With laser focus on the right elements, retailers can easily catapult past the competition and feel just as though they’ve discovered their own pot of gold. But with so many new developments in the industry, it can be challenging to discern what traditional rules still apply and what new ideas can pay off. Retailers are feeling the pressure to embrace new technology and to change things that have worked ok in the past in light of new realities. It can be daunting.
Personally, I believe that some tried and true legends still apply. Take, for example, customer service. It has always been the lifeblood of any good retailer’s success, and that hasn’t changed. Customer service that exceeds expectations continues to drive loyalty and competitive advantage; it’s just that the playing field has now expanded. Customers expect service and attention not only when they’re in your physical store, but also online - both in your ecommerce environment and even in social networks. There are more customer touch points than ever before, and retailers have to learn not only how to manage them, but how to take advantage of them. It’s worth investing in some employee training on how customer service crosses the chasm online and off these days, and must be consistent at every customer touch point. Whether it’s tweeting a reply to a disgruntled customer, answering a question on Facebook or accepting a return in your store, customer service has to be intertwined in your culture with no question on what your philosophy is.
Customer experience is the sister of customer service. Experience can be the difference between a positive review and a negative one. Customer experience takes service up a notch. It’s the extra touch, the effort to really make a customer’s day. Not just getting a customer what they asked for, but going the extra mile to bring them something they might not have thought of, or allowing them to make suggestions on inventory or even loyalty programs. Customer experience can and should be built on integrating the customer into your business. When they feel they have a voice that you listen to, they are much more likely to choose you over competition every time – your value goes beyond price competition or even location. The trick is to provide customers with a seamless experience regardless of channel.
Retailers can also increase their luck by embracing technology that allows them to work smarter. When we implement tools that allow us to open up our store floors, arm our store associates with real time data, make them more accessible to customers, and deliver faster and more often on promises, we excel. Today’s technologies range from lightweight distributed POS, to omnichannel inventory management, to CRM, marketing and loyalty apps that allow retailers to stay ahead. A great resource to keep up with and navigate through what’s best for you is the National Retail Federation. They provide a variety of interviews, news articles, reviews and other resources to help retailers keep up with the rapidly changing retail technology landscape.
Even the right store layout and design can help retailers increase their bottom line success and long term luck. While customers shop online at certain times, they enjoy and indeed crave the experience and social interaction in our physical stores. A sound multichannel strategy is a must. In the store, new technologies allow retailers to create a welcoming and more personal experience than ever before – removing bulky sales counters in favor of mobile POS, tailoring music to a particular demographic or region, etc.
Retailers that focus on the right mix of traditional truths (what we know to work), combined with new discoveries (trying and testing new tools,ideas, networks), don't need to find a four leaf clover or wish for a pot of gold. They create their own luck through hard work and innovation.