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"An insightful and refreshing look at the way consumers and retailers interact in this modern age.”

Sir Stuart Rose,
Chairman of Marks & Spencer plc

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Fitting a name to a face

In this series of articles I have written about the need to have a cogent omni- channel strategy and one which overcomes the politics and functional silos of the host organisation and truly focuses on the needs, desires and expectations of that organisation’s customers.

 

I have highlighted that whilst e-commerce and increasingly, m-commerce are fresh and exciting and offer the means for reputational growth as well as some sales, the real action remains in face to face (f2f) space where over two thirds of all purchases are decided and, for most brands, almost all profitable sales complete.

 

Despite this incontrovertible fact, few organisation put as much energy or zeal into developing their f2f strategy as they do to their digital plans, rendering them at risk of becoming “digital dinosaurs” and on a path to extinction.

 

Pure play on line retailers are increasingly investing in f2f space in order to balance up their proposition.

 

Today’s smart organisations are the ones who have thought hard and well about how to use all of the available channels seamlessly to engage the customer through the whole buying cycle and to drive them effectively through the least line of resistance and into store where differentiating service can be delivered, basket size can be grown and reputations enhanced.

 

For click and collect to offer the most opportunities for retailers and the best journey for customers it needs to be thought through step by step. How does the transaction end up on line and what is said to the customer at this point about when and how to collect their purchases?

 

What happens when they get to store? Are they made to go off into a remote area, away from other potential purchases, corralled together and made to wait pointlessly whilst staff locate their goods? Or can they register their arrival as they come into store, signalling to the store team to bring together their purchases whilst they continue to shop?

 

The convergence of digital technology with f2f space allows for a so much more innovative approach to developing rich, in store digital experience and no that doesn’t just mean scanning a QR code to put more information about a product display into my hand, it means using the whole team’s imagination to enable the shopper to have a great experience and eliminate the frustrations that otherwise occur in today’s High Street.

 

Like Fitting Rooms. When I was in the motor industry the research told us that test driving a car roughly doubled the chances of making a sale. I am sure that the same must be true of trying things on in store. Providing you have a good experience, right?

 

So what happens in reality? We all shop at the same time so the fitting rooms get busy. The brand’s attempt to manage this strategically important facility is confined to one member of staff trying to figure out which cubicles are occupied and to cope with the real life demands of customers arriving at the same time as other customers leave and dump their abandoned “nearly purchases” on them.

 

In an ideal world I would be able to try something on and if the size was incorrect I could summon another one to try without leaving my cubicle. The store might recommend, Amazon like, accessories to enhance my potential purchases. Staff resource would be orchestrated to match customer need, rather than coping with customer’s frustration and trying to rescue the odd sale.

 

Access to service in store is the elephant in the room. It feels like the brands only want to serve us grudgingly, after all, they all operate staffing models designed to minimise cost not maximise service and sales.  Conversely, Apple hase graphically demonstrated the positive impact on sales and profitability of having considerably higher staff to customer ratios.

 

If we, the customers, invest the time and money in travelling to store, parking and coming in and if human interaction is the way in which the brands can differentiate themselves and build in precious add on sales of accessories and services why do they persist in this Scrooge like view of resourcing the stores?

 

And it’s not necessarily about more staff – often it’s about higher skill levels and better orchestration.  A little strategic though, a modest investment in the right systems to optimise (not minimise) staff levels to manage cost whilst delivering great service could really make the difference and make the High Street a pleasant customer experience that we want to repeat more often.