In a challenging climate which has seen a number of retailers struggling to maintain sales, many have resorted to introducing surface ‘innovations’ based on new tech in an attempt to increase footfall. But, as retailers are finding out to their cost, ‘patching’ a flawed customer experience with the latest tech trend is only a short term solution - largely unproven as profit generators and sales drivers, they may initially attract customer interest, but once the novelty has worn off, they’re left with the same underlying experience which just isn’t satisfying their needs. The only way to truly ‘innovate’ and stay ahead of the game is to take an honest look at what you’re offering and how you can adapt it to match their needs.
The good news is that this kind of innovation isn’t disruptive, it needn’t be expensive and it can be up and running very quickly, because it simply involves using what you already have in ways which give customers the kind of experience they need:
Personalisation and customer-led experiences
Despite having multiple shopping options and a huge range of choices at their fingertips, shoppers still crave a personalised experience. However, according to Accenture, customers are currently in a state of flux - 47% feel frustrated if brands fail to deliver a relevant, personalised shopping experience, yet 48% are wary of offering up the data needed to make it a reality. In the shadow of GDPR, navigating personalisation takes a steady hand and a clear vision – and a commitment to connecting online with offline in the digital store. Based on opt-in data sharing via their website and consumer app, retailers with all-round knowledge provided by the customer about their wants and needs as well as stock availability and product information are able to provide exactly the right level of customer-led 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.
And there’s evidence that this approach works - data from global business analysts Infosys shows that 100% of surveyed retailers offering personalised services have experienced at least one benefit from this technology, including:
- increase in sales (74%)
- increase in profit (61%)
- increase in customer loyalty (55%)
Sales colleague empowerment
Key to the delivery of this kind of seamless, superior customer experience is strategic recognition that sales colleagues should be at least as well-informed as their customers. Equipping them with app-based customer information, real-time updates and integrated communications allows retailers to implement digital store technology for in-store staff swiftly and cost-effectively.
Employee-specific features such as:
- Access to the same information from apps and web as customers
- Ability to identify customers in-store, check stock availability, see personal wishlists etc
- Ability to process payments and bust queues via roaming checkouts and mobile payments
- Access to customer service history and social interactions, with the ability to identify high spenders and premium loyalty members
enable sales colleagues to interact with customers and give them what they want in a whole new way – one which improves customer satisfaction, staff performance and morale as well as increasing sales.
Make it easy for customers to buy - and return
You can’t claim to offer a truly customer-led cross-channel shopping experience without allowing them to buy, collect and return goods with complete flexibility over when and where they choose to do so. And, as well as giving customers the service they expect, having a simple, flexible returns policy adds to your bottom line. Retailers who have turned their returns process into a positive customer experience, including quick refunds and the ability to return online goods in-store at no cost, can expect to see sales increase. According to research by UPS and comScore, 82% of shoppers said they would be more inclined to complete an online purchase if the retailer allowed free returns to a store.
These initiatives have one thing in common – rather than demanding business upheaval and investment in lots of new tech, they involve connecting the data, products and services you have in a new way. Retail innovation depends on adaptation, not disruption.