongside that first trademark. Even back in the 1800s, the idea of branding was an implicit recognition that the customer was on some sort of journey of research and discovery before making a purchase.

Let’s travel back in time and explore the transformations that shaped CX…

Everyone knows your name

The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, once said: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts.” It’s an analogy that works as well today as it did in the past. It’s up to the host to be gracious and make guests comfortable.

Back in the 50s, there was no “customer experience”. No fancy business lingo – just service. This was the age of genuine, low-tech personalisation. Business owners chatted with customers and remembered preferences.

Have you ever watched the hit TV show Mad Men? If so, you know that when housewife Betty Draper wanted to go out shopping, she got the royal treatment. Salespeople remembered her, greeting her by name, inquiring about her family and making tailored product suggestions.

Indeed, the shopping experience of the 50s was familiar and comforting. That’s because it was a social experience; as a customer, you likely got to know the owners and employees of companies you interacted with on a personal level.

Don’t get too nostalgic, though. It gets even better…

You can shop on ‘The Internet’

Today we don’t even think twice about “going online”, but back in the early 90s it was a big deal! In this era the internet became commercialised; Amazon started selling books online and Pierre Omidyar founded eBay.

 This decade was characterised by excitement (perhaps with the exception of the Dot Com bust, which wasn’t as amusing). Online shopping made it possible to buy goods at any time, regardless of ‘store hours’, without even leaving the house. Ecommerce also brought with it the opportunity to order far more than what one could find on a store’s shelves.

On the other hand, the focus on service didn’t seem as important.

Because these technological developments were so new and intriguing, the loss of that special personal touch went unnoticed. Web ‘pages’, as they were called back then, were barely functional, much less optimised for the user’s enjoyment. It would take a while for the notion of ‘user-friendliness’ to gain traction. Yet even though there was no personalisation, there were cool new things to click.

After all, you don’t expect the royal treatment when you’re an adventurer heading off into the unknown – which is how people felt venturing to buy via personal computers.

Tech that ‘gets you’

Today we take all the convenience of technology for granted. In fact, we’re likely to get upset when things don’t work instantaneously and seamlessly (“This web page is taking more than five seconds to load…I’m outta here!”).

Yet we’ve also missed being remembered by companies; being treated with special care. That’s where modern Customer Experience enters the scene. Research from Salesforce estimates that 75 percent of people now expect a consistent experience wherever they engage with brands – be it through social media, mobile, or even in person.

CX has become all about providing both intuitive technology and automated personalisation capable of remembering preferences, making recommendations and offering help.

 Customer Experience has essentially come full-circle: it started out as an emotional experience, transformed into a display of ‘cool’ technology, and now it’s back to being people-focused. The question modern companies are asking is: “How do we apply all the tech at our disposal to delight the customer?”

Businesses want to forge personal relationships with customers again – albeit in the digital space. Business consultancy Walker suggests that by 2020, CX will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. No wonder everyone’s talking about it.

Must everything change?

While technology has raced ahead, people have remained relatively unchanged. No matter how much time passes, the customer still desires to feel special and valued. Making them feel like they got away with a great deal is never going to get old.

We may have moved past the quaint days when shop owners greeted us by name, but when we get the sense a company sees us as just a number, we’re quick to take our business elsewhere. Today we enjoy the best of all worlds: the customer comes first, and businesses have the technology to craft remarkable experiences. With the rise of omnichannel – another one of those hot buzzwords – service expectations have increased. Modern customers fully expect the royal treatment, anytime, anywhere.

What’s next? New experiences that fully merge physical spaces with digital tech. Future CX-obsessed companies will ensure the customer journey is always on and responsive to a customer’s location and overall context.

Told you it gets better!


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 21, 2019
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3min490

A new report has found that 20 percent of marketing and CX professionals feel they will “never truly understand” their customers’ buying decisions.

The study from analytics firm Clicktale, titled Defining Digital Experience, states that part of the reason for this is due to 34 percent of marketers and CX professionals being unable to unite data between their web and mobile-optimised sites to create a single customer view, while 39 percent struggle to unite data from their websites and mobile apps.

This inability, the report continues, also means that 71 percent of brands can’t action customer insights in real time, while 73 percent are struggling to provide a consistent experience across channels. Ultimately, this lack of ability to understand customers is hindering brands’ chances of securing customer loyalty and damaging potential sales.

The study explores the current state of digital with 200 marketing and CX professionals working in some of the world’s leading brands in the UK and the US. The report uncovers how brands are building a strategy around Digital Experience, including who is ‘owning’ the function, and what technology they’re deploying.

Clicktale CMO Sara Richter said: “With so many brands struggling to build a single customer view, is it any wonder that marketing and CX professionals feel they cannot build a true understanding of their customers?

“But while uniting data is undoubtedly key, so too is capturing the right kind of data – beyond the usual demography, geography, purchase history and preference. Very few brands are tapping into the power of behavioural data, which enriches the marketer’s understanding of the customer immensely. With behavioural data and the right analytics, brands can better serve customers, improve loyalty and drive more repeat revenue.”


Nick HagueNick HagueMarch 20, 2019
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6min868

There are only three ways to make money: sell more products, increase your prices, or cut costs. 

The easiest action may seem to be to increase prices, but if you don’t deliver additional value for the higher prices then it won’t be long before customers start to look around for alternative suppliers.  

So what about cutting costs? A cost-cutting strategy is only temporary as it cannot be sustained in the long term.  

That therefore leaves only one possible growth strategy and that is to sell more products, which is easier said than done. If it was just a question of hiring a new sales rep or spending money on advertising and watching the new flow of business, everybody would do it. 

Access to new customers in new territories is indeed why office-supplies chain Office Depot Inc. and Alibaba’s international wholesale marketplace Alibaba.com have inked a ‘strategic collaboration’. However, research shows that the most important factor driving long-term growth is great Customer Experience.

Market research company Forrester, for instance, found that customer experience leaders grow revenue at a rate of 17 percent compound growth – considerably faster than the customer experience laggards. Meanwhile, consulting group Accenture estimates that the business costs of poor Customer Experience is as much as $1.6 trillion from US customers who switch their service to a different brand or service provider.

There can be no doubt about it then: exceptional Customer Experience is critical to growth.

But what is a great Customer Experience? It isn’t just having the product delivered on time in full. It isn’t receiving a product that works as promised. This is a good experience but the customer is simply receiving what they expect.

Great Customer Experience is something which pleases the customer so much it may never be forgotten. A customer that is short of product and needs an urgent delivery will remember for a long time a supplier who pulls out the stops to solve the problem. It’s why a customer that has been struggling with a technical issue that is quickly solved by the supplier will almost certainly repay with loyalty. A supplier whose deliveries never fail, whose products never disappoint, who is always available to deal with enquiries and does so promptly, will be thought to offer a great Customer Experience.

Great CX is built on emotions, and small companies tend to know this. They will often work nights and weekends to solve a customer’s problem. They will bend over backwards to be nice to customers. They will deal with them promptly and efficiently. They know that without customers they cannot pay the rent. Small companies understand the importance of engaging emotionally with customers and offering great Customer Experience.

There is then, something that can be termed, the ‘corporate curse’. When companies grow, especially business-to-business companies, they can lose this emotional attachment. Large B2B companies need processes to ensure that their products are made efficiently. Departments are set up to run production, finance, sales, marketing and HR. These departments may be superbly managed but they can also become silos, working independently of each other, viewing customer requests as inconvenient disruptions to their efficiency. When customer satisfaction levels are measured amongst the customers of these large B2B suppliers, the results are almost always mediocre. 

A number of key Customer Experience pillars are required to escape this trap. These include total commitment to Customer Experience by the leadership; an avoidance of silo mentality, with everyone within the B2B supplier that can solve the problem taking ownership of it, and being quick and easy to deal with. This is vital, as Amazon well knows.

But beware: the things that please and excite today soon become standard. Providing great Customer Experience requires suppliers to constantly be thinking of different and better ways of serving their customers. It’s why Amazon and many other retailers seek to offer ever faster and more convenient delivery options and locations.

The only long-term way to make more money is to deliver exceptional CX. Alibaba and Office Depot, along with their very many competitors, need to remember this.


Derek O'CarrollDerek O'CarrollMarch 12, 2019
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9min729

We now exist in a world where technological innovation is empowering customers to expect more from the brands they deal with, to switch when they’re not happy or satisfied, and share their negative experiences online.

Results from a recent study show that Millennials can be particularly hard to please. Over two-fifths (45 percent) admit to being less loyal to brands when compared to a year ago, and are quicker to abandon companies that don’t meet expectations.

Customers today have a lot of choice and an array of products to choose from, and so it’s understandable that many brands are struggling to get customers to stick around for the long haul. An enormous 76 percent of customers report that it’s now easier than ever to take their business elsewhere whilst a quarter of Millennials would change where they buy goods, based on the shopping experience. Millennials are also the group most unlikely to return to a brand if they have a bad shopping experience.

Shaping buying journeys for the Millennial audience

Brands must work harder to attract buyers and to encourage repeat purchases, particularly from the younger demographic. The question is: ‘are millennials worth the effort?’

The answer is undoubtedly ‘yes’;. Millennials – typically aged between 23-38 – are now all grown up. Millennials’ purchasing power also continues to grow – they now make more online purchases than Generation X or Baby Boomers, and so an argument can now be made that brands should ensure the happiness of these shoppers as a priority over every other demographic.

The key to retail success really could lie in keeping millennials happy. While it’s perhaps no surprise that online fashion purchases are dominated by younger shoppers, every sector, from home and DIY to electrical, health and beauty, or grocery has a significant and growing audience of Millennial buyers – with a set of behaviours, needs, and expectations that are very different to other demographics. If brands want to capture the attention and long-term business of the younger shopper, the way to foster and maintain loyalty needs to change.

Familiarity is a thing of the past

One way to actively build brand loyalty is through superior Customer Experience. Shoppers will no longer stick with a company that they know but delivers sub-par service. Just because they’ve purchased from a brand for several years doesn’t inspire the same shopper affinity it may have in the past – particularly with younger age groups.

This should give retailers and brands serious food for thought – especially given that over three-fifths (61 percent) of consumers have encountered issues when buying goods online in the last 12 months, and can be vocal and unforgiving about poor purchasing experiences. In addition, eight out of 10 Millennials will never buy anything without first reading a review, which means brands are setting themselves up to alienate or lose customers if they’re not able to own the entire end-to-end experience to an appropriately high level.

No-brainer technology

Great Customer Experience at every touchpoint, from discovery to delivery and beyond – including outstanding user experiences, same-next day delivery options, real-time shipping and customer-focused returns models – will be key to winning or losing customers, particularly Millennials who are the most sensitive to issues at any stage of the buying journey.

This means brands need to identify and fix gaps in the buying journey that could negatively affect a customer’s experience – and damage brand loyalty. Long-term, this will be crucial to boosting repeat sales, especially for fickler customers in the younger age segments.

The good news? There are systems that can help brands make the buying journey as smooth and effortless as possible. Key to this is an automated back-office platform that adds speed and efficiency into the retail operation and allows for enhanced customer service at every touchpoint. Brands should also use systems that record customer and product data from one single hub, in real time. These insights can identify pain points and guide the changes that will help them to create more tailored and seamless experiences that are in-line with the expectations of younger shoppers.

Brands should also look to focus on the gaps that most frustrate Millennials, such as issues related to deliveries and returns. This is the area where things are really going wrong, and this ‘last impression’ can do the most damage to a customer’s brand perception.

However, it’s worth noting that 10% of Millennial shoppers are willing to pay more for products and services – if they’re guaranteed a seamless transaction. So, brands that do get the end-to-end experience right may benefit not only from increased sales and loyalty – but also from increased wallet capture.

Finally, and to paraphrase Mark Larson OF KPMG, Baby Boomers are now appreciating the experience and convenience of buying online, so, to a degree, there is a little Millennial in each of us. By focusing on superior experiences now, brands can meet the pressing needs of their most demanding customers (Millennials) but get ahead of the growing expectations of older demographics – meaning they can keep all shoppers coming back to them time and again.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 8, 2019
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3min424

UK Customer Experience Awards winner Business Stream has been awarded the YPO framework contract following a highly competitive tendering process.

The four year deal is worth up to £62 million and is one of the largest contracts to be awarded since the English retail water market opened in 2017.

The contract will enable Business Stream – which last year also won Best Digital Transformation at the inaugural International Customer Experience Awards in Amsterdam – to provide water and waste water services, including water efficiency solutions, to a wide range of public sector organisations in and around the Yorkshire area. Participating bodies include councils, police and fire services, universities, a hospital and over a hundred schools.

The YPO contract was awarded through the Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) Water, Waste Water and Ancillary Services Framework, which Business Stream successfully secured a place on soon after the English retail water market opened.

Jo Dow (pictured), Chief Executive of Business Stream, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have been awarded the YPO contract. We have a huge amount of experience in working with the public sector and are now looking forward to having the opportunity to offer our expertise and vast suite of value-added services to public sector organisations across the Yorkshire area to help them save water, money and time.”

At the start of the year, Business Stream announced that it had acquired the customer base of Yorkshire Water Business Services and Three Sixty, doubling its market share and cementing its position as one of the top three retailers in the UK water market. Recognising the importance of having a local presence, the retailer will be opening a local office and retaining locally-based experienced account managers who have knowledge and experience of the Yorkshire area and its customers.

Business Stream works with private businesses and public sector organisations across the UK. Recently it announced plans to help its customers reduce their water consumption by 20 per cent. The pledge, announced by the firm’s CEO, Jo Dow, forms part of Business Stream’s on-going commitment to promote the importance of water efficiency and to pro-actively work with its customers across the UK to reduce their water use.

To date, Business Stream has helped its customers save over 38 billion litres of water, resulting in almost £75 million in financial savings and over 66,000 tonnes in COsavings.


Anthony GavinAnthony GavinMarch 6, 2019
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7min327

“Experiential shopping” is a hot new trend in retail.

While the first thing that may come to mind is a quirky pop-up or interactive in-store tech, the reality is that these kinds of experiences are just one piece in the Customer Experience puzzle.

We know that improving lifetime value is a huge priority for forward-thinking brands and retailers because nurturing a relationship with a customer is more cost-effective than acquiring another. To build a base of loyal customers in an increasingly competitive environment, brands and retailers need to look beyond dazzling shoppers with a one-off experiential moment.

To secure long-term customer loyalty, brands and retailers must provide customers with meaningful, engaging Customer Experience throughout the buying journey – wherever it starts and ends – including after the sale itself. A “we’ve shipped your order” email just doesn’t go far enough.

Building loyalty in the moments that matter

We know from working with brands and retailers like PrettyLittleThing, BirchBox, Dollar Shave Club, and Urban Decay, that customers are at their most emotionally receptive after they’ve clicked buy. We call this the “honeymoon” moment.

Customers don’t want to be treated as ‘just another order number’. Our recent Hierarchy of Post-Purchase Needs survey highlighted that 86 percent of UK consumers agree that the experience they receive after the buy button is fundamental to their decision to buy again.

The brands and retailers that we work with have learned first-hand that it is important to engage with customers during the specific ‘moments’ where they can earn trust and make a tangible impact. Useful content and services turn one-off purchases into repeat custom; from timely and personalised delivery notifications, to clever data-driven communications about other relevant products and offering the choice of convenient delivery and pickup methods. 

Pinpointing the moments that matter

Retailers and brands need to consider the full range of moments to build brand loyalty. For example, PrettyLittleThing, the leading digitally native company in the fast-fashion space, recognised that it needed to improve Customer Experience and build customer lifetime value. The retailer is online-focused, but it does have three physical stores which bridge the online/offline shopping experience it offers customers.

Understanding that building on its physical presence would only go so far, PrettyLittleThing announced a partnership with Narvar to take ownership of the post-purchase experience for purchases made online.

Traditionally, PrettyLittleThing directed customers to third-party websites for delivery updates. These communications were unbranded and purely functional, meaning they did little to engage or delight online customers. In addition, by passing delivery communication responsibilities on to external carriers, the retailer had no oversight or control of the experience their customers received after leaving its website having made an order. This meant that PrettyLittleThing did not have control of the full Customer Experience.

Now, after adopting innovative technology, PrettyLittleThing customers receive proactive, convenient, engaging, and branded delivery and tracking messages in the moments that matter via the communications channel of their choice.

The results speak for themselves:

  • Next purchase accelerated by 57 percent
  • Overall post-purchase experience rated by customers is up by 30 percent
  • 44 percent marketing engagement rate on delivery updates

It’s not all about the money

Today, consumers are increasingly shopping with their emotions, purchasing from brands and retailers with aligned ethics – you just have to look at the rise of sustainable fashion and vegan products to understand this. No longer can brands and retailers believe that the main purchase driver is discounts and pop-up store sales – it’s great end-to-end experiences, online or offline.

We know this because over half (53 percent) of UK customers admitted that thoughtful and personal experiences are more important to them than discounts and coupons.

The brands and retailers struggling to pinpoint the moments that mean the most to consumers need to recognise the importance of the end-to-end customer care cycle – including post-purchase. Pop-ups and flashy in-store technology are important moments in the full customer journey, however the moments these experiences create won’t win customers’ hearts alone.

Today’s retail industry is fiercely competitive. The ultimate winners will understand that by creating meaningful and seamless experiences in-store and online – and every moment of interaction in between – will draw customers back, time and time again.


Alain MevellecAlain MevellecMarch 5, 2019
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7min542

Relationships are often regarded as the key to business success.

Once a foot is in the door, it’s all smooth talking, right?

No! Turning initial relationships into strong and fruitful ones can be tricky and should not be taken lightly. The success of your business depends on a healthy and (if possible) friendly relationship with your customers, whether you provide a service to the general public or professionals. How do you inspire confidence and retain your target? By ensuring you steer clear of these six mistakes that can prove fatal to any customer relationship.

Error 1: Not moving to the beat of your customers

We all have different music tastes and every customer is unique and wants to be considered as such. Nothing is more annoying than automatic emails that have been sent to a badly segmented contact database.

In the days of personalised advertisements, it has never been so critical to ensure that every message is personalised to the intended audience, wherever possible. A good start is by using the proper names of your customers and targeting your messages. Automated marketing is an excellent tool for target marketing. It makes it possible to establish email scenarios according to your customers history. With this, you’re on to a killer customer relations plan!

Error 2: Forgetting the unique approach

Every customer needs to know you understand their needs. You need to be the support and reassurance they didn’t know they needed. It’s essential to know who you’re talking to, whether it’s a new or regular customer. Yes, you can carry on adapting your sales proposals to your customers, but in the end it all comes down to reassuring them that you can provide the support they require, taking good care of them.

Every customer is unique, so when speaking with multiple customers a day remember individual exchanges and their individual needs. With a CRM solution in place, you can archive exchanges with customers and centralise that information, keeping everything organised, especially if your customers are made up of multiple collaborators.

Error 3: Missing the silver platter of communication

No-one wants to be taken to spam city and nothing is more irritating than unsolicited sales messages. You always want to be remembered and reminding your customers to remember you is a good idea of course, but doing it too frequently and filling up their inboxes will have a negative impact on your company’s brand. Instead, remember to be subtle. By tracking your customers’ activity, you can better identify the questions they are asking themselves. Then, deliver them the one single response on a silver platter.

Error 4: Closing the door on customer feedback

With social media at the beck and call of every customer, how should you ask for feedback? Whether it’s positive or negative it needs to be received without censorship. Customers need to feel they can express themselves, provide honest opinion, and in turn receive personalised feedback.

At all times you need to remain speedy and responsive through whichever form of contact they’ve chosen, whether on social media, blog comments, by mail, or email. Unhappy customers on Twitter have the equal potential to publicly praise you if you bring them a kind and quick solution to their problem.

Error 5: Don’t forget to spoil your customers

Customers aren’t just there for events such as Christmas or Black Friday, and they don’t come back automatically. Customers need to be reminded that they’re not at the end of your to-do-list and you care about them all year round, as well as when it comes around to renewal time. To ensure they continue with you, it’s necessary to offer them new deals. Show them that they are important.

Retaining the high level of quality customer support at all times will stand you in good stead when that dreaded renewal date comes along. Remember, a customer is never loyal or unloyal just by chance.

Error 6: Providing an opaque service

Every customer wants to sit back and enjoy the good service your team has promised to provide. However, should a problem arise they’ll want a transparent service, one without a badly thought-out website and unclear terms and conditions. Forget this classic false strategy of saying anything just to arouse the curiosity of customers, hoping that they will contact you. If you want to inspire confidence, it’s better to expose yourself (without bragging of course) in a clear and intelligible way. Inspire the confidence you’d want to see in your marketing team.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthFebruary 22, 2019
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2min445

Fully-autonomous, retail service robots are heading to the UK for the first time and are set to “increase in-store efficiency, reduce operational costs, and improve customer satisfaction” in supermarkets across the country.

The technology comes from Bossa Nova, a data service provider for retailers, which opened its first office to service Europe in Sheffield last year.

Using cutting-edge robotics, computer vision, and artificial intelligence technology, the company, which is already working with some major US retailers, helps automate the collection and analysis of inventory data. Its technology enables retailers to increase product availability, keep up with demand, streamline stock management, and improve overall Customer Experience.

Speaking ahead of the company’s plans to introduce the technology into UK supermarkets, Red McKay, European Managing Director at Bossa Nova Europe said: “The UK’s retail industry is at a critical inflection point. The biggest bricks and mortar retailers are facing significant external pressures, combined with the customer expectation that they should have a seamless omnichannel experience, every time.”

“Our technology provides accurate, reliable product information, making a stark difference to supermarkets everywhere. Bossa Nova robots learn and adapt to the stores they operate in – the data collected helps deliver real, measurable ROI that improves the bottom line.”

He added: “The introduction of intelligent technology into UK supermarkets couldn’t have come at a better time for both retailers and shoppers alike, with the industry trading amidst fluctuating financial and political times.”


Craig SummersCraig SummersFebruary 20, 2019
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8min502

Embracing technology is a prerequisite for success in the modern retail environment.

There are many ways in which retailers can deliver a new in-store experience – and while some retailers will undoubtedly look to emulate the human touch free Amazon Go model, for many others human interaction is the primary and fundamental component of a positive bricks and mortar experience. From hiking boots to party shoes, it is still the shared experience of the store associate and customer that will remain an essential component of the in-store engagement for many.

Each retailer will need to understand the optimal model for its customer base, offering the best mix of touch free interaction and empowered store associate. With cloud-based mPOS, there is no technology barrier to delivering a new and positive retail experience – the challenge is to envisage the right customer model. The checkout of the future must be whatever the customer wants it to be, at any time. Released from the shackles of legacy technology, retailers now have enormous opportunities to rethink and reconsider the in-store experience and reimagine the customer journey.

Getting the basics right

The checkout is the point of sale – but it is not a standalone function; it needs to be embedded within the overall service proposition. Customers don’t want to wait in line; nor are they willing to undertake multiple separate transactions to fulfil in-store needs. They want one, simple and frictionless transaction that covers an in-store purchase, a click & collect order, a product return, even ordering another item that is not in store but can be sent from another location either to that store or to the customer’s preferred address.

An effective and efficient checkout process also needs to automatically and effectively handle coupons, apply the correct promotional pricing, capture loyalty information, and so on. But it will also be integrated directly with core operational systems to provide store associates with real-time inventory information and customer history.

The question for retailers is how and where to deliver that point of sale. Should be it the fast, touch-free approach enabled by kiosks or self-service? Or should it be provided by a store associate? And if the latter, how and where within the store should that interaction occur?

Man vs Machine

Clearly for many retailers, an Amazon Go approach appeals. It maximises technology to minimise costly store associates and provides customers with a fast, frictionless experience: the checkout is achieved simply by walking out of the store with automatically scanned items and payment taken from the pre-authorised account.

This is not, of course, a model that has generic appeal – aside from the fact that it is massively unprofitable today and unachievable for the majority of organisations. Forget tagging technology and customer identification solutions, right now many retailers can’t even provide their Store Associates with a single view of available inventory!

But there are undoubtedly aspects of this frictionless experience that should be embedded within every retail model – and a core component of this process will be the checkout. Whether a customer is looking for speed or experience – or both – the checkout is key.

Retailers have spent over a decade optimising the ‘buy button’ online, and the checkout is effectively that ‘buy button’ moment in store. The challenge for retailers is to create a checkout in store that effectively masks the growing complexity of the retail model from both the customer and store associate. Mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) is an obvious solution, providing Store Associates with the ability to close the deal with customers anywhere in store, yet, just 42% of retailers have mPOS in place.

Retail as a service

Retailers have been massively constrained by the incredibly outdated legacy solutions deployed in-store. Hard wired, monolithic systems based on fixed telephone lines for payment, these solutions are both over specified and under delivering. The latest generation of cloud-based technology supports deployments anywhere – in-store, on traditional Windows terminals, or on mobile iOS and Android devices, delivers real-time access to global network availability and ensures that high-speed checkout is available even if the network connection is disrupted.

A store associate armed with a mobile device that provides real time access to inventory across the organisation and ensures the aisle is always endless – and the ability to order those products – can embark upon a meaningful customer dialogue anywhere within the store.

Critically, with a mobile solution that seamlessly supports the checkout process whenever the customer is ready and through whatever payment format the customer prefers, the store ‘buy button’ is optimised. Whether a traditional ‘card present’ payment process or a customer’s own mobile payment app, there should be no break in the engagement to achieve the seamless in-store check-out that consumers crave.

Conclusion

It is only now, thanks to the power of the cloud, of the mobile app, of rich POS solution functionality that is seamlessly integrated with other store and enterprise systems, that retailers have the chance to break away from the constraints of their legacy technology and reconsider the entire store concept.

Does the retailer even need a static desk anymore or can all store associates be mobile? Will the customer base respond well to this model or does the retailer have a core demographic that wants a choice of both traditional and new? With confidence in the technology and an ability to deliver diverse customer services within the store, a retailer can begin to rethink the experience, to experiment with new models for customer engagement and truly offer an efficient and personalised service with a bit of ‘wow’ thrown in.




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