Ecommerce Club Working Lunch Dublin: Report

November 27th saw the Ecommerce Club’s first Working Lunch in Dublin. Andy Beale, New Retail Systems Manager, Tesco Plc was kind enough to join us in an exploration of strategic roadmaps for the development of retail platforms.

It’s a given that the key to understanding customer behaviour and developing an effective multichannel strategy lies in inspiring and engaging customers. The challenges that arise from this are exacerbated by the enormous range of platforms and tools, and retailers can’t always be sure that they’ll get the expected response. One of the biggest trends over the last few years was virtual changing rooms. While they had enormous conceptual appeal, customers weren’t interested.

What retailers must keep in the front of their minds is that shoppers are increasingly digital, many almost ubiquitous in digital transactions only. Research from Radware has shown that the average online shopper makes over 6 visits to a retailer’s site before they buy, and most use an average of 2.6 different devices before they buy. At the current level of mobile interaction, it’s no wonder that online changing rooms stand in the category of ‘tried but failed fast.’

And while the shift to mobile is frequently discussed, it’s worth pointing out that, according to Demandware’s research, 50 per cent of all smartphone traffic will be to retail sites by the end of this year, 2015. This is not the future, it’s happening now. Retail Touchpoints has even predicted that 60 per cent of Millenials will be expecting to do everything on their mobile phones within five years.

The big shift from desktop to mobile also means a shift from something that sits outside the domain of the personal to something that is very personal – and that can change our expectations of an experience.  Shoppers today demand personal experiences that stand out to them – already 46 per cent of shoppers say that they will buy more from a retailer that personalises the shopping experience.

It’s important to keep in mind how online shopping is connected to in-store. The key to developing a successful ecommerce platform is to ensure that you get your supply chain right, so that new developments can be integrated into the system. If the supply change goes wrong you cannot have any profitability so it’s important to get the right platforms and keep your distribution costs as low as possible. Retailers need to understand the options, and the impact different choices can have on the customer experience.

Successful shopping occurs when the experience is personal and short. iPhone payment readers, for example, create end-to-end smooth multichannel experiences.  Finding items or showing options to the customer, seeing whether they are in-store or online or a similar make makes the shopping experience better for the consumer.  Using technology that excites and inspires the customer, that can create multichannel shopping will benefit the brand. The rule of thumb seems to be the more personalisation a brand get introduce to customer the more successful it is.

The concept of personalisation has been developed well by some brands across the spectrum, which are taking full advantage of the opportunity on offer, to capture a shifting market as it shifts. Naked Wines, for example, have great customer interactions and links to suppliers. They provides reviews, ratings, conversations with producers, profile updates and, of course, personalised offers with favourites. Outside the pureplay world, brands like Macey’s are linking in-store with multichannel really effectively. For the shoe department, everything is linked: the department, website sign up, stock room interaction, scanning, checkout.

That sort of interaction is of course hugely dependent on the right technology and platform, and it’s not getting any simpler. The next big thing is device enabled marketing, which could result in advertising on phones in relevant formats as soon as a new wifi network is joined. Making sure that advertising is welcomed and personalised is likely to be the key to success.

At F&F Andy focused on helping customers to get quick access to further styles and sizes, registering for the website and increasing conversion and future shopping rates. There is a huge body of understanding of customer behaviour from in-store experiences, which really helps to benefit the full customer experience across channels. Using enthusiastic store teams to enrich customer experience we identified the gap that could be filled by connecting the web and in-store world, connected to delivery. At Tesco’s we are about helping our customers to succeed.

There are really five key customer mandates that lie at the heart of successful multichannel customer experience:

  • Explanation and illustration
  • What I want – personalisation and curation (example: Sweaty Betty)
  • The way I want it — payment and channel (example: POWATAG)
  • When I want it – convenience and frequency such as click and collect (example:- Tesco)
  • Make me love it – quality, easy to use, helpful (example: Lush)
  • Help tell my friends about it – social and user (example: Snap Fashion)

As a retailer however what underlies these five concepts is the rule that understanding your customer journey should lie at the heart of everything you do. Many retailers have very nice experiences for their customers, online or on mobile or in-store, but today these are rarely joined up. Retailers need to empower customers to use any channel effectively at any stage of their buying journey.

Steve Jobs said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology – not the other way around” The question that every retailer should ask is,  “Why would our customers use this?” Often too much emphasis is placed on how customers will use something rather than why. Just because something can now be done online, doesn’t mean that it should.

To make things work effectively you need to understand the customer journey first, and define your digital offering second. And it’s not even just the technology issue – many brands today have channel specific KPI’s – how can that encourage a holistic view of the customer journey. Remember to explore what that journey might or could look like, and the importance of research and innovation. Service and experience make the difference and are probably the reason why customers will choose you, so never forget that the only perspective that matters is that of the customer.