“Brands and retailers need to prioritise the role of touchpoints over channels,” says GDR’s Martin Reid
Today’s retail landscape faces a big problem. Customers are acting like impatient teenagers, making difficult demands to brands and retailers. They expect retailers to be flexible and to bow to their every need. They expect brands to fit around their busy lives.
Thanks to advances in mobile technology, these “entitled” customers are never offline. They rely on social media and user reviews to determine a brand’s worth, and demand instant gratification by having everything on their own terms – they want what they want, when they want it. What can today’s retailers do to negotiate with this fickle customer?
When we think about omnichannel retail, we can imagine a hallway with many different doors leading to different channels. Customers might visit a retailer’s flagship store location, or access their dedicated mobile app, or start adding to a basket from their mobile-optimized site. Even if all these channels create a consistent on-brand experience, these channels don’t always connect well with one another.
Therefore, brands and retailers need to prioritise the role of touchpoints over channels. It’s about having one version of the truth in real-time at every point of connection between a brand and customer, rather than a fragmentation of customer experiences that don’t link up. Continuing the same analogy, all these channels should speak to one another and bring the customer into the same room.
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Forward-thinking retailers can move beyond omnichannel by considering the role of touchpoints in three key areas of customer interaction: discovery, service and transaction.
Take the Sephora Flash store in Paris, France. On entry, customers are greeted by a NAO robot, which encourages them to pick up a digitally-enabled card and use it as they explore the store. By swiping the card next to the store’s many screens, customers can select merchandise from the online store and add it to a basket, which can be checked out at the physical till at the same time as any in-store purchases. Online purchases can be picked up in-store via a new click-and- collect service, or home delivered.
The customer journey is designed with discovery in mind, giving customers opportunities to stumble upon different looks and products, capitalise on the context of the shopping moment and engage deeply with the brand.
The role of service as a touchpoint is integral for many brands. Record Bank’s Get This Car! app enables customers to point their phones at any car advert to start their loan process. Whether it’s through a billboard, TV ad, radio spot or magazine spread, the app generates a loan estimate for the captured car that can be adjusted to the customer’s desired terms. As a result, Record Bank generated 21% more car loans by offering a heightened level of service opportunity.
The elevation of intuitive service is rife in other sectors. There is a plethora of retailers offering one-hour shipping and flexible delivery options: Dutch retailer JeansOnline offers a service where, [comma] once a courier arrives, customers have 15 minutes to try on their jeans and decide whether they fit. If not, they can return them at no extra cost.
Finally, transactions are increasingly adapting to what is most convenient to the entitled customer.Westfield recently partnered with London’s Sanderson Hotel to trial an interactive mirror that lets guests shop straight from their rooms. The mirror can connect to a personal Westfield stylist or guests can browse autonomously through search. Guests can pay directly via the mirror and can arrange for items to be delivered straight to their room in less than 90 minutes.
Elsewhere, brands are using other personal and intimate one-on-one platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, Line, and in some cases, text messaging as a way to hone the customer experience and blend channels into one cohesive customer experience.
For retailers to move beyond omnichannel, they need to consider a unified retail approach. Consider the customer journey in its entirety and experiment with ways to augment the experience at every touchpoint from pre-shopping research, to in-store and online commerce, through to post-purchase service and CRM. Retailers will have their work cut out for them but there’s no need to erase all the processes you’ve invested time in. A few tweaks in considering these key interactions can satisfy even the most demanding customers.