17 Apr Powering a personalised shopping experience
There is a quiet revolution going on in ‘brick and mortar’ stores. This revolution is due in large part to the online ecommerce experience and tremendous amount of information available on the World Wide Web (which turns 25 this year).
To get an idea of what I’m talking about, take as an example my phone store. It has ‘gone digital’. Store associates are equipped with a tablet, and can literally walk customers through their shopping experience, checking on details of their current service plan, their options for upgrades and inventory information on which models (and colors, cases, accessories, etc.) are on hand, or in a store nearby.
And what I really like: I needn’t stand in a queue. With the swipe of a credit card and an electronic signature, the associate completes my transaction, retrieves the phone I want from stock, either printing the receipts, rebates and contracts in-store—or likely emailing them to me as I prefer.
The extent and accuracy of the information available to personalise and expedite the shopping experience depends on more than infrastructure and applications. At Ricoh, we’ve been seeing it also depends on how well a company has streamlined and optimised their business processes to capture and transform information to support the sales process.
The mobile store example I mentioned shows that store associates can increase customer sales and loyalty if they have the technology that can match that of today’s wired, digitally savvy customer; and most importantly, can get the customer the information they need at the time they need it.
According to a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting, by a factor of more than 2 to 1 over their bosses customer-facing workers felt constrained by “older systems”. Think about it. How effective would the store associate be if they could not tell me what calling plan I am on, or what upgrade options I had?
But as one who works to help design these solutions, I can tell you just integrating this information is not easy. Customer information tends to be siloed in different systems (ERP, CRM, marketing systems, etc.) And process redesign and integration can be as challenging as collecting information from different databases.
Just on the product side, if I was not sure what model I wanted, the store associate could guide me through a visual display of available inventory. Product images could be accompanied by specifications, available applications or connectivity options, performance comparisons, price, and more.
This information would have to be pulled from internal inventory systems, pricing from ERP, and promotions from marketing systems, formatted and combined into this “endless aisle” experience. This requires carefully considered design of the supporting business processes: for accuracy, currency, and security.
We at Ricoh have seen firsthand one of the most important prerequisites for successful customer service is a clear understanding of the underlying information requirements. And for me, a store associate carrying around a tablet is not nearly as compelling as the value it could bring to me as a customer.