Comment: Creating business silos could damage a retailers brand
When retailers began to see the vast opportunities presented by having an ecommerce platform, they rushed to embrace it. By Ian Patterson
However, at the time, it wasn’t apparent how they could align and integrate their bricks and mortar strategies with their new online presence.
You only have to witness the differential on- and offline pricing policies, which to a degree still exist today, to realise that this presents a real issue.
We are effectively seeing silos being created between the different elements of a retail operation. And, retailers need to recognise that such an approach will inevitably lead to inconsistencies that can damage the customer experience and – ultimately – the brand which they are likely to have spent many years developing.
As a way of combating this, many retailers have sought to integrate online with their physical shops by offering online reservation and collection from stores. I’d argue that such a strategy falls short of providing an all-encompassing customer service offering. And by launching an online platform which acts independently of the store, the retailer – in effect – creates two competing offerings. In an ideal world shouldn’t the two elements be trying to leverage each other’s strengths?
Mobile Commerce – today’s hot topic, presents a whole new approach for retailers to weave into their customer service strategy. The quick solution that many have resorted to is optimising their ecommerce site for mobile, in order to try and gain a credible presence on their customer’s handset. But, again, this doesn’t go far enough – customers have to remember to visit that mobile site.
I believe that the current tentative approach in this area will lead to the creation of yet another business silo. A silo which is likely to be demolished in the future (at great expense to the business), as retailers begin to recognise the need for an integrated, truly multi-channel approach. Bricks and mortar, ecommerce and mcommerce need to work together, to deliver a unified, consistent, brand-led customer experience, which supports the consumer through the entire buying journey.
Today’s customer chooses to shop at a retailer because they like the brand and the in-store experience. Equally, they choose to visit the website, because it empowers them to serve themselves, learn about offers and products, and allows them to buy on-line quickly and easily. Each element has to work well on its own, but together they can be a potent mix!
Websites which are optimised for mobile have a number of restrictions; they cannot influence at the point of decision, they cannot capture customer behaviour, they cannot engage the shopper through their shopping journey, and they do not create an end-to-end experience.
It is vital for retailers to ensure their brand rich, empowering experience is also conveyed at store level, in order to avoid losing valuable custom. If you don’t manage your customers’ in-store experience, they will make their own. Retailers run the risk of ‘random’ web searches in their stores that will expose customers to competitors’ offers. Google Shopper is only one click away!
Retailers need to fully appreciate and capitalise on the mcommerce opportunity to increase online and in-store sales. They will achieve this by driving brand engagement, increasing loyalty programs and promotions and intercepting shoppers during their multi-channel search and discovery activities to deliver greater clicks-to-bricks integration. At the end of the day, it is about optimising the customer journey through engagement, conversion and payment – creating a virtuous circle.
There are many benefits to creating a fully-fledged mobile app and these include:
• The app exists as a visible button on the customer screen;
• It can display notifications to grab attention and engage on a regular basis;
• It will reinforce customer loyalty (if it is seen to add value to their shopping journey);
• It delivers a branded and managed customer experience;
• It can influence at the point of decision;
• It is consistent with store stock and promotions;
• It enables customers to check stock, size and colour without seeking assistance from store staff;
• It reduces competitor noise (and virtually eliminates it while customer is in your store);
• It enables in-store payment to avoid queues at the till;
• It creates a faster customer-centric user experience.
Ian Patterson is CEO, DigiPoS Store Solutions
DigiPos are headline sponsors of the Retail Bulletin’s Mobile Retailing Summit, September 27th 2011. Click here for full details.
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