Published on in RetailDigital Transformation

Despite the resurgent economy and booming consumer confidence, it’s a challenging time for retailers.

In fact, research shows that customer satisfaction has fallen for the last four consecutive years according to the Institute of Customer Service, and the high street continues to be in decline.

In this context, digital must be viewed as a lucrative opportunity to engage customers. Our Digital Inside Out report shows retail as the most improved sector when looking at where customer experience was being enhanced by digital.

On top of this, our research found online shopping (63%) and click-and-click collect (21%) were two out of the three most valued digital services. Consumers are strongly engaged in digital retail already, but there is a risk of some retailers being left behind by the early adopters.

We believe that consumers still want to engage online when researching and organising their retail business but the majority still prefer to make the purchase in store.

The key to making this work is by having knowledgeable staff on the ground – nearly half of customers (48%) said they would spend more money in store if staff were more helpful, according to a Cap Gemini study.

But not everyone can be an expert on every single product line or know the intricate details of every service offered.  Putting technology into the hands of staff can put a wealth of information at their fingertips.

Homebase is a great example of a company doing it well. This retailer has moved away from simply supplying paint and wood, towards full-service home design. By offering in-store consultations it allows customer service assistants to help people visualise how their homes could look. However, staff can’t all be experts on everything; it’s vital they have the tools to do the job.

Time for payment from any location in-store

By creating a smooth and seamless shopping experience, the life of the customer becomes simpler and easier.

The ability to take money and transfer a purchase anywhere in the store is becoming increasingly important. There are now some fantastic solutions enabling staff to use tablets and pin pads, print from anywhere and send electronic receipts.

All of this improves customer satisfaction. It also joins up in-store and online experience, creating a more seamless retail journey.

I believe that it’s the retailers that started out on the web and later moved to physical stores which are best placed to deal with this changing environment. This group has already captured the key data about their target market through online channels before heading into physical stores, allowing them to enhance their targeting of audiences when they do so.

For the traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers, it’s going to be a much more difficult transition.

Millennials in particular don’t see a break in channels and can be difficult to handle. But once again, the key to keeping them happy is service – nothing has changed there.

On top of this, people at the other end of the age bracket are not to be dismissed. In the UK there are more people aged 60 and over than those aged 18 and under, according to Age UK. This is the most lucrative group –and there are real opportunities to grabs hold of these more mature customers in a new and engaging way.

So what are the challenges going forward?

One of the main issues is money and the need for investment.  Whatever is put in-store has to be paid for, and there has been a squeeze on budgets ever since the financial crisis. However, a willingness to invest in innovation is critical to retailers’ long-term success, and they must go beyond trying to be more operationally efficient.

Over the next few years I can see retailers really sharpening up on digital, but there will be some clear winners and losers.

On top of this, mobile contactless payment will continue to surge in growth, but earlier hacks on both Google Wallet and Apply Pay have shown systems need to be made more secure. Data in itself is now a valuable asset, and retailers must also be transparent with what they take from consumers.

Despite these challenges, speeding up the payment process and making staff experts by putting technology in their hands will no doubt equip retailers to succeed in the digital age.

Image credit: Flickr stressedtechy


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