Retail today is nothing like the shops we visited 30, 20 or even 10 years ago. Not only is much of the industry now online, but even physical stores are being completely revamped from what they once were. It’s no longer just about a purchase. Retailers are offering their clients immersive brand-experiences.
To win customer loyalty long-term, retailers need to consistently meet customer demand. Investing in new ways to deliver exceptional customer services is quickly becoming top of the agenda. We’ve seen a rise of customer-facing tech that has helped smoothen the shopping experience – but the real benefits come from investment in more deep-rooted change. Transformation needs to touch on every aspect of a business if it is to remain profitable in a fast-paced, data-driven world. To do so, retailers need to leverage technology to bridge customer expectations with retail operations – any disparity will quickly start to show cracks.
Finding what really matters
Investing in meeting customer expectations is great, but it needs to be done strategically. For this to work, it is essential that retailers rebalance the all-too-common mismatch of flashy technology in-store, yet archaic and inefficient backend systems. It is about deploying a technology overhaul where it really matters.
Particularly now, in a time when data is key, the right technology can help retailers unlock the potential of efficient operations. Intelligent data-driven technology can provide businesses with solid metrics to predict demand and showcase how targets can be delivered. That could be anything from reducing staff churn, to improving customer satisfaction and engagement.
In July, one of the most loved kid’s brands, Build-A-Bear Workshop, announced a pay-your-age promotion. Customers in the UK, US and Canada were invited to make their own teddies for the cost of their age. It seemed like a brilliant idea – but it ended in thousands of disappointed customers being locked in huge queues.
Pay-your-age was the first major misadventure in Build-A-Bear’s 21-year history. Here Build-A-Bear made one mistake. It overlooked the fact that its brand relies on a time-consuming experience, so its operations just aren’t set up to support such a promotion. The result was almost entirely negative brand awareness.
Outstanding brands rely on outstanding operations – and Build-A-Bear Workshop is an example how failing to connect the two can cost a brand its reputation. When businesses look to attract customers by promising outstanding levels of simplicity and choice, they can’t tolerate inefficiencies that prevent them from being able to deliver on these. Connecting logistics and resourcing with branding is essential for building and maintaining reputation, driving sales and being known as the best in their industry. This is why it is key for the retail industry to shift towards a more proactive mind-set, using assets they often already have to forecast potential issues and address operational gaps ahead of time.
Forward-thinking retailers are realising that in an increasingly crowded marketplace, they must remain a step ahead in delivering on consumers’ expectations. While business leaders in the sector look to deploy innovative technologies and processes that will improve productivity and efficiency, they often don’t know which would be the right solution for them. Only strateic implementations will make a real organisational difference.
Smarter, data-driven technologies that support back-office activities can help retailers accurately predict and meet demand, adding more value where it really counts. For example, by applying data-driven insight to their resourcing and scheduling, retailers can appropriately roster staff to deliver a better in-store experience for customers.
Ultimately, having great ideas like the one Build-A-Bear Workshop had is one thing, but delivering on those – another. Matching resources to demand is the crucial step in between, allowing the business to deliver the best service possible.
Ged Scheuber, COO at Rotageek, which uses predictive data-driven technologies to effectively and fairly schedule staff and work with retailers.