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Delivering Customer Experience the Digital way

Posted by Padman Venkat
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Every retailer looks forward to a customer entering in to their store. And when that happens, there are numerous questions that floods a retailer's mind…

  • What is my customer's preferred mode of buying?
  • Do they want to come in to my store or shop online?
  • Do I invest on real estate or invest on IT Infrastructure to maintain a great online site?
  • Do customers enjoy shopping to have a great visual appeal with touch and feel or should I display the products with zoom and various other features?
  • Do they want to have the real trial room or virtual trial online?
  • Do they feel like coming back to the store / outlet where they previously shopped or would they want to come back visiting our online stores?

Responses to these questions will decide whether the retailer should work on enhancing the store / outlet to look more appealing and provide a great purchasing experience or should the retailer instead make online buying experience the best.

There are also several other questions that retailers deliberate in order to make the customer feel better - both in store and online. Each of these question means a lot to all three of the parties - the retailer, the customer and the IT service provider.

What?

Retailer

Customer

IT Service Provider

Preferred mode of buying? Store? Or online?

  • If store, plan for the real estate and the recruitment and other expense
  • If online, plan for system infrastructure and Application
  • Customer can be happy about the store being maintained well and systems are enhanced to better fit the needs of theirs
  • To IT Service Providers it could mean "More work" in terms of real estate management, campaign management, loyalty management, POS work, logistics management, shop floor management, reverse logistics management, kiosk setup, visual merchandizing (Floor Planning), assortment planning, product category management, price decisions, PLM solutions, merchandizing decisions, backroom processing, application development, maintenance, infrastructure setup, greenfield projects, store level reporting (BI solutions).
  • From "online" perspective, providing application that could enable the online multichannel program, providing the right platform and the infra support, Forecasting, Inventory visibility, availability, peak season enablement etc. All of these requires complete due diligence and Business consulting

Invest in real estate?

  • How many stores to cut down?
  • What should be the look and feel of the store? (Visual appeal)
  • Type of products?
  • Ease of buying
  • Product variety
  • Look and feel and appearance
  • Trial room
  • Real estate management Tririga Facility Management software solution (reporting, development of solution)
  • PLM solution
  • Virtual merchandizing solution

Invest in Infrastructure? (Online purchase)

  • Online and Kiosk solutions
  • Develop features to attract more customers
  • Provide information about competitive price, inventory availability in the next nearby store for store pickup cases
  • More products
  • Product comparisons
  • Competitive pricing
  • Inventory availability
  • Online virtual features to check suitability of product
  • Order Management (Ecommerce solutions)
  • Usability and look & feel
  • Infrastructure Solution
  • Application development and Support (Feature development based on user stories)
  • Platform support

Customer experience is all about feeling good about the purchase that was made. It's about the visual appeal of the products, value for money for their purchase as well as the complete shopping experience. There has been more emphasis to reach out to customers in the recent times to understand what they want and the issues they face. In order to reach the right customer through multiple channels, several analytical decisions are made. Retailers have embraced the idea of reaching out to customer the digital way. Digital campaigning based on the analytical decisions, digital catalogues, loyalty point systems are new ways of extending support to customers. Right from pulling the customers to the stores or online through campaigns to order capturing/fulfillment is digitally driven.

While we in retail world are talking about making "Customer Experience" phenomenal in today's digital age, I recently came across an interesting article where the author was discussing (in the context of customer experience) about what can and cannot be replaced on the shop floor of a retailer in this digital era.

What can be replaced?

We can replace the way customer see the products thru Omni channel approach. We can reach customers through Internet, Kiosk, Tele shopping (PULL), Tele marketing (PUSH), Catalog Preorders (Specialty products), and Facilitating Direct Sales from Warehouse or In-store shopping (shop floor). All these Omni-Channel approach can be replaced with variety of machines or (RO)BOTs that can facilitate or improve the shopping experience within the stores.

What cannot be replaced?

From the customer experience perspective alone…

  • "Meet and Greet" instead of a machine that says "Dear valued customer, how are you and what have you got in your mind to buy?"
  • Clarifying the questions immediately with a store associate having a tag "May I help you" instead of an Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
  • Help with returns by understanding the customer's apprehension than having the customer work with RLOG machines with or without bills

From the store associate perspective alone…

  • Explain the price check - knowledgeable store associate checks on the daily price of few products on a regular basis and can provide information about how low cost we are when compared to the competitor
  • Help the customer to get the right product for their need (even if there is a slight loss of revenue at that moment) - consultative approach
  • Help the customer to let them know what is where

While I have been a customer myself to several retail stores, I agree to the customer experience perspective alone but not to the store associate perspective and here's why…

  • Price check - There are tools that helps the retailer in the current context and display the competitive price digitally. Many retailers have competitive pricing tools to compare the same characteristics products and different characteristics product.
  • Help customer with the right product for their need - Store Kiosks help this swiftly
  • Location of a product - Machines are there to provide the Aisle number, Shop floor On hand inventory, back room on hand inventory, where is the next nearest store that has the product

In this Era of the Individual - Customer is the focus.

  • What do "customer want"? (Great experience, variety of products, quality is implicit, brand value)
  • How are the "wants" addressed? (Entire supply chain behind this one "want")
  • What "else" does the customer want? (Master basket analysis)
  • "Why" does the customer want "only" that he or she wants? (Preference)
  • What fascinates customer? (Analytics)
  • How do I attract the customer with the same range of products when compared to other competitors? (Pricing, promotion, marketing, reach to customer effectively)

With several questions leading the way, it is still one small step for the customer, but a giant leap for retailers.

About Author

Padman Venkat- Delivery Head, Consumer Business, Wipro, Ltd.

Padman has been in the IT business for over 20 years and currently heads Delivery for Large US Pharmacy Retailer and Large US Multi Product Retailer. Padman has been engaged with Retail clients for more than 17 years and he has performed various roles within Delivery Organization for accounts like Nike Inc, JC Penney, WalMart Stores, PepBoys, Marks and Spencer.

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