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How can organisations realise the future of retail, today?

How can organisations realise the future of retail, today?
The success of the retail store depends on making every contact with the customer extraordinary

Elly Yates-Roberts |

With the rise of e-commerce, retailers have less opportunities for human interaction with their customers than ever before. However, despite retailers recognising the need to focus on the customer experience, many do not understand the evolving role of physical retail and the need to build strong relationships based on human-to-human interaction. And even if they do understand, they don’t know how to actually make it happen.

It has been too easy for too long to make money in retail. This is one of the main reasons why the physical retail space hasn’t changed much during the last decade – especially when compared to the fast-growing online part of the business. 

I think it’s instrumental to look at customer lifetime value. Most companies talk about it, very few are acting on it. You have to look upon the store in a completely new way. Integrating online and offline is key, where the physical store is the true builder of personal relationships. Therefore, I believe new technology should focus on empowering staff to create better relationships.

If I could choose only one area of focus it would be to create an unbreachable relationship with customers. If you can achieve this, then money will be made. Retail has always been very transaction driven – it has been push, rather than pull. That has to change or you’ll fail. When I started in the retail space over 30 years ago, there were basically three problems you had to solve for customers. The same problems remain today. 

First, the challenge of finding the product/correct size and getting the right amount of assistance in a short amount of time. Availability drives conversion, it’s as simple as that and staff availability is the main factor driving conversions. 

The second pain point has to do with queues. People don’t want to stand in line. Period. 

The third main pain point is finding help in a fitting room, or in other areas where service is frequently needed. Statistics show that shoppers who use fitting rooms are almost seven times more likely to buy products compared to those who simply browse the sales floor. Shoppers who receive service in the fitting rooms are three times more likely to buy products from that store, and the basket value is then significantly larger. 

Innovative retail technology can solve these basic problems faced by customers, enabling staff to create truly extraordinary customer experiences. 

Today, we can capture more data than ever before thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), smart cameras, sensors and physical buttons – this data helps us to understand what is happening in the store in real time. However, many are unsure how to turn this data into relevant and actionable messages that can be sent directly to frontline staff in real time. The intelligence and insights are often already in the cloud, we just need to get it through to the most important people in retail – the ones serving the customers.

A great example is the combination of Microsoft’s Azure Stack Edge with computer vision and Turnpike’s Connected Staff Wearable Solution – it’s almost like giving firstline staff a sixth sense to know how to increase the customer experience. Easy solutions like this will definitely be a gamechanger in retail.

There are a lot of ideas out there, most are not focusing on solving the basic problems. If you don’t solve the staff to customer ratio, don’t get rid of the queues to finalise the sell, don’t give attention to the fitting rooms and people standing in critical spots in the store – well, then you find yourself straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. 

Jörgen Andersson is the former global marketing director for H&M, Esprit and Uniqlo and an active board member and investor in Turnpike Group

This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issues delivered directly to your inbox.

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