20/03/2015

By Som Sinha, CEO, Intellibox


Changing customer expectations

Bricks and mortar retailers know only too well that consumers today have higher expectations than ever before. The rise of online shops coupled with a raft of handheld smart devices available to customers, means that shoppers today are tech-savvy and becoming increasingly demanding. They want to make instant purchases, at the best price and at a time and place of their choosing – and all with a high level of service.

Industry statistics highlight the impact on the in-store retailer; in November 2014 the monthly average of customer footfall fell to -2.4 per cent. In December the average footfall rose to -0.75 per cent, however with Christmas come and gone, high street retailers are coming back down to earth with a bang. Meanwhile new initiatives such as click and collect, which offers the ease and flexibility of a blended on and off-line experience, mean it could be argued that there is less need for physical outlets than ever before.

In-store retailers are therefore faced with the challenge of finding innovative ways to improve the customer experience and increase customer loyalty and footfall. One sector that is particularly facing this challenge is the mobile retailer.

The impact on the mobile retailer

A negative in-store encounter, there being no need to visit a physical store and little excitement provided during the experience can all be attributed to the reasons as to why consumers are turning away from in-store shopping. These reasons will all resonate with the mobile retail industry.

For example, an all too regular occurrence in many shops, including mobile phone retailers, is customers being left in limbo, wanting to be approached with advice and information. They are looking for an opportunity to make a purchase, only to be left with no form of contact and nothing compelling to keep them in-store.

In addition, shoppers can often find themselves queuing in-store, waiting for a sales person to become available with nothing to keep them occupied. It is these types of instances that can cause customers to come away with a negative experience, often feeling that they have wasted their precious time with very little to show for it.

A customer’s time spent in-store is invaluable for retailers, not only does it have the potential to determine revenue but also the sense of brand loyalty.

It is for this reason that retailers must look to in-store technology as a way of differentiating the customer experience. Technology not only enables extra services to be provided, it also ensures that customers’ time is being maximised, not just for the benefit of the customer but also the retailer.

Embracing in-store technology

Technology is the keystone to turning the customer experience into a positive one. For example, an increased number of point of sale devices would undoubtedly empower sales advisors, allowing them to not only offer the customer a more personalised shopping experience, but also make sure that the valuable time customers spend in-store is being fully utilised by the retailer.

Using multi-touch technology also enables retailers to offer an in-store user experience that shoppers are already comfortable with, thanks to the plethora of ‘smart’ gadgets now available to consumers. Similarly, providing the opportunity for apps and games to be downloaded in-store not only adds to the shopping experience, but can also provide additional revenue generation opportunities for the retailer.

Providing customers with innovative ways of completing transactions could also be considered. The transaction process could provide shoppers with a sense of theatre; something different they can take away with them not only helps to build brand loyalty but can also drive additional revenue opportunities.

Ensuring that visiting a physical store will add more value to a customer than shopping online is an easy way of enhancing the in-store customer experience. When it comes to the mobile phone industry for example, offering in-store mobile recycling which provides an instant evaluation benefits both the shopper and the retailer.

Ultimately, once the in-store experience ends the customer should be left with a positive interaction, especially in the age of the online shopper.

The changing technology and customer landscape means that bricks and mortar retailers have a bigger challenge than ever before. Physical retailers must therefore adapt and embrace new ways of ensuring competitive advantage. To achieve this in today’s digital world physical retailers must embrace technology – I believe this holds the key to revolutionising the customer experience.