There are plenty of retailers that execute individual channels well; those that deliver a great in-store experience, those that have strong online presence and those that quickly tackle rapid increases in new technology. However, in an increasingly consumer driven environment excellence in individual channels is no longer enough.
We are now beginning to see the very best retailers understand and evaluate how their channels complement each other and create a seamless customer journey. These are the retailers who understand these channels are not separate and that they must create an all encompassing retail strategy.
There are many warning signs that show a retail business is not adapting to consumer behaviours and preferences. Across two blogs I will look at five key warning signs; the first blog will look at two impacts on customer experience, the second will look at three impacts on operations.
1. You are unaware who your customer is and how they shop
Understanding your customer, what they want, when and why is the end goal for the majority of retailers. However, a number do not have a good enough understanding of who their customer is and how to tailor the shopping experience to meet their needs and expectations.
Knowing your customer and how they interact with your brand across different channels is crucial to developing a successful strategy. There are many examples of brands that do not have a good view of the customer and their mistakes are clear - sending generic emails that have no relevance, sending emails offering purchased items, or missing opportunities to up sell or cross sell to frequent customers in-store because they don’t know who they are. We can see retailers like Amazon excel online, sending targeted, personalised emails to their customers with accurate recommendations that increase conversion rates.
Understanding how your customers shop across multiple channels allows you to create an even more personal journey, targeting customers in the most effective way possible. We are seeing the very best retailers understand how and when a customer interacts with their brand across a variety of channels, allowing them to significantly increase conversion rates whilst building brand loyalty. For example, Monsoon have introduced sales assist apps in-store which allow them to understand more about how their customers interact with the brand across channels and where they are most likely to buy.
2. Your customer gets a different brand experience in each channel
Customers expect the same product offering, the same brand message and the same level of customer service across all channels. If you deliver anything short of this they will notice.
At a basic level your retail channels will need to be able to functionally do the same things; for example - offer the same products, same delivery options, and same refund processes. There are many retailers who are not able to offer this and customers will experience poor service as a result. A common example is when a customer places an order in one channel but cannot speak to a customer service advisor in another because staff can’t access the relevant information.
If your customers are used to a certain experience or certain level of service you must be certain you can replicate this across all channels and provide a consistent and seamless experience. Boulanger, along with Capgemini, worked to bring together their online and in-store experience. They were able to create a digital experience in store whilst making sure their online experience reflected the store experience. This helped to create a seamless and consistent experience for customers allowing them to easily move between channels.
So what can retailers do?
With more channels and touch points than ever before customer journeys are growing increasingly complex. As a retailer you must aim to simplify this journey for your customer and simplify your operations.
Although this looks like, and often is a daunting task, there are smaller elements retailers can review and changes they can implement to make a more immediate difference:
- Ensure you have a good enough understanding of your core and target customer including, their demographic, shopping behaviours and average spend. Then ensure this understanding is built into your omni-channel strategy.
- Review your analytical capabilities. What information is being collected across channels and how is this information being used? Review if this information is relevant and how well it is being leveraged within your strategy.
- Understand the role your customer service team play in the omni-channel journey, do they support the experience? If not, is this due to system limitations, a training need or a lack of desire to fulfil the changing role of sales assistants. Understanding the challenge here will help you implement smaller operational changes that have the potential to directly impact customer experience.
In my next blog I will look into the operational warning signs that show a retailer is not offering a true omni-channel experience.