David Wright, Marketing and Business Development Director and Mike Pearson, Associate Director, Digital, Dalziel & Pow examine what digital in store means for IT, trading and operations teams.
Homer Simpson said: “Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” If he worked in retail he might substitute beer with ‘digital’.
Digital is a key driver in the changing retail landscape; it can enhance the shopper experience and heighten customer connections. It can inform, enable and excite but we need to remind ourselves that shopping is a social and human experience.
It’s no news that retail is undergoing radical change through technology. Disruption is everywhere and the biggest changes are around people, their behaviours and expectations that are evolving at pace. Although much is focussed on Gen Z and Millennials, other demographics –Boomers, Gen X –everyone really is changing. This centres on the access to, and use of technology, which is affecting the way everyone engages and interacts with almost everything.
The CEO of Home Depot, Craig Mean, recently put this in perspective: “Within the context of this changing retail environment, customer expectations are increasing. It’s imperative that we address these evolving needs with increased speed. More customers now expect improved product delivery, personalised experiences tailored to their needs and a frictionless checkout when they visit a store or the website”
To create more personalised experiences, a big challenge is having a coherent picture of customers and for many a ‘singular view of the customer’ is still a way off. According to PwC, 35% of retail businesses are struggling to implement a strategy to provide a single view of the customer. Another 12% are only considering addressing this in the next 1-2 years. Why? Legacy systems, infrastructure challenges, business silos and organisational fiefdoms.
Can we act sooner, bring together those within your organisation who are pragmatic innovators, those who want to combine customer satisfaction, experience and business success? Can they build this view or start with a singular view of the customer journey and work towards a better experience? Maybe put themselves in the shoes of your customer? Become that human and experience your brand, what does that show you?
Give this group the liberty to experiment, to test and learn. This may feel like a big task but what are the alternatives? It’s interesting to see some of the rapid innovations being tested by a number of ‘legacy’ retailers in the US, such as Walmart and Target.
Are there some fundamentals to look into? Deal with inventory systems that provide fragmented views of stock, payment systems that don’t truly support omnichannel behaviours, analytics systems that don’t let you evaluate your marketing activity. Can your teams work together to unearth the data, the right picture, insights and actions to create a better customer experience?
So it’s really just about data? No. Where Amazon, Asos and in fact all pure-play businesses have the upper hand, is that they’re built on data and the customer innovations this drives. They know their customer and are constantly talking to them. So digital in some senses can just be seen as a purely rational business tool; get the data, make it quicker or cheaper and pre-empt a customer’s needs and service them.
There’s a lot of merit in this but pure-play businesses are now recognising the need for more human connections and the list of those opening physical spaces is growing rapidly. It’s interesting to see how they bring their appetite for data into their physical spaces and what this means. Nationwide, for example, understands the value of human connections, with its commitment to branches and face-to-face contact whilst enhancing the experience with new technologies and digital touchpoints.
The ‘check-in’ model may be the ultimate goal, and we have now seen the public launch of Amazon Go. The headline is the ultimate convenience store built around data, it can track each customer’s every move, from what they pick up and put back to what departments are most considering the store employee. Does any digital initiative help then to better service the customer?
We still see that person-to-person interactions are light-years ahead of people-to-machine ones. Give your people the tools and technology that frees them up to do what only they can. That gives them the best chance to support the needs of today’s demanding consumer.
Lush has built its own Epos system, not so exciting? However, that’s a big investment and has in part transformed the dynamic between customer and staff. Running off Android tablets, this frees staff to move around, engaging with and assisting customers throughout the store. It pushes its famous service even further, providing an opportunity to engage more. The combination of empowered staff, engaging environment and great product offer is incredibly powerful.
We can also step aside from the purely rational business case for digital as it can also surprise or delight by creating magical moments.
Can we create moments of pure joy? These can be small and intimate, like product level projects at The White Company, or have a cinematic effect, like the one created within Primark Madrid. Digital here isn’t about data or business efficiency; it’s adding experience in its purest sense… the wow factor that has to be shared!
There’s no ‘one size fits all’, there may be best practice, certain tools or behaviours that work for a particular brand and customer but not others.
Ultimately, retailers are looking to create a better experience for customers. Digital shouldn’t be seen as a separate tool and should be woven across the customer journey. Can they solve pain points, connect and recognize the customer ‘in the moment’ and support store staff? The most compelling solutions are those that enhance store functions, connect to back-end systems and support or delight the customer.
The following guest article has been written for InternetRetailing by David Wright, Marketing and Business Development Director and Mike Pearson, Associate Director, Digital, Dalziel & Pow. Based in London, the independent agency works alongside its clients to exploit the power of experiences to change perception, motivate sales and build loyalty. From innovative fashion flagships for Primark to a sector-changing concept for O2 and playful interactive installations for Mamas & Papas, Dalziel & Pow helps each of its clients create a more imaginative and engaging future.