Craig SummersCraig SummersMay 9, 2019
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4min235

Consumers are hoping for high levels of choice, convenience, and recognition in modern, omnichannel shopping.

To truly offer an omnichannel experience – selling anywhere, fulfilling anywhere, and engaging anywhere is essential, as is elevating customer service and interactions to create exceptional Customer Experience, regardless of where the customer started their buying journey.

This is the holistic world that every retailer is trying to create, but the reality for large long-established retailers is that they are not going to strip out legacy systems and create this omnichannel eco-system overnight. C-suites are having to consider the profitability of change, and the reality of implementation. What new capabilities will new technology deliver? Will true visibility be achieved? Is the investment guaranteed to deliver results?

The retail reality

Retailers have, however, taken great strides to enable their ever-more demanding customers to shop according to their personal preferences, at any time, on any channel. Physical and digital have merged to the point where the customer should no longer be impeded by the limitations of any particular touchpoint; after all, consumers do not think about or talk about channels, they simply go shopping.

Yet, growing pressure to seamlessly offer customers choice, convenience and recognition across an increasing number of touchpoints has led to new challenges. The reality is that most retailers’ systems, processes and people were never designed or trained up to handle such a diversity of selling and fulfilment demand. This has resulted in gaps between what customers want, and what retailers are able to provide.

Paving the way for future prosperity

From inventory planning to order orchestration, new fulfilment strategies and the next generation of POS, integration of capabilities will pave the way to keep up with the speed of modern day shopping. They must embrace technologies that guarantee profitable omnichannel operations.

Upgrades need to go well beyond papering over the cracks of outdated technology. Making modifications to legacy solutions will no longer be enough to protect profit margins or keep up with increasing customer experience mandates.

Cost control is front of mind, of course. But thanks to the emergence of cloud-native systems, unnecessary costs and technical limitations can be eliminated and that plague legacy commerce solutions. Cloud-native architectures, built with micro-services, are designed to enable a long list of dynamic benefits such as elastic scaling, run-anywhere functionality, easy integration, single view of the truth and seamless administration.

Engineered for what’s next

These new systems must also be future-proof. New systems may be adopted by an ambitious retailer, but three years down the line shopper behaviour may have changed again, and the software and processes may no longer be relevant. It has become essential to have architectural flexibility across evolving operations with engineered support for extensibility and customisation, with innovation at the core.

The tools to capitalise on the omnichannel opportunity by better serving digital and in-store customers alike are there for the taking. From warehouse and inventory to retail stores and contact centres, technology enables retailers to remove points of operational friction, cut costs, maximise resources and delight customers from one end of the supply chain to the other. If retailers are willing to invest in solutions engineered for omnichannel, they can reap the performance benefits of connected commerce solutions, and enjoy the flexibility to adapt to whatever the future of retail and consumer demand holds.


Anne de KerckhoveAnne de KerckhoveApril 15, 2019

6min438

In today’s challenging retail landscape, success will be determined by how well brands target – and serve – consumers.

The luxury sector is no different, and previously it’s suffered from a case of mistaken identity. Their shoppers were often thought to be in the older, and presumably wealthier, age bracket, but there’s been a dramatic shift in demographics. Now, younger buyers – those considered to be Generation Z and Millennials – drive 85 percent of luxury sales growth across the globe. Millennials and Gen Z account for nearly 50 percent of Gucci’s sales, whiule Burberry re-targeted their focus at millennials and delivered a staggering 44.5 percent growth.

The ethics of luxury

With the younger generation becoming a core part of the luxury audience, it’s important to meet this demographic’s expectations around making purchases. Otherwise, brands risk experiencing a ‘luxury drought’, with sales much harder to organically come by.

These Millennial buyers expect a more personalised buying experience, and one that seamlessly integrates both online and offline worlds. Luxury retailers must provide a bespoke, tailored experience for each individual customer. These retailers must also understand that younger shoppers place a huge focus on ethical and sustainable shopping. In 2017, a staggering 235 million items of unwanted clothing were sent to landfill.

Burberry made a decision to burn $40 million worth of stock, rather than selling it at a discount. Though this move was intended to protect the brand’s exclusive status, it instead drew considerable criticism. On the other hand, Gucci’s purpose-driven, environmentally progressive program, Gucci Equilibrium, could help the luxury giant win over consumers, and increase its already impressive 40 percent YOY growth.

Winning customers everyday

Retailers must provide buyers with a seamless experience from start to finish – and this means meeting luxury customers’ exacting standards. Only the retailers that keep pace with new initiatives in Customer Experience and tailored support will survive in a market dominated by digital natives.

They will also help encourage repeat purchases – which are not easy to come for high-ticket brands. Customers sending hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds on one item will expect a flawless buying experience. 24/7 in retail is an imperative – which includes offering a truly round-the-clock service and instant access to an agent that can immediately help a consumer with a query, no matter what that is.

Dynamic phone numbers are just one feature that can help boost web-to-call communications. By assigning these phone numbers to specific product pages and campaigns, calls can be routed to an agent responsible for that particular audience segment. These handlers will be trained to answer queries, which will help increase the conversion rate across the sales funnel, from browsing to the point of purchase – particularly for big-ticket items.

Reacting right

One common issue in luxury retail is when stars are spotted in high-end outfits and cause massive sales spikes of a certain dress, or coat. A prime example is Meghan Markle, who sparked a £300m fashion boost with her wardrobe; items that she has been spotted in have become out of stock online in mere minutes. This is where brands can and should capitalise on unexpected sales peaks.

This is where technology can prove to be invaluable. The right tools allow call centre managers to temporarily expand their inbound team, and adapt to call influxes by using resources in the right way. A cloud service provides the perfect solution here – as it can be easily upscaled, or altered, without massive infrastructure changes.

Boosting in-store sales with digital tools

Technology can even help drive physical sales in shops and branches. Increasing support at the back end – including automating call routing, to route queries to the right agents, and automating messaging, to reduce missed sales leads – will help boost profits and free up employees at the front end. This will increase in-store staff availability and enable human workers to focus on what’s important: fostering a human connection with shoppers and providing a luxury buying experience.

Whether it’s online-only or omnichannel, technology will help retail brands espouse luxury values throughout every part of their business and enable couture Customer Experience. This will ultimately help drive sales and keep customers coming back for life.


Daniel TodaroDaniel TodaroApril 9, 2019
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7min526

Retail is buoyant, exciting, and transformative, so what better sector to be in right now?

This was the counterintuitive conclusion of a recent white paper produced by Retail Week in partnership with Manhattan Associates. Based on in-depth interviews with 25 senior retail executives, it showed that despite current obstacles affecting retail, 64 percent expected sales in 2019 to be flat or slightly better than last year. Twenty percent even estimated that sales will be much better than the past year.

Coupled with this, when questioned about the balance they are seeking between cutting costs and driving growth in order to achieve profitability, more than 50 percent cited ‘mostly growth’, indicative of a sector confident in its ability to progress. With 80 percent of shopping still happening on the high street  (ONS December 2018) not over the internet, now’s the time for retailers – especially brick and mortar – to define their future.

There’s been so much conversation about what’s driving retail strategy; innovation in technology driving back and front of store; data driven omnichannel insights providing a single view of the customer; experience rather than transactional stores. But if 80 percent of shopping still happens on the high street, there’s one area that’s being left behind and that’s the ‘people’ strategy to improve customer centricity and drive sales. 

Let’s face it, it’s the one part of retail that often seems the weak link. If you are over 40 you may remember the days of ‘are you being served?’. Although somewhat exaggerated it was a real indicator of retail customer centricity – personal, caring, and over the top.

According to the survey, investment in customer service and experience is top alongside ecommerce strategy as a priority for execs in 2019. It is the only differentiator a business has to entice customers into their store environment if they don’t want to buy online and the product is widely available.

Businesses that started online, such as Misguided, are appearing on the high street and brick and mortar retailers are realising the unique benefits of their physical space and making plans to optimise it accordingly – whether that’s a lifestyle destination or concept store. Over the last decade, staff have been like a forgotten tribe: transient, paid the minimum wage, and left to roam the shop floor with little, if any product knowledge or customer training. 

But retailers seem to be going full circle in realising the importance of a ‘people-first strategy’. In brick and mortar retail, the team on the floor are the most important asset, they are the ‘brand ambassadors’, the ones face to face with customers who can deliver a personal experience, explain products, give specialist advice, encourage a sale, and give customers that warm, cuddly feeling. But if it’s so important, realising it is not enough – retailers need to invest in and execute a people-first strategy. 

So what does a people-first strategy entail? To start with, let’s ditch the word sales assistant – it has a very transactional connotation. Sixty-two percent of execs said one of their biggest challenges is finding the right people with the right skills, and if this doesn’t change, nor will retail.

We’re in new territory where sales assistants are the custodians of the customer’s brand experience and I think we’re getting somewhere here. If you search for sales assistants on job boards, many are being advertised as Customer Experience assistants. And whilst you may think this is a nuance, it’s a huge step forward in transforming the way people think about roles within retail and how retailers recruit.   

Face-to-face retail isn’t going anywhere; it’s just changing, mainly driven by the expense of being on the high street, rather than people just buying online. This is presenting a multitude of opportunities for retailers – store within a store, click and try/buy, personalisation, and home delivery. Retailers just need to make sure they can capitalise on those opportunities.

Retail must put people and pay before profit, training before transactions, and nurture talent before staff turnover. This way you’ll have a people first strategy that will entice customers to come and enjoy discovering what it is you have on offer – an experience online can’t replicate. This way, retailers may give themselves a fighting chance of remaining profitable.

  


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamApril 9, 2019
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6min320

Do you want to grow your business? Well, if your answer is yes, then you need to understand a simple rule: most products are just commodities for users.

If the product addresses the issue of the customers, then two different companies offer the same value to the customers.

You have to understand that the key to getting a sale is to offer the best Customer Experience. The benefit of this practice is that it will help to increase the revenue of your company. Plus, you will be able to add profit to your business.

The essential aspect is that you need to audit the various customer experiences within the business. As a result, you will be able to improve the way your business interacts with the customers.

The audit will also offer insight into your vendors and inventory. The best approach is to hire professional help to conduct retail audits for you. For example, you can seek the assistance of the brand name in retail audits that is Assosia.

However, it is essential that you understand what retail audits are all about, and the different aspects that get judged.

The Aspect of Brand Awareness

The essential aspect of judging is what the customers think of your brand. The brand is a crucial aspect that separates your company from its competitors. What you need to keep in mind is that the brand sets the expectations even before the customer steps into your store.

You need to audit this aspect. For this, you will need to survey the current customers. Secondly, you need to put some questions to the customers. For example, what they think of your company, and they should give this answer in one word.

Evaluation of the Shopping Experience

The shopping experience is yet another aspect that gets judged in retail audits. Some customers prefer to shop in-store rather than online because they feel that they get good advice from the staff. However, you will need to provide relevant training to your staff in this regard. They should be able to empower the customers to make decisions.

If you want your retail audit to bring up positive feedback, then it is vital that as a business owner you should work with your staff for some time. The advantage is that you will get an idea about the floor operations and how the staff deals with the customers.

When you want to audit the shopping experience, observe when customers enter the store. Look at what the customers buy. You may get hold of some mystery shoppers as well and get their opinion on the shopping experience by making them fill forms.

Look into the Return Policy

The return policy is yet another crucial aspect that gets judged in retail audits. Many of the retailers are reluctant to provide a return policy for all those products that cannot get resold with ease. As a business owner, you need to fight this reluctance and show confidence in your products.

You should review the customer complaints on a positive note. When you know the complaints, you will have a chance to bring about improvements in your products, and convince the unhappy customer to become a loyal customer.

For retail audits, the first thing you need to know is to analyse the return rate and look at the reasons due to which the products come back. It is also important that you should calculate the LTV of the customers from time to time.

Remember these essential aspects if you plan to have a retail audit conducted soon.


Richard WillisRichard WillisMarch 25, 2019
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7min471

According to Forrester, over the next five years western European online retail sales will grow at over three times the rate of total retail sales.

What’s driving this growth?

It comes as no surprise that consumers’ adoption of digital devices, particularly smartphones, plays a substantial role. With Forrester estimating that 84 percent of online adults in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain use smartphones, always-connected consumers will continue to drive online retail sales across Europe.

But when it comes to ‘m-commerce’ – with the purchase actually being transacted on a mobile device – its promises always seem to lie just around the corner. For a number of years we’ve seen retail predictions that this is the year for mobile, but has it ever really come true? And will 2019 be any different?

At the risk of joining in with the crystal ball gazing, 2019 may mark a watershed in mobile retail – but only if retailers can seize the opportunity that is now on offer.

The mobile opportunity

No one claims that mobile will surpass other retail channels in terms of conversions in the foreseeable future. In-store, where consumers can examine items and talk to knowledgeable sales assistants, still provides a unique experience and should never be compromised; meanwhile, traditional online retail presents the shopper with enormous choice on an easily viewed browser.

But mobile does have a key role to play in shoppers’ experience. Whilst our recent research showed 11 percent of UK shoppers planned to use mobile as their preferred channel in the run-up to Christmas 2018, it also revealed that of those using mobile, almost 40 percent were using it to look for inspiration for gifts rather than make the actual purchase.

We also found that just under a third of shoppers planned to use mobiles to check online prices while in-store (the old ‘showrooming’ phenomenon). This insight is supported by figures from Deloitte’s annual UK mobile consumer survey, which reveals the rising influence of smartphones on retail sales – including how 84 percent of millennials claim to use their phones for shopping assistance while in a store.

How to keep shoppers coming back

It’s clear that mobile is a large and increasingly important part of the Customer Experience journey. The challenge for retailers – and their great opportunity – is ensuring that the mobile experience is easy to navigate and consistently fantastic, whether shoppers are making purchases, looking for gift inspiration, or comparing prices.

Retailers might think that the best way to turn browsing into sales is by offering something that others don’t – and to some degree they’re right. But getting the basics correct counts for much more than a gimmick.

According to Forrester, smartphone-savvy consumers have high expectations for mobile experiences, with 61 percent of shoppers more likely to return to a website if it is mobile-friendly.

What steps can retailers take to ensure their mobile sites keep shoppers coming back?

For starters, m-commerce sites should be optimised for every device and mobile OS. Differences in screen size and resolution, button placement, or operating system can have a huge effect on the mobile experience. Retailers often claim that they optimise their websites for every device, but do they take into account the small factors which can have big consequences on the path to purchase?

One example is placing the checkout or ‘Buy Now’ button in the space where push notifications usually appear. This could lead to the user becoming distracted or accidentally clicking out of the purchase – perhaps a small problem but one which, multiplied by thousands of users, could severely affect sales.

Another key consideration is designing websites to be mobile-first. Many websites carry a large amount of content that is right for bigger screens, such as long blogs, videos, or interactive content. Mobile-first sites, on the other hand, need to be crisp, clear, uncluttered and easy to navigate, with visuals specifically designed for mobile devices.

Finally, we would urge retailers to think about devices holistically. M-commerce is about much more than buying something through your device’s browser. An effective strategy should embrace loyalty apps with a range of functions that optimises navigability, provides a variety of services, and boosts loyalty. This could include self-service options such as checking availability and setting up click-and-collect delivery options, or providing product reviews, social integration and single-click ordering.

By adopting a thorough m-commerce strategy, retailers have a unique opportunity to do much more than just operate another sales channel. Providing a great mobile experience will differentiate retailers in a crowded market and make them the first choice for the generations who were practically born with a mobile device in their hand, whilst also appealing to the masses that are always shopping. And, unlike many of the premature promises about mobile, this future is tantalisingly close.


Anthony GavinAnthony GavinMarch 6, 2019
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7min402

“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.


Craig SummersCraig SummersFebruary 20, 2019
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8min578

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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