It is very evident that our shopping habits are changing. To ensure prolonged customer loyalty, shoppers expect to be waited on hand and foot. Increased competition and an economically turbulent environment have banished any air of complacency that hung over the British high street. Retailers must provide a seamless shopping experience for their customers, whether they decide to buy online, via catalogue, on a mobile phone or in a high street store.
The long-standing customer service adage, ‘the customer knows best’ has never been so apt. As such, retailers are quickly realising they need to up their game in order to remain relevant in the purchasing lifecycle and present in the minds of the consumer.
Retailers often spend a fortune ensuring that they are able to sell through these multiple channels, but more important is to be able to successfully fulfill the orders. There is no point selling through multiple channels if you can’t deliver the customer the products they want, when they want them, in the way they want them.
Consumer research by Manhattan Associates found that almost two thirds of shoppers are more likely to buy from a retailer offering 90-minute delivery dispatch and 60 per cent said the same for 2-hour click and collect services. But it’s not just about speed. It’s also about options. Retailers must now fit in with our busy routines; a day planned around a trip to the shops is a thing of the past.
Shoppers want the option of having it delivered to their office, or collecting it in store, or even (in the case of ASDA), picking it up at the tube station on the way home. 12 per cent of retailers don’t have a single order fulfillment system at all. This means that completing orders is harder, takes longer and is costlier than it needs to be. Profitable retailers will be the ones who continually increase the ease of use from browsing, right through to delivery. This requires the complete overhaul of the supply chain to arm the retailer with the technical support to deliver omni-channel buying, selling and delivery.
Customers are smarter than they used to be – they don’t just look at the price, but also the value-add that a retailer is offering. Seasoned shoppers get frustrated by a number of retailer inadequacies: shop assistants who can’t check another store for the right product; lengthy trips to the stockroom to know whether an item is available in other sizes or colours. Today’s shoppers just won’t stand for customer service like this any longer. It is all too easy to take their business elsewhere or publicly share their complaints on social media.
So why are retailers continuing to treat customer service as they did 10 or 20 years ago – and risk losing customers in the process? 37 per cent of retailers continue to treat their channels separately – offering customers the opposite of a seamless shopping experience. A 360-degree insight into multichannel customers and product availability is key to success.
All of this sounds like a big ask, and on top of it all, retailers need to ensure that they are fulfilling customer orders profitably. If they don’t, they risk being left behind or going bankrupt. With greater competition and continually decreasing loyalty levels, retailers have to do everything possible to improve the retail experience and keep customers buying from them. The ‘customer knowing best’ is now translating beyond customer service, all the way through the supply chain to ensure their every whim is catered for. Such dedication is key to sustained profitability and longevity in the retail landscape of the future.