Today’s retail landscape faces a big problem. Customers are acting like stroppy teenagers, making difficult demands on modern retailers. Entitled Consumers, as we call them, expect retailers to be flexible and to bow to their every whim. They expect brands to fit around their busy lives.
Thanks to advances in mobile technology, these customers are never offline. They rely on social media and peer reviews to decide a brand’s worth, and they demand instant gratification by having everything on their own terms – they want what they want when they want it. What can today’s retailers do to negotiate with this fickle customer?
When we think about omnichannel retail, we can imagine a hallway with many different doors leading to different channels. Customers might visit a retailer’s high-street flagship, or access their dedicated app, or start adding to a basket from their mobile-optimised site. Even if all these channels create a consistent on-brand experience, these channels don’t always connect well with one another.
GDR believes brands and retailers need to prioritise the role of touchpoints over channels. It’s about having one version of the truth in real-time at every point of connection between a brand and customer, rather than a fragmentation of customer experiences that don’t link up. Continuing the same analogy, all these channels should speak to one another and bring the customer into the same room.
Forward-thinking retailers can move beyond omnichannel by considering the role of touchpoints in three key areas of customer interaction: discovery, service and transaction.
Take Rebecca Minkoff’s connected store in SoHo, New York. Shoppers use the Rebecca Minkoff app to check in at the store to alert staff of their arrival and personal preferences. A large touchscreen mirror at the store entrance enables shoppers to discover new collections, select items to try on and even order a complimentary drink. Chosen clothes are sent to a fitting room in which shoppers can order different sizes and continue to search for items on a touchscreen to match their look. The undecided shopper can save their fitting room session and their basket of selected items to their personal profile and pay for them later online.
The customer journey is designed with discovery in mind, giving customers opportunities to find different styles, communicate in the context of the shopping moment and engage deeply with the brand. To see how this sophisticated customer journey is becoming commonplace, readers should check out Ralph Lauren’s recently unveiled fitting rooms that involve a similar customer journey.
The role of service as a touchpoint is integral for many brands. Sephora’s Pocket Contour is a mobile-optimised site that teaches shoppers how to contour, a make-up technique made fashionable this past year. The site captures a selfie of the user and maps out guidelines over their face for where to apply make-up for each step of the contouring process. The service enables customers to use Sephora’s products effectively and encourages engagement and a continued relationship with the brand:
“We don’t want [customers] to go home and throw the product in a drawer because they can’t remember how the beauty adviser applied it,” says Bridget Dolan, vice president of Sephora Innovation Labs. “We believe Pocket Contour is the type of technology which will demystify beauty for consumers and make them dedicated beauty customers for life.”
The elevation of intuitive service influences the fashion sector in other unexpected ways. For example, e-commerce-only retailer JeansOnline arms couriers with different sizes of jeans to what the customer ordered and will wait for 15 minutes for the customer to try on a pair to check the fit is suited to them before committing to purchase.
Finally, transactions are increasingly adapting to what is most convenient to the Entitled Customer’s context. Fashion retailer Everlane was one of the first brands to pioneer Facebook Messenger as a way to send order and delivery confirmations, process returns and connect shoppers with customer service agents all through a single chat thread. Already brands are jumping onto other personal and intimate one-on-one platforms such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Line, and in some cases, even back to SMS as a way to hone the customer experience and blend channels into one cohesive customer experience.
For retailers to move beyond omnichannel, they need to consider a unified retail approach. Consider the customer journey in its entirety and experiment with ways to augment the experience at every touchpoint from pre-shopping research, to in-store and online commerce, through to post-purchase service and CRM. Retailers will have their work cut out for them but there’s no need to erase all the processes you’ve invested time in. A few tweaks in considering these key interactions can satisfy even the most demanding customers.
Martin Reid is an innovation researcher at GDR Creative Intelligence, a retail trends and design intelligence consultancy for global consumer brands. GDR provides insightful content delivered through dynamic presentations and digital tools to empower innovation processes for brands and retailers.