​Complacency kills CX: lessons learnt from the Aussie retail meltdown

Marketing and retail experts discuss why local retailers need to up their CX game to survive


Cheap fails, convenience wins

Retailers that don’t differentiate on product offering, range or customer experience but compete on price alone will simply face a race to the bottom, research consultancy’s The Leading Edge’s head of marketing, Katharine Milner, says.

“If you ignore how customers experience your brand, you are basically choosing to compete on price and product range alone,” she claims. “The bricks-and-mortar retailers that weather the storm will be the ones that focus on offering shoppers a great experience as well as great products.”

Regardless of the online or offline experience, today’s fast-paced consumer simply wants convenience, Milner claims. “Our research reveals that shoppers want convenience, and those that provide a convenient experience are currently growing their sales and market share, from Kmart to The Iconic,” she says. “For example, Cotton On, Target and Kmart are all up-styling and filling a niche in kids clothes in a cheap, fuss-free and convenient way.

“Consider how you can provide a more convenient shopping experience, either in-store or through digital channels. This could mean making it easier for shoppers to find their size, alerting them to upcoming sales or offering to save their card details to remove barriers to purchase. These tactics are channel agnostic and focus on the customer experience, rather than taking a digital verses bricks-and-mortar attitude.”

Jurlique Australia' GM, Ann Donohue reveals the retailer's new mobile POS system
Jurlique Australia' GM, Ann Donohue reveals the retailer's new mobile POS system

One Aussie retailer recently enhancing in-store convenience has been beauty brand, Jurlique, which last year implemented a cloud-based POS system from Vend to transform each of its team members into a mobile POS operator. The aim was to make it easier to take customers from the initial introduction and consultation right through to the final purchase without the need to hand them off at a cash register.

General manager at Jurlique Australia, Ann Donohue, says this is not just improving staff engagement with customers and enhancing their experience, it has also improved opportunities to cross-sell related products.

“Because it is such a consultative process, it is very important to keep that connection with the customer," she explains. "Not having to leave them at that that time is really quite important.”

Remember the fundamentals

Whether online or offline, the fundamental business principles still apply of keeping your brand relevant, and celebrating the uniqueness of your offerings to your customers, Stewart continues.

“Retailers who are focusing on innovation, brand relevance and excellent customer service will do well. Those who are also thinking about the online experience will do even better,” she says. “Customer experience is critical, obviously, but it's only part of the equation. Retailers absolutely need to be thinking about the customer, but just as importantly about their unique selling proposition.”

Retailers must embrace their unique points of difference when it comes to the brand and CX, says experience design expert and pioneer, Katja Forbes
Retailers must embrace their unique points of difference when it comes to the brand and CX, says experience design expert and pioneer, Katja Forbes

Experience design expert and pioneer, Katja Forbes, advises retailers to identify and understand their unique points of difference when it comes to the brand and customer experience, then capitalise on that.

“And remember - just because you are a physical store, it doesn’t mean you can’t also take part in the same playground as online stores,” she says. “Take advantage of their clientele too, by starting an online store and social media presence, and reap the benefits of the digital era.”

Forbes predicts brands that will survive tomorrow’s retail space will offer customers expect a more tactile experience like T2, or engaging in-store experience that they simply could not get online. “Depending on what it is you sell, it may be appropriate to offer refreshments, more practical displays of your products in action, and even a real-life comparison between two different brands or models to demonstrate the difference,” she suggests.

Forbes also advises integrating digital and social media interactions with the “trying on” experience to encourage social shopping. One brand doing this well is cosmetic retailer, Mecca, which leverages content produced by consumers, such as videos, images, social content, as well as ratings and reviews, to drive both online and in-store engagement.

“Augmented reality could provide a shopping experience like no other – think Pokémon Go, with the hologram image instead appearing as a handbag the customer is interested in purchasing, or an outfit,” she says. “They can take a selfie and send to their social media accounts for the opinion of their networks. Additional product information and comparisons provided in online stores could certainly be introduced into a ‘traditional’ store, such as on mounted iPads displayed at various tactical locations in the store.”

Whether it’s traditional, digital, social media, bricks-and-mortar, or online, the business that fundamentally delivers better to consumer needs will win, Scriven says.

“Spend some time understanding the consumer journey in your category. Understand what consumers value and then design your service, offering and experience around that," she says. "Find out where the ‘drop off points’ are, where are you losing customers to competitors and then develop strategies to recapture their attention and re-engage.”

Brown also highlights the importance of getting the business basics of CX right. “Great service coupled with a great range of products is timeless, no matter how brilliant the technology,” she says. “If you can’t get those two things right, you aren’t going to survive. Service, product and technology all need to be of the same level of excellence to make customers happy in 2017 and beyond.”

But according to Morgan, it’s brands that provide a better CX coupled with a strong, clear and resonating purpose that will ultimately attract the modern consumer and dominate tomorrow’s playing field.

“Australia arguably has an oversupply of middle-of-the-road brands across various sectors. When matched against the clear brand purpose and positioning of incoming international heavyweights, local brands found themselves looking a bit vanilla, and offering no compelling narrative to consumers," he says.

“Arguably, Pumpkin Patch had a strong brand, but this was successively weakened by poor management decisions - customer goodwill won’t last forever. Meanwhile, Dick Smith had a great opportunity with its ‘Techxperts’ positioning, but then failed to bring that to life in its bricks-and-mortar customer experience.”

A brand with purpose doesn’t just mean corporate social responsibility, Morgan says. It means figuring out what you brings to the market that no-one else does, and leveraging that throughout the customer experience.

“A clearly defined set of brand values and point of difference that consumers can recognise and interact with will help brands stand out across both physical and virtual retail spaces,” he says. “Critically, whatever these brand values are, they need to be molded around the customer.”

Key factors that drive CX in today’s retail space:

  • Personalisation: If I’ve already communicated with your organisation, you know a lot about me, so you can use that information to personalise how we do business.
  • Ease: I shouldn’t have to spend time trying to work out what you need me to do. Make it easy for me to do business with you. Absence of this is one of the biggest drivers of customer dissatisfaction.
  • Mobility: I’m mobile, and I want to be able to deal with you while I’m on the move. If you don’t keep up, I’ll leave you behind.
  • Sociability: I’m on social media so we won’t meet each other if you aren’t there too.”
  • Self-service: Let me do it myself and let me choose the channel to do it in. Let me feel in control and don’t force me to switch to the channel you prefer.
  • Timeliness: I’m time-poor, so don’t make me wait for you. If you put me in a phone queue, I’ll use the time to check out your competitors on the Internet – that is if I wait at all.
  • Empowerment: I want to make my own decisions. Give me the knowledge I need to make the right ones.
  • Help: If I choose to interact with someone about an enquiry, connect me directly to someone knowledgeable who can answer my questions. I don’t want to be bounced around inside your organisation.
  • Complaints: If you make life hard or do wrong by me, I’ll complain. I might complain to you (if you’re lucky), I might complain to my family and colleagues, or I might tell all my Facebook friends. I might tell them if you do the right thing too, but only if you do something that ‘wows’ me.
  • Adapt and innovate: retailers now need to understand that customers have adapted to an increasingly competitive market as they have become more internet-savvy, better informed and more mobile. Customer acquisition and retention in this environment isn’t just a matter of providing something a bit better than the store in the next suburb.
- Author of Good to Great CX, Isabella Villani

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