Retail businesses are multi-faceted and demanding structures, requiring those in charge to effectively manage everything from ordering and logistics through to marketing, merchandising and customer service. A weak link in this long chain can easily damage a business yet strengthening that link can take more time, or more money, than many retailers have.
One common solution is to go outside the business for assistance in a certain field such as delivery, advertising or marketing. PFS was established in 1994 to do just that, providing an ever expanding range of commerce services to both new businesses and existing retailers moving online. PFS has the capacity to run the digital side of any business, from website creation all the way through to fulfillment.
PFS also has an additional string in its bow. LiveArea, the PFS digital agency, adds strategy, design, marketing and technology into the mix, offering brands advice and ideas as well as marketing and management. “Offering merchandising as part of the package gives us our niche in the market,” says Claudene Scott, merchandising manager at LiveArea. “Companies are investing more in eCommerce but don’t always have the skillsets, hence the reason agencies such as ours exist. Only a few currently offer end-to-end service and we’re already there. Having our fingers on the pulse on all platforms – with Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Magento and SAP Hybris – retailers currently see us as the experts in this field.”
Yet, says Claudene, this wide-ranging remit is built on just three simple blocks – “Know your customer, know your product and customer experience. Although if you don’t get the first one right, that’s your problem right there. While the customer is the end goal, they also need to be your first thought.
“PFS always strives to be aligned with the target customer, each of our clients and the goals of each brand. Your online content and home page are the digital version of your shop window, so you have to engage customers with something immediately. Since multiple retailers offer tens of thousands of products, instantly providing relevant and engaging content is key. This feeds into personalisation – looking at what an individual has previously looked at and trends in the market, using all the available analytics tools to make sure that you are offering the customer what they want. Or, at the very least, what your data is telling you that they want.”
In a taggable, measurable world, every product on a website, every social media exchange and every email campaign can be analysed. Yet, as Claudene points out, “All this must serve the customer and their experience. If a business reviews its site and makes changes with a view to putting the customer first, we regard that as a successful use of data.”
Agencies will always have a place assisting retailers as an impartial view goes a long way to revealing flaws and spotting opportunities. So what does PFS currently find itself telling client after client? “That they should get over the ‘us and them’ view on offline and online,” says Claudene. “Shoppers don’t make the distinction between a store and a website but retailers do, often using different teams to push entirely different marketing messages. They’re probably not thinking customer first because if they were, they’d be sending out one clear message across their brand.”