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  • Writer's pictureJohn DeCaprio

WHITE PAPER: Closing Retails’ Experience Gap

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

3 Tactics to Rebuild Store Relevance

As retail has evolved to address the best of what 2020 had to offer, retailers allocated precious resources to build eCommerce, BOPIS (by online pick up in store) and Curbside Pickup capabilities. These choices included hidden costs like every decision, but in this case, the ultimate price was paid by in store shoppers and the associates that support them. More specifically, store shoppers have been forced into increasingly self-service environments as associates are no longer available to fully address customer service & support needs due to their ever-increasing BOPIS/Curbside Pickup responsibilities. (Check out "Oh, retail, how I’ve missed you...", an easy read companion document)

Unfortunately, as many retailers have now come to realize, BOPIS/Curbside Pickup is an expensive way to fulfill online demand as it has not reached the scale necessary to fund the labor required to be cost effective. As a result, investments in store operations will likely continue to be a priority throughout 2021 as new operational efficiencies are developed.

If you are one of the many retailers who find themselves in this situation, or a manufacturer who sells into this environment, it is important to recognize that while consumers have come to accept reduced levels of support as an impact of the current climate, they are unlikely to do so over the long term.

The harsh reality is that most store-based retailers “won’t win ~ can’t win" until they evolve to efficiently address these operational demands. Failure to do so places the brand (retailer and manufacturer) at risk of further distancing in store shoppers from the very experiences they demand, kicking the door open to continued share erosion from on and offline competitors better equipped to meet consumer expectations.

Fortunately store-based retailers have a window of opportunity to proactively address this challenge as COVID concerns subside and consumer confidence increases. In order to reclaim pre-COVID levels of loyalty, stores will need to complete their digital transformation, moving past eCommerce, BOPIS/Curbside Pickup to establish a fully integrated, digitally powered, retail eco-system.

A critical first step includes investments in digitally enhanced customer service & support tactics that address consumer expectations for a return to pre-COVID levels while continuing to meet their expectation for BOPIS/Curbside Pickup services.

Fortunately, evolution of in store service and support tools has been a rally cry for some time now and a variety of digital engagement and personalization tactics have been successfully tested in retail and are now readily available for deployment at scale. The roadmap for which has been paved by a variety of retailers who had the foresight and funding necessary to address.

To their credit, these early adopters invested well before COVID hit testing a broad range of digital engagement tools. This forward thinking empowered them with a treasure trove of insights into a variety of tactics to address a wide array of situations. Once COVID hit, tactics were simply dusted off, debated internally, and decisions were made on how best to allocate funding to address.

The resulting speed to market advantage afforded them a head start on the industry, delivering results that speak for themselves as Walmart, Target and Kroger all took a step forward, while many retailers struggled to remain relevant.

A clear second mover advantage now exists for brands (retailer and manufacturer) who are ready to invest in tactics that will concurrently deliver improved efficiencies while driving in store customer engagement, brand relevancy and sales. A crucial first step can be found within the following quick win tactics:

Proactive Store Associate Coverage Tools

In simple terms, leverage technology to proactively notify associates when it is appropriate to engage customers based on their dwell time around products, displays, or fixtures.

  • Proactively route associates to locations most likely to require in person, associate-customer interaction and support.

  • Routing of associates based on anonymous consumer location data that is maintained in relation to associate location.

  • Associate activity and training levels can also be maintained to ensure the closest and most qualified associate is notified of shopper need.

Remote Chat/Video Based Service and Support Tools

In simple terms, leverage technology to engage shoppers via real-time chat or video calls, connecting them with remote associates who understand their needs/passions and can address questions regarding styles, trends, product features, uses, and fixes.

  • Alleviate in store coverage and product content demands that are hard, if not impossible to consistently address with frontline associates.

  • Solution enables touchless interactions that drive sales based on their ability help shoppers with in store inventory, planogram insights and support for endless aisle sales and support.

  • Agents can typically provide concurrent support for +10 consumers across multiple locations.

Personalized Digital Signage Tools

In simple terms, leverage technology to trigger digital signage to deliver personalized content based on the age, gender and dwell time of actual shoppers, delivering branded advertising that is most relevant, helping shoppers progress through their purchase journey.

  • Trigger personalized content based on anonymous consumer age and gender insights, ensuring delivery of the most appropriate marketing content based on actual audience characteristics.

  • Transform existing in store digital signage into personalized content delivery tools for products and categories where a mass marketing, single message is not appropriate (An example is hair and skin care, where consumer usage patterns and buy triggers differ based on gender and age).

  • Anonymous consumer demographic data is maintained in real-time to trigger the most appropriate department, category or product level content.

As with all good strategies, success starts with properly assessing the current situation. In order to do so, it is important to understand the consumer sales funnel by segment, ensuring proper metrics are present to understand the impact of current marketing and operational tactics on customer experience delivery. Where metrics are not clear or do not exist, the retailer should work to develop, even if that means leveraging new technologies and techniques to accomplish. Before new tactics take flight, it is important to align leadership on success metrics to ensure project goals and ROI expectations are monitored proactively, providing a foundation to build and evolve upon.

Implementing these tactics will vary based on your perspective. If your retail footprint is small, a single location near the focal point of the store is generally most appropriate. As the store footprint increases, so too does the number of key shopper engagement zones. Each engagement zone should be considered as a candidate for these tactics, prioritized based on the aforementioned ROI calculations. Finally, if you are a manufacturer, you should consider funding installations by leveraging Advertising Allowances towards the testing and scaling of these tactics. Please note, it is not uncommon to see less than 12-month paybacks, as such, scaling across the organization should be viewed from both a capital and expense side budgeting strategy.

Interested in learning more:

About: PANDECA is a consortium of independent consultants led by John DeCaprio, an industry veteran with experience scaling global enterprise level solutions spanning eCommerce, Omni-Channel and Store Engagement platforms. A focus on operational excellence and bottom-line impact is leveraged to deliver value across the purchase funnel.

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