The value to retailers of providing an effective and co-ordinated omnichannel shopping experience can be vast. But with so many different technologies and innovations to choose from, many firms are finding it a difficult aspiration to achieve.
This year’s Customer Experience Index (CEI) study, conducted by IBM, has found that just 3.4% of retail brands can be categorised as leading-edge in their customer experience capabilities. That figure demonstrates that the retail and consumer industry has, on the whole, a lot of work to do if it’s to meet the expectations and demands of the modern customer.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every single firm is struggling with omnichannel. Across industries, there are cases which can show the way forward in creating customer experiences that help businesses rather than hinder them.
This blog highlights four of these success stories, which can serve as inspiration for working out the best infusion of the physical and digital shopping worlds. And not just for retailers, but for the service providers, system integrators and independent software vendors like you that are supporting them, too.
Sephora: online and offline working together
At home, customers can use the app’s ‘virtual try-on’ tool to test out the effects of different looks and products before they buy. Then in-store, staff and customers are both equipped with tablets and can access the saved information as well as product suggestions, allowing for more open conversations about what would be best to buy.
This gives mutually beneficial results for customer and brand alike: the customer gets the products that are right for them with confidence that they’ll have the desired effect, and the brand is able to upsell products more often and with greater success, without the customer feeling hassled.
Nordstrom Local: a store filled with only your interests
An extensive American chain of high-end department stores, Nordstrom is currently in the process of opening a series of Nordstrom Local outlets. Described by the firm as ‘neighbourhood hubs,’ they’re designed to suit modern time-poor living by taking the now-ubiquitous click-and-collect model to the next level.
Customers can search the Nordstrom website any time for clothes they’d like to try, and once they’ve been shipped into their nearest Local store, they can drop in to try them on. There they can get alterations from professional tailors to suit their requirements, as well as enjoying a coffee or a glass of wine.
The extra convenience this gives the customer is profound. Instead of the laborious travel to a large shopping area and hunting through stores in the flesh, they can do all the hard work online and only head out for the bits where they need personal service.
And there’s positives beyond extra sales for Nordstrom, too. Because these local stores have no physical merchandise in stock (as such), each store’s size is expected to come in at 3000sq ft (279m2). That’s barely more than 2% of the size of the average Nordstrom department store, therefore generating huge savings on premises.
Asics: retail powered by leisure
In order to keep their brand at the very front of the minds of their potential customers, historic sports equipment and shoe manufacturer Asics used an innovative app to connect with runners like never before.
In 2016, Asics bought FitnessKeeper, a company that had created a successful run tracking and recording app called Runkeeper. An interactive resource for runners, the app can also take users’ performance statistics and patterns to form training plans that best suit the individual.
Asics was able to redevelop the app to bring targeted, relevant marketing to Runkeeper users at appropriate times. For example, if a user goes for a run at night, then the app will suggest Asics equipment and apparel like high-visibility clothing or headlamps.
Subway: making the most of social media
Going beyond websites and native apps, forward-thinking retailers that are aiming at a younger audience are looking at ways to exploit social media to connect with their target market better.
Worldwide sandwich chain Subway already had a reputation as an innovation after it was a launch partner for both Google Wallet and Apple Pay. But now they’ve launched a bot that allows Mastercard users to order and pay for sandwiches in advance using Facebook Messenger.
With Subway well-established as a popular brand among Millennials and Generation Zers, it represents an ideal way for them to reach the young, tech-savvy (and hungry) end of the market.
As Subway’s chief information and digital officer Carman Wenkoff says: “Our guests expect more convenience, personalisation, and options – and we need to provide this access through the same digital methods our guests are using.”
What can we learn from their success?
The innovation shown in these four examples, combined with the gap between customer satisfaction and what retailers are offering in digital experiences, means that there’s plenty of potential for providers to develop some truly ground-breaking offerings.
But it remains critically important for ISVs, integrators and providers supplying retailers with the enabling technology to accurately assess the customer demographics of each individual retailer, and never lose sight of customers’ needs.
In an industry still struggling to meet customer demands, the right innovation delivered to the right customers can still make a big impact.
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