Delivering strong customer experience has never been more important. Retail Week looks at the top trends affecting shoppers’ interaction with retailers
Apple has snubbed near-field communication (NFC), the mobile payment method of choice for many.
Its new service, iBeacons, is on the way to becoming a customer experience staple. It has ample mobile payment potential for a start.
If customers sign up, payment for small items such as coffees or lunch items could be taken from their phone via Low Energy Bluetooth. So far, however, beacons have lent themselves best to marketing.
Food specialist Eat is piloting them with Weve, a loyalty app created by a clutch of mobile networks. And landlord Hammerson is rolling them out across all of its European shopping centres. The beacons will be used to help shoppers navigate shopping malls, and to send marketing and promotions to their phones.
iBeacons are fast becoming the best way to help shoppers navigate large stores, to send daily or personalised offers, and to gather data on shoppers’ in-store habits.
2) An imaginative approach to delivery
The number of ways shoppers interact with retailers has grown, and so too must the number of ways retailers get products to consumers.
In the old days, shoppers would travel to shops, buy their goods, and travel home – today this is melting into the past.
As a result, delivery innovation matters, and retailers are recognising that. Asda is rolling out click-and-collect drive-through points to all its stores, while Asos is looking at Local Letterbox’s ParcelPods, which are delivery pods that can be placed anywhere and which have changing rooms attached.
3) Retail theatre
For retailers whose stores are destinations, standards are higher than ever.
Whether it’s in-store installations, talks, events or debates, stores must entice shoppers in with more than just products. Selfridges is a good example. Its windows are famous for their creative design, but the department store hasn’t become complacent – its recent Beauty Project showed how imaginative the retailer’s approach has become.
It ran a range of different talks and debates, and launched the Fragrance Lab, an immersive experience that claimed to discover each participant’s signature scent.
In a different place in the market, Topshop has excelled at enticing young shoppers into its London flagship. One project involved the use of a virtual reality headset – the Oculus Rift – to make shoppers feel as though they were on the front row of its Topshop Unique fashion show at London Fashion Week.
4) Digital stores
If huge, creative installations aren’t the right way for all retailers to go, they could do worse than follow the lead of retailers such as Argos and travel agent Thomson.
Both have used digital technology to enhance their stores and help their staff sell – Thomson is using interactive maps to inspire holiday-makers while Argos has replaced paper catalogues with digital screens. In both cases, the retailers have thought about the elements of their customers’ purchasing journey that will be improved by digital technology.
A consistently good experience probably matters more than anything else – even more than ‘wowing’ the customer with retail theatre or slick digital ideas.
Amazon’s customer experience always impresses because shoppers feel as though they can trust it to deliver time after time. John Lewis has built up its reputation for service not just through tweaking its offer for a multichannel world, but by consistently building and developing its business with customer experience and service as priorities.
6) Supply chain visibility
It might not be the most glamorous part of the customer experience, but it is still a priority for many retailers.
Knowing where each piece of stock is in the business at any one time means more orders can be fulfilled, which both improves customer satisfaction and increases the amount of products sold at full price.
Argos’s mobile app allows shoppers to check the stock levels of a single product in the store closest to them, while Tesco is working on a similar service that will also show shoppers a map detailing how to find it in store. This doesn’t just need clever apps, but stock systems that are fully up to date.
7) Geolocation services
As any shopping centre visitor will tell you, today’s huge malls can be difficult to navigate. Apps that inform shoppers of the quickest route to a particular store, or a particular product in a department store or supermarket, are gaining traction and helping to make shoppers’ lives easier.
If in doubt about what to do to improve the customer experience, retailers could do worse than focus on convenience. Sainsbury’s has just teamed up with Google to develop a search engine that enables shoppers to enter the ingredients they have left in their fridge and receive recipes that will use them up. The idea is to help shoppers reduce waste and save money – it is in little services like this, which make shoppers’ lives easier, that retailers are starting to excel.