Amazon doesn’t have the most successful and profitable loyalty programme with Prime because they got it right straightaway or just got lucky, it’s because they constantly collected data and feedback and put customer service at the core of their being. It’s that obsession of listening to customers that helps them keep up with demand. Their ability to adapt constantly to the changing consumer needs is why, even at 22 years old, they are still constantly at the leading edge, right there with the young start-ups.
On the other hand, bricks and mortar retail has been more used to slower and seasonal cycles of change, which just doesn’t work anymore. As Mark Zuckerberg put it, the only way to ensure failure is to take no risk. However, not all bricks and mortar retailers fall into this category, a lot of them are now waking up to the realisation that change is the only constant, and it is happening faster than ever before, and that applies to both customer needs and the tools that can be used to meet them The chance of survival for any retailer simply depends on how well, and how quickly, they can measure up to customer expectations.
Convenience: The New Customer Priority
Where price and quality of products used to be top of the agenda, convenience is the new king. There has been a huge buzz around the concepts such as Amazon Go, Shipt and our Saturn Express project. This wasn’t because of the technology behind them, but the game-changing factor of convenience they introduce into the traditional bricks and mortar customer journey.
These concepts are gaining strong traction and more stores are announced every month, it isn’t long before customers will expect this level of convenience to become the new norm. The adoption cycle for these will likely be faster than previous changes in payments and checkout, such as contactless payments or wallets. That means the risk involved in not adapting fast enough to this new demand of consumers for convenience in the journey is going to be far higher. We see this ourselves within the market, every major retailer is working on improving convenience, what remains to be proven is a clearly dominant approach in delivering this which can apply to a significant share of all retailers.
Using The Power of Mobile
Studies show that 83% of customers carry and use a smartphone while shopping, yet retailers constantly fail to see the benefits that this can bring them. At this point, not utilising mobile experiences in your store is akin to not accepting card payments a decade ago, imagine a retailer only accepting cash even when 83% of their customers carry credit/debit cards, it’s a huge missed opportunity.
Almost all online retailers have already capitalised on the shift to mobile but a majority of the store-based retailers are yet to do the same in a way that generates strong returns. This further emphasises a point that it’s not just about adopting the right technology but also about adopting the approach with this technology which is viable from a resource and effort perspective. This is more of a concern in bricks and mortar, than in eCommerce, due to the involvement of physical space for the customer to interact in and actual people on the front end rather than just code.
However, this is an advantage too, as this presents a brilliant opportunity combine the best of both worlds and what better medium to do that than one which almost all of your customers carry around all day and love to use. Hint; it starts with an M.
Are humans wasted at the tills?
Love them or hate them, self-checkout journeys are becoming more prevalent in the shopping experience. When they first arrived in store, there was the inevitable big question of what it would mean for the thousands of people who work on checkouts across the world.
In reality, however, automating checkouts doesn’t necessarily have to mean huge redundancy of people. Instead, by using technology to automate the simple tasks, staff can be freed up to add real value to the customer journey through improving the shopping experience.
In an increasingly digital world, genuine human interaction is increasingly scarce, but this just makes it more valuable. Shopping is still a social experience, and people value the empathy and emotion they get from a human-connection, so that makes people want to go into shops rather than just ordering products online. With some processes automated, the staff focus can shift towards improving the customer service to create an experience that stands out in the customer’s mind.
At the end of the day, it works even when considering the hard facts, let’s say stores do cut 20% of the staff due to increasing penetration of self-checkout, the fact that the retailer stays in business and will grow because of this means that they will open more stores and thus in the long term, hire more people, in the store and at the HQ. In the short to medium term though, some retailers may reduce the staff in the store, but then again, what is more preferably, a retailer in business with 80% of staff as compared to before or a bankrupt Maplin having to lay off everybody?
Mustafa Khanwala is the founder and CEO of MishiPay, an award-winning British company whose “Scan, Pay, Leave” innovative technology enables mobile self-checkout, so in-store shoppers can simply scan, pay and leave without having to ever wait in a queue. For more information go to www.mishipay.com