Digital transformation or retail evolution
The approach to modernising your retail customer experience dictates more than you realise about how impactful your CX will be on the bottom line. The phrase ‘digital transformation’ hasn’t been all that precise in fully reflecting the process which needs to happen for organisations to identify their desired project goals or outcomes.
A rip-and-replace technology strategy simply doesn’t work for most retailers. The process is more like a ‘retail evolution’, which is a cultural journey to identify with customers’ values and preferences. The retailer needs to start by utilising their existing data and tech assets, with a robust technology platform as a key enabler.
Once a C-suite led team is in place to lead the culture shift that’s required within the business, there are some key factors which must be taken into consideration before making any tech investments:
The rise of the conscious consumer
A key retail trend that retailers can’t afford to ignore is that customers are expecting brands to live the same values as them. The rise of the more socially-aware ‘conscious consumer’, concerned with sustainability, diversity and responsible business practices, means that retailers will need to ensure that their values synch with target customers and that store associates have all the information they need to prove it – which relies on having the right in-store tech. Only through effective data management can retailers create actionable insights for meaningful business outcomes.
Clienteling – the human touch
With customers seeking more depth of knowledge on products from all retail touchpoints, they are looking for one-to-one support via a conversation with a human expert to guide them through the purchase. Red Ant’s research shows that 75% of shoppers want access to people with specialist knowledge to take them through their journey from browsing to buying in a single, seamless consultation. There needs to be a strong element of trust with this store associate whether it’s buying make-up or customised furniture, and retailers need to invest in their staff as brand ambassadors.
Increasingly tech-savvy consumers
Adding to the complexity of customer needs, the evolution of technology and the changing ways in which we work and live have skilled up consumers digitally, with expectations constantly rising. According to McKinsey, we’ve covered a ‘decade in days’ when it comes to both retailer and customer behaviours, seeing changes to retailers’ approach being required to keep up with a new set of demands arising from the current pandemic. Complementing clienteling and allowing for a holistic approach to customer-driven experiences, virtual consultations have therefore become an intrinsic part of the seamless omnichannel experience for retailers to generate revenue.
Avoiding overcomplicated new tech
While it‘s important be open to new digital technologies as part of an omnichannel solution, it pays to beware over-hyped technologies. Engaging with customers is less about gadgetry and more about data. The simple truth is that retailers have so much customer data they are unsure what to do with it, and worried they won’t get legacy systems, third party systems and new systems to work harmoniously. But it is possible and it’s all about using historical customer information intelligently through the right platform.
Key foundations for a digital CX strategy
The secret to providing outstanding retail CX is being able to talk to your customers wherever they are, with the same level of information and personalisation. It’s maintaining a consistent conversation which builds brand loyalty. Here are some key foundations for building an effective digital experience strategy:
· Prioritise omnichannel – It needs to be properly omnichannel to be successful, with continuous customer experience across any device or location where they wish to shop, with a personalised brand experience. Retailers are waking up to the fact that they need to look at the business as a whole, rather than just isolated website, app or in-store experiences, and drive a consistent personalised message.
· Data integration – Taming your data and getting it to work for you is paramount to success. Data integration, harmonisation and intelligent management will become even more vital to retailers wanting to offer exceptional, seamless customer experiences. Integrating legacy, third party and new systems to make the data work for them will be central to their omnichannel ambitions. Retailers need educating about how quickly and easily they can use what they have already to launch omnichannel services, from clienteling to order management, workflow, and fulfilment. You can extract meaningful, profit-generating information from the avalanche of data you are extracting.
· Personalisation and shopping by appointment – The store associate needs the right tools to ensure they know the customer, their wants/needs and can look after them throughout the shopping journey, owning the relationship (and thus any sales commission) online, in-store and beyond. Businesses must focus on driving one-to-one interactions with customers as each one has specific needs and expectations for the products and services they wish to buy.
· Click and collect/BOPAK – Customers increasingly expect to be able to pick up their purchases at their convenience, making stock management and inventory even more essential to efficient store operations, especially when there are challenges to the supply chain.
· The elevated role of the store associate – Store associates will continue to grow in importance as tech-enabled shopping companions, whether they’re in store or doing a virtual consultation. The store associate can only become a trusted shopping companion by having trusted information. In providing relevant and appropriate information to store associates, they become ambassadors for the company and can more effectively sell the ethos of the company to customers.
· Virtual consultations as an extension of clienteling – Due to our changing working and shopping habits, customers sometimes want to be able to shop from the comfort of their living room rather than in a store. Retailers need to be able to understand and facilitate this over the long term, which means establishing virtual services which can integrate both new and existing customer data – a top-layer video call with no historical customer data to back it up will not be fit for purpose.
Take a digital CX reality check
However advanced a retailer feels they are with their customer experience journey, their data maturity level and their CX strategy – it’s critical to take a reality check on the organisation’s data and digital experience strategy to ensure it works within the very latest digital landscape, and most importantly their customers’ expectations. Keeping up with customers and the changing digital landscape will keep retailers constantly on their toes.
About the Author
Sarah Friswell is CEO at Red Ant. Leading retailers and lifestyle brands use Red Ant’s cloud-based digital store platform to maximise sales, deliver exceptional customer service and drive operational performance. From clienteling and endless aisles to click & collect and personal shopping, our platform empowers store colleagues with tools they need to help customers shop how, when and where they want to.
Featured image: ©Vanessa Blasser