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IREU Top500: The Customer

InternetRetailing’s latest IREU Top500 Performance Dimension Report focuses on The Customer. Emma Herrod reports on the findings.

Over the past two or three years, personalisation has been a recurring theme within retail. It’s easy to see why. Connected to the mobile internet and checking their smartphones several times a day, we have all become so used to being able to get what we want, when we want it that we’ve grown intolerant of delays. Any retailer that can meet this impatience by guiding shoppers towards the items they want to buy is more likely to succeed.

To do this, retailers need to understand what their customers want. In recent years, the sheer amount of new customer data available has held out the promise of being able to build retail offerings around individual customers by drawing on data sets that range from customers’ purchase histories through to social media interactions.

Simple. Except that working with such data is anything but simple. Thus says InternetRetailing’s research team in the IREU Top500 The Customer Performance Dimension Report, as sponsored by Cybertill, which is distributed with this issue of InternetRetailing magazine.

As with each of the IREU Top500 reports, InternetRetailing’s research team analyses how successful multinational retailers go about competing with local indigenous traders. In all, retailers in 31 countries across the European Economic Area, plus Switzerland, are assessed.

Social media is one way which differentiates retailers across the report’s geographic coverage. It highlights how brands are evolving customer-first, socially aware propositions and the Post Office is no exception. As a business, it has undergone profound change in recent years and along the way renegotiated its relationship with its customers across 11,600 branches as well as online. It has become the UK’s fastest-growing provider of personal and business banking services as well as being a leading provider of travel money services.

Since 2012, Darren Jones has worked in social media and audience insight at the Post Office, and seen this journey in relation to its customers and a reimagined future for the group. What has it meant for the customer and customer engagement?

“Personal relevance – that is, how we can be relevant to each individual in context – is crucial, because what the Post Office means and does for customers has diversified and fragmented in some respects,” he says. “This is particularly true of the way the online and in-branch offers have become twin streams of activity, serving customers with somewhat different profiles and needs.”

Also examined in the report is fashion brand Oasis and how it stands out in terms of the customer. The company is a great all-rounder in this Dimension. It performs well on website personalisation and for the quality of its service because it has joined the different elements of its customer-facing business so thoroughly to deliver on the omnichannel promise.

Oasis gets the detail right. It has simply displayed images across its site and social channels, and easy integration between social and its ecommerce site for purchases, and it’s also consistent on delivering the experience when customers go to stores. Oasis shop floor assistants are equipped with tablets and therefore with the most up-to-date stock information, so they can check stock levels on all products for customers – and if they don’t have an item in stock, they don’t simply leave the customer unsatisfied but can order it direct to the customer’s house. That’s in-store and online integration at its best.

These are just some of the techniques examined in the report that retailers are using to connect with customers and provide the necessary experience. The researchers also highlight 12 approaches that retailers have found to work.

● Offer local support.
● Flaunt your languages…
● … and make it clear to whom you’ll sell.
● Be generous about returns…
● … and local solutions.
● Keep it simple…
● … and add some filtering.
● Get personal.
● Watch your speed.
● Expand contact options.
● Deliver convenience.
● Make it easy to give feedback.

In the coming years, InternetRetailing will continue to assess the way that retailers trade in what’s likely to be a highly volatile retail environment by putting the hard data of InternetRetailing research into a wider, and practical, context. As always, the research team is interested to hear from readers about how they think they should judge and understand retail strategies – do share your thoughts.

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