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INTERVIEW Regis Koenig of Darty on the seamless customer experience

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Ahead of this year’s InternetRetailing Summit in Berlin we’re speaking to senior retailers taking part in the event. Today we hear from Regis Koenig, director, customer services, at French electricals retailer Darty.

The InternetRetailing Summit runs from July 3 to July 5 2017. It brings together senior figures from leading retailers from across the European Economic Area (EEA) plus Switzerland for an immersive three-day event spent focusing on the way that multichannel retailers are innovating to improve the customer experience. It is held in partnership with IREU Top500, and aims to give Europe’s Top500 retailers the opportunity to spend three days learning, sharing and simply talking with other leaders in the ecommerce and multichannel industry.

InternetRetailing: At the InternetRetailing Summit you’ll be taking part in a panel on the seamless customer experience. In your experience how are customers’ expectations of both the shopping experience and customer service, changing?

Regis Koenig, director, customer services, at Darty (left): Customers today expect ubiquity: they expect instant access, services anywhere, and any time, and they want to stop by and pick up instantly at the shop that’s closest to their office. They shop from their sofa for products they want to be home delivered at 8am the next morning. There are as many cases as customers – and what customers really expect is that we deliver on all their expectations.

IR: What is the biggest challenge that retailers experience in the light of those changing expectations?

It’s quite a revolution for retailers. The basic mainstream retail experience has been the same for hundreds of thousands of years: I need to buy products, I go to the shop closest to where I live, I buy something that’s there, and the only choice is between the products that are there. That started to change in the 1970s with the rise of big malls with different brands – you have the choice, but within one place.

Now it’s one click and you can switch from one brand to the other, access unlimited choice on the net, and it’s so easy to switch from one retailers to another, one brand to another, to select a new product. We’re only about 10 years into this new kind of retail and it’s changing very fast. But the biggest challenge is that customers expect ubiquity and ubiquity is impossible to deliver.

Since I can’t do everything I need to pick something and do it very, very well. We really need to ask ourselves what’s my added value, the thing my customers will value the most and renounce to sum up their expectations, to come to my website.

IR: So for every retailer that will be different?

Yes, one brand may offer one-hour delivery while another may have the cheapest prices, and another will develop a lot of different methods but focusing on just a few products. When Amazon launched one-hour delivery with Amazon Prime, it did so only on 2,000 SKUs. It was very specific. I believe that each of us can pick one service that we think our customers value most. If I want one-hour delivery I can come to Darty because we do this, but if I prefer to have the cheapest price with no service I may go to a competitor.

IR: How do you see the customer experience, and expectations, changing over the next few years?

In the next few years we’ll see the rise of millennials and Generation Y, whose expectations are around not wasting time shopping: if they go shopping it’s either a very good experience, or they just need a product to be sent to them. This will increase the intensity. There’s also more expectation of transparency, with requests on where different products are manufactured. For Darty, there are questions about whether the washing machine you’re selling to me can be repaired, and how long it will work for. Everybody has access to more and more data, and the new rising generation will expect brands to be very, very transparent on the service and the products they sell.

IR: How should retailers prepare for this change?

There are already some very good initiatives. M&S is doing a lot of work on sustainability, with its plan A programme. It is communicating everything from where in-store electricity is sourced, to where the different products they sell are manufactured.

What we need to do is to start thinking a bit about what information we can deliver to the customer right now on how we work and how we behave on the market. We see, for example, in France that lots of people are complaining about Amazon not paying taxes. We can establish this kind of information and we should start thinking about what else we can share with customers.

If we provide them with the data, they can also tell us where they want us to go in terms of values. Do they want to go to the cheapest, do they want more information on technical products, from average lifetimes to defect rates? This is information that we have but haven’t historically passed to our customers – but we could start thinking of doing so.

Regis Koenig will take part in a leadership panel on What does the seamless customer experience look like today? at the InternetRetailing Summit in Berlin, between July 3 and 5 2017. To find out more about the event click here.

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