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Omnichannel

Will digitalisation save the High Street?

By Chris Long, Managing Consultant at Capgemini

High Street retail sales have been at an all-time low for the past few years. Accountancy firm BDO recently confirmed that September recorded the worst consumer spending in eight years, and yet business rates continue to rise, and the slide of the Sterling is pushing up costs. All of this makes bleak reading for retailers…

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t write off brick-and-mortar just yet! Recent innovations like Amazon’s Go concept stores, Virgin Holidays opening a new chain of stores allowing customers to try out holiday experiences, and Action for Children opening a pop-up store to drive more participation for their Secret Santa campaign, shows that mortar isn’t heading the way of the dodo anytime soon. In fact, far from shying away from the high street, digital-native brands such as Warby Parker and Casper are actually moving from online-only to having a physical presence.

So, what is causing this renewed focus on brick-and-mortar and how can retailers create an in-store experience that can compete against the ever-growing popularity of online retail?

Thinking omni-channel

Customer expectations are constantly growing, with demand focused on convenience, speed, and the ability to choose where and which channel to shop through. In order to fulfil these criteria, retailers need to ensure they have both a physical and digital presence.

The main issue is that most retailers have been far too slow to adapt to this new shopping experience, resulting in sub-par service as customers move between the two. To solve this, retailers are attempting to leverage their stores to balance out the discrepancies between the in and-out-of-store experience; transforming their business to an ‘omni-channel’ experience.

However, many retailers tend to mistake ‘omni-channel’ with ‘multi-channel’.  Whereas multi-channel relates to providing customers with the ability to shop and complete a purchase with a brand through more than one channel, omni-channel provides more of a comprehensive and integrated approach to retailing. Customers can start and stop their customer journey in one channel then pick up and complete it in another.

While customers still have a single view of a brand through an omni-channel experience, behind the scenes the picture is far more complex, with master data management required to piece together the jigsaw of  orders, payments, products and inventory into a single view of the customer to offer a seamless cross-channel experience.

It is an ongoing battle and challenge that retailers are facing – but one that will allow retailers to derive real value. True omni-channel transformation will enable stores to act as fulfilment centres, creating hassle-free shopping for customers, whilst also increasing footfall and reducing the cost to serve.

Immersing yourself in the in-store experience

Omni-channel transformation provides retailers with the foundations and capabilities to transform their customer experience. But what does great customer experience mean and look like in the digital age?

Firstly, it should be centred on breaking down the barriers between a retailer’s online and offline offering through delivering an inspirational, immersive and interconnected experience for customers. At the moment, for example, consumers are increasingly shifting from wanting to buy individual products, to buying into the types of experiences and lifestyles that they view on online platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Retailers must take advantage of this and reimagine both the in-store and online experience to showcase products that inspire and surprise, rather than stacking them in aisles or on traditional displays. Stores should also be trialling more immersive initiatives, such as 360-degree displays or product-testing areas in-store, to create a hybrid physical-digital experience that draws customers into the store and makes them want to connect with a brand.

The omni-channel also enables retailers to connect customers through technology, augmenting the store experience and empowering customers with all the information they need at their fingertips. Asking a chatbot which aisle the milk can be found in a sprawling supermarket, where the nearest store is that stocks your size of shoe, where to find your favourite store in a busy shopping centre; all these possibilities enable the customer to engage in a 1:1 conversation with a brand and help maintain and drive customer engagement.

So far so good, but the key to great customer experience isn’t just to offer each of these elements in isolation – it is to tie them together into an interconnected digital and physical experience that has been genuinely personalised for each customer.

The retail industry is in the midst of one of the biggest disruptions it has ever faced, and many businesses are at risk of reacting too late. Retailers must seek change now and address the barriers between their in and out-of-store experience by using omni-channel and customer experience transformation to rethink the store’s role.

The benefits of a balanced and optimised channel strategy will be the increased recruitment of customers across channels. This ‘omni-channel recruitment’ will be central for bricks and clicks retailers in the digital age. Store conversion rates can be up to 14x higher in-store than online, highlighting that if retailers are able to develop a compelling channel strategy that drives customers into key stores and retail locations, they can boost sales and growth.

Industry Spotlight, Detego: Why omnichannel is ‘everything’ in fashion retail…

It’s clear that omnichannel is key to winning customers in fashion retail and, now more than ever, retail bosses need to be fully aware of customer behaviours both in-store and online – how they move from page to page and view each item; the most popular product categories; the average length of time spent shopping, and so forth.

The concept of omnichannel can be seen as both a huge opportunity and an immense challenge for retailers. For some, it can be experienced as an ‘unrealised dream’ in today’s intensely competitive market. The technology readily available and brick-and-mortar stores can acquire ‘real-time data’ on stock, but how can retailers introduce a beneficial strategy to reap the rewards?

 

Implementing a successful omnichannel strategy

Essentially, to successfully implement a truly omnichannel strategy you need high quality real-time data analysis and smart merchandise management on the single item level, to ensure the consumer follows-through on a desired purchase.

You need to be able to map your customer’s journey, to fully understand how and why they might reach out to browse or buy on different channels at different times.

If you can anticipate and map out the typical customer journey, then you are far more likely to convert to a sale, whether in store or online.

Click & Collect is all well and good, but you need to deliver. Too many consumers have been let down by major retailers over the last few years, due to poor stock control and inventory management. Which is exactly why retailers now need to connect, integrate and bridge their customer experiences online and offline to deliver the seamless omnichannel customer experience today´s consumers expect.

You need to offer real-world personalised customer experiences that create engagement through both in-store and digital means and that can also transform an in-store experience with special touches – such as smart fitting rooms, for example.

The key is in deploying technology that will help you to view and manage your stock inventory in real-time, without having to completely rehaul all of your entire technology systems.

Based on Detego’s proven software suite for business intelligence, which is on the edge of technological advances also in terms of hands-free infrastructure, the solution was deployed in a very short time frame. The fast implementation and deployment was underpinned by a lean and agile approach to immediately realize the aimed business benefits for Denimwall Inc.

We helped to achieve their goals using a variety of technologies to compliment their business vision. A full automated, hands-free RFID ceiling reader system combined with real-time analytics software gave them item level visibility on their garments, plus a mobile application that integrated with our existing retail system all worked together to help them achieve one phase of their overall onmichannel vision.

This is a great example of how an onmichannel vision should be implemented and what it means to deliver stock control for a connected and efficient retail operation. Retailers need to consider a number of elements to achieve this.

First, item-level visibility in real-time and full awareness of the in-store customer is absolutely crucial. How they move and interact with items, where they linger, and what goes into a fitting room with what, in addition to awareness of the online customer – and integration between the two.

Second, implementing predictive analytics can bring a personal shopper experience to each customer whether on the premises or off.

Thirdly, a mapped customer journey helps retailers understand how and why a customer might reach out on different channels at different times.

Last but not least, providing real-world personalised customer experiences can create engagement through digital means and transform an in-store experience with special touches – like smart fitting rooms.

With these elements in place a retailer can automatically collect data about their merchandise, provide accurate inventory information and real-time transparency. Al mobile, 24-7 and hands-free, no matter the size of the operation.

What does this mean? It means that the customer experience is amazing. They find something – in store, online or on a mobile app – and then they can buy and collect it as soon as they want.

And fashion retailers know that customer experience is everything. You can offer the best choice of products via multiple channels. But if you cannot deliver, the customer moves on. Very quickly!

 

Words by Uwe Hennig, CEO at Detego

Industry Spotlight: Is SMS still effective in the retail sector?

With an estimated four billion SMS users worldwide, it is clear that texting still serves its purpose. Despite this, it has been reported that Google may be planning to replace text messaging with Rich Communications Services (RCS) messaging.

There is no disputing the fact that RCS is an exciting technology. It can send images, video and display receipts. However, this does not mean that it is a good idea for any business to remove SMS from its communications roadmap. In fact, text messaging has become so ubiquitous that it has proven itself to be a fundamental element within the whole omnichannel experience.

Consider delivery, an area that online and offline retailers are increasingly becoming involved with getting multichannel communication spot on is key to providing an enhanced customer experience. Consumers today make multiple orders online and want their orders to be delivered quickly, efficiently and, above all, to a sensible timescale; without having to spend hours waiting in for them to arrive. To action this, retailers must keep consumers informed at all stages of the delivery process and SMS is a quick, convenient and inexpensive way of doing so.

In addition, text messages are easy to consume; they have urgency and a trust factor attached; and there were 8.3 trillion text messages sent in 2015 alone.

For example, one of our customers, Home Retail Group, the group behind brands like Homebase and Habitat, sends up-to-date and personalised, text status updates on deliveries. This has resulted in an increased customer satisfaction rate and has reduced inbound calls from customers to the contact centre querying delivery times; boosting the quality of service and slashing costs at the same time.

 

SMS isn’t going anywhere soon

The beauty of SMS is that it provides ‘just-in-time’ information for consumers that are always on the move. It can equip retailers with the opportunity to push valuable information almost instantaneously to customers, including details on special offers and discounts. Retailers can continue a dialogue with consumers by texting new offers after they have purchased products.

Not only is texting still as popular as ever, it can also grab a consumer’s attention more than any other media platform. On average, users take around 90 minutes to respond to an email, for example. The average response time for a text is 90 seconds, according to the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA).

Texts can also be automated and two-way conversations initiated, while visuals can be added so that customers can click a hyperlink and re-schedule a delivery slot on a product.

SMS is undeniably an easy-to-use, convenient and cost-effective platform which is widely used. All of this incredible functionality means that SMS is here to stay. Yes, RCS, may be waiting in the wings – but SMS continues to reign supreme.

 

Words by Steve Robertson, marketing and sales director at the leading customer contact provider, VoiceSage.

More retailers plan to install omnichannel solutions to combat lack of in-store technology…

According to a report from the Omnico Group surveying 31 UK retailers with more than 100 stores and two department stores under one brand, 32 per cent have stated that they plan on introducing in-store omnichannel capabilities, which will enable consumers to order an out of stock item from other company branches.

Despite a rise in sales via technology across the retail sector, only 13 per cent of retailers surveyed acquire the advanced in-store technology allowing consumers to take this action. The survey also found that 26 per cent plan to grant customers the accessibility of ordering online or from another store while shopping on one branch and, currently, 29 per cent provide the capability.

CEO at Omnico, Mel Taylor, said: “Retailers are now coming up with firm plans to invest in an omni-channel retail strategy as they know they must do more to meet the increasingly high expectations of the digitally-savvy, mobile customer. With the right solutions retailers can give a significant boost to their sales, knowing that by being able to say ‘Yes’ more often they can guarantee they will never lose another sale due to unavailability.”

Although recognising the current limitations of existing in-store technology, 33 per cent said that the biggest challenge in handling stock across channels is having an accurate view of available stock in all stores, followed by 20 per cent who cited having a ‘real-time’ or ‘near real-time’ update on their central stock file.