Categories
Technology

Point of Sale: Achieving Customer Nirvana

Paid partnership with Manhattan Associates


Imagine a world where shoppers can walk into a clothing store, scan the price tag on a dress, and complete payment on the spot. Imagine a world where virtual stylists allow shoppers to seamlessly pay by link, or a world where instore shoppers collecting their online orders aren’t just handed a package but are greeted with personalised recommendations to complement their purchase.

This world isn’t so far off, according to Manhattan Associates Solutions Executive Joe Kamara. “We’ve built a unified platform that brings the best of traditional Point of Sale (POS), order management and store operations together so you can orchestrate these different flows.”

In conversation with Natalie Berg, Retail Analyst and Founder of NBK Retail, Kamara said that the next generation POS is being accelerated by the pandemic-driven shift to digital. While in crisis mode last year, retailers quickly pivoted to ensure that stores could continue serving customers via click & collect and kerbside pickup, while simultaneously processing online returns instore. Kamara believes that this behaviour will outlast the pandemic, reinforcing the need for retailers to ensure they are equipped with the right tools to seamlessly serve the customer across multiple touchpoints.

Considering POS as part of the customer experience journey

For many retailers around the globe, this is becoming basic hygiene. Even in the years leading up to the pandemic, the role of POS was being drastically redefined as the industry adapted for the digital era.

  • Pre-purchase – traditionally, retailers took a store-only view of the customer and the sharing of data and shopper preferences across channels was limited. Today, there is an enterprise view of the customer, and retailers have full visibility into purchase history as well as sharing of digital data.
  • Purchase – when it came to out-of-stocks, the experience used to be “filled with roadblocks and friction”, according to Kamara. Today, however, thanks to retailers’ endless aisle capabilities, shoppers can make a single purchase for items that are available both in and out of the store.
  • Post-purchase – it’s difficult to cast our minds back to a time when stores would not accept online returns, given the ease and proliferation of choice today when it comes to returning goods purchased online.

The industry has come a long way to meet the needs of the 21st century shopper who wants to shop on their terms, irrespective of device or channel used. But, as we witness a post-pandemic acceleration in the convergence of physical and digital retail, it’s imperative that retailers continue to move the dial, removing any remaining friction points from the instore experience. This is no time for complacency.

For example, if we go back to the perennial problem of out-of-stocks, it’s hard to believe that even in this day and age, only a small minority of retailers are capable of offering in-store purchasing from another store’s inventory. From a customer experience perspective, this feels entirely unacceptable given the industry’s broader efforts to digitize the physical store. Not only do retailers risk losing the sale but it can be detrimental to brand loyalty in the long-term too.

The future of e-commerce is stores

Recognizing that the role of the store is no longer limited to selling, it’s essential that bricks and mortar retail is repositioned as a hub for fulfilment. The benefits are clear: retailers with store fulfilment options see higher revenue growth (114% increase when click and collect is implemented and 60% increase when ship from store is implemented). The future of e-commerce is stores.

In order to meet customers’ supercharged expectations, retailers must adopt a sell/fulfil/engage anywhere mentality. However, when it comes to future-ready POS implementation, retailers often make three common mistakes, according to Kamara:

  • Adopting a store-only plan, damaging future agility
  • Minimal investment in change (e.g. limited budget for user training; limited project communication plan)
  • Selecting a “proven” vendor with old technology

All too often, retail organisations are still thinking in silos. Instead, Kamara recommends that retailers develop a unified commerce roadmap (POS + order management), make a clear plan for organisational change and select the right vendor capable of delivering on the long-term.

You can find out more about Manhattan Associates’ POS solutions here.

#BeMorePOS #ManhInfluencer

Categories
Amazon

Bye Bye Bezos

The changing of the guard at Amazon. After more than a quarter of a century at the helm, Amazon’s founder CEO Jeff Bezos is handing over the reins to former AWS boss Andy Jassy. In this interview with BBC World, I discuss with Sally Bundock the two key challenges that Jassy will inherit – the threat of regulatory action to curtail Amazon’s dominance and ensuring that Amazon does not go from disruptor to disrupted in the future.

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And some good news! The second edition of my and Miya Knights’ book Amazon: How the World’s Most Relentless Retailer Will Continue to Revolutionize Commerce is now available for pre-order.

Categories
Store of the future

Measuring Stores in a Post-Pandemic World

Is bricks & mortar retail facing an existential crisis or a rebirth?

In a world where shoppers can buy just about anything online and have it delivered the very same or next day, it’s not unreasonable to ask – what is the point of stores? How can stores possibly differentiate when online shopping offers near-infinite assortment, hyper-personalisation and, increasingly, immediacy?

Over the past 18 months, bricks & mortar stores have been periodically forced to shut their doors and divert their customers to their least profitable channel – e-commerce. Retailers commendably pivoted, and consumers quickly adapted. But what happens next? Will habits learned during lockdown stick, accelerating the demise of the physical store, or will shoppers revert back to their old ways as normalcy resumes? Regardless, the pandemic-induced shift to digital has magnified the urgency for retailers to repurpose the physical space. There will be no return to the status quo.

So how do retailers balance the need for short-term agility with long-term vision? And, more importantly, what data should retailers be using to measure their success?

In this virtual debate hosted by Teradata, Mikael Bisgaard-Bohr, Vice President of Teradata EMEA, Clive Humby OBE, Co-founder of dunnhumby and chief architect of Tesco’s Clubcard, and I explore the key traits required as retailers navigate the complexities in this post-pandemic digital era.

“Historically, stores have measured two things – ‘how much and where’ – but what we need to understand is ‘who and why’,” said Humby. “We have got to stop thinking about just the transaction itself.”

Major high street retailers like Next believe that stores now face a “fundamental and irreversible disadvantage” to online and like-for-like sales declines will remain the new normal. I tend to agree. In a post-pandemic world, the role of the store will be three-fold – transact, inspire and facilitate online shopping. If the role of the store is no longer purely to sell, then how should we be measuring its success? Going forward, metrics like dwell time, conversion rates, staff satisfaction and percentage of online orders collected/returned instore are going to be a whole lot more meaningful than measuring the inevitable decline in transactions made within a retailer’s four walls.

Watch the full debate.

Categories
Store closures

Another Gap on the High Street

US clothing chain Gap is the latest retailer to retreat from Britain’s high streets.

Incredibly sad but probably not too much of a surprise? The uncomfortable truth is that we have too many stores today. Meanwhile, the pandemic is accelerating the demise of mediocre/status-quo/irrelevant retail. Gap is unfortunately paying the price for years of inaction. They failed to adapt, failed to stay relevant to shoppers and failed to differentiate from their peers.

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When was the last time you paid full price for something at Gap? Discounting is a zero-sum game. 

The big question now is: can they exist as a pure online retailer? Gap joins the likes of Debenhams, Arcadia and T.M. Lewin which have recently disappeared from the high street and resurfaced as online-only brands. Is the Gap brand strong enough to stand out in a crowded online market? A few years ago, O2O (Online to Offline) was all the rage as Amazon, Zalando, Missguided, Boden and others started opening up shops. The Darwinian state of retail….

Perhaps the digital realm will become a graveyard for has-been brands? Gap’s move certainly feels like a slow death to me.

I discuss all of this and more on: 

BBC Breakfast: Live TV interview from Gap’s flagship Oxford Street store

BBC News: Four reasons why Gap is closing its shops in the UK

Categories
E-commerce Fulfilment

Rethinking Returns 2021

Let’s talk returns. The industry’s perennial problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic and retailers can no longer afford to avoid the post-purchase experience. In this latest report with Klarna, Rethinking Returns: From Returns to Retention, we explore the power of returns as a customer acquisition and retention tool, and the repercussions of getting them wrong. 

Based on a survey of over 2,000 UK consumers, our research found that over eight in ten (84%) online shoppers would turn their back on a retailer after a bad returns experience.  

With 39% of consumers* having done more shopping online since the pandemic, an increased reliance on returns means people’s patience is waning when it comes to clunky or costly returns processes. 83% of online shoppers** admit to getting frustrated by retailers which have an inefficient returns process, while 82% agree that retailers in general need to improve their returns capabilities.

Demonstrating the need for retailers to keep up with consumers’ changing needs, some of Brits’ biggest frustrations with returns stem from the inconvenience of slow, out of date or inflexible returns processes. Over a third (36%)** cited slow refund processes as the most frustrating element of returning items bought online, highlighting the importance of flexible payment options. Other frustrations include having to print off return forms when they don’t have a printer (25%), the inconvenience of queuing to return at the post office (23%) and not being able to return items in store that they’ve bought online (21%).

Exacerbated by COVID, these frustrations with the returns process are the driving force behind emerging shopping trends, as people find ways to avoid inconveniences. Over the past 12 months, a fifth (21%) of online shoppers say they have reluctantly kept an item they were unhappy with because it was too much effort to return it, 12% have avoided returning items at the post office because it’s difficult to social distance, while 11% have gifted and 9% have resold items they don’t want instead of returning to the retailer. In the long run, this could mean people avoid buying again from retailers that don’t meet their needs.

For those retailers that get returns right, this can serve as a competitive advantage, helping to attract new customers, and boost customer loyalty. 84% of online shoppers agree they’re more likely to buy from and 86% are more likely to come back to online merchants who offer free returns. However, even a little added inconvenience can come at a cost: over two thirds (70%) of online shoppers state that if a preferred retailer stopped offering free returns, they might not shop with them.

Alex Marsh, Head of Klarna UK, said: “Nobody wants to be out of pocket as a result of items they don’t even choose to keep, so it’s no surprise that slow refund processes are the top frustration factor when it comes to returns. As reliance on returns grows, retailers need to ensure they’re offering a smooth, seamless process that meets the needs of today’s customers – considering everything from effortless logistics to flexible payment options. As our research suggests, those that fail to adapt will lose customers in the long term.”

The research also uncovers a consistent trend of rising consumer expectations when it comes to returns services. Compared to 2019, a greater number of online shoppers now believe that returns are a normal part of online shopping today (80%, up from 77%) and expect that every retailer they shop with offers free returns as a minimum standard of service (81%, up from 75%). And, as customers increasingly demand free and easy returns, more consumers also now state they’d never shop with a retailer that didn’t offer free returns (57%, up from 53%), and that all their preferred retailers offer free and easy returns (73% up from 70%).

Natalie Berg, Retail Analyst and Founder of NBK Retail:

“Consumers often expect a returns policy to mirror that of delivery – fast, frictionless and free – but that’s not always the case. The pandemic has thrust the issue of returns into the spotlight, exacerbating the disconnect between the effortlessness of placing an online order and the inconsistent and often friction-filled experience of making a return. Returns are fantastically out of sync with an otherwise seamless e-commerce experience.

“As we reimagine retail for a post-COVID world, retailers must accept that returns are part and parcel of 21st century shopping and, if managed well, can encourage conversion and drive loyalty among their most valuable shoppers. Retailers can no longer afford to ignore the post-purchase experience.”

You can download the full report here.

NOTES:

* consumers that shop online

** consumers that shop online and return items

 

Categories
Amazon Retail trends Store of the future Technology

Amazon UK debuts its till-free concept

Future of e-commerce? Stores, of course!

Big media day yesterday covering the news that Amazon has debuted its checkout-free store concept in London. 

This is watershed moment for U.K. retail. Amazon is known for disrupting the status quo, raising customer expectations and forcing competitors to raise their game. Remember Amazon is a tech company first, retailer second. The big question is – does Amazon really want to become Britain’s biggest supermarket or perhaps it’s more lucrative to license this tech to… everyone else? Either way, Amazon transformed the checkout experience online and will now do the same in-store. Goodbye, friction!

If you haven’t yet had a chance to visit the Ealing store, there is a photo gallery and additional commentary available on Retail Week.
Stay tuned for further analysis.
Cover photo: Amazon
Categories
Consumer Retail trends

Clicks and Cliques: Understanding Modern Shopper Tribes

Knowing your customer is essential in the best of times. In a post-pandemic world, it will be the difference between survival and failure.

I had the pleasure to work with Klarna on their latest report Clicks and Cliques: Understanding Modern Shoppers where we identified five distinct shopper tribes for the post-COVID world. Based on a survey of 4,000+ consumers across Europe, the UK, USA and Australia, the report examines how shopping behaviour has evolved and how retailers can stay relevant in a fast-moving world.

Good value for money is naturally a top priority for shoppers this year, with more than two-thirds (67%) suggesting it has become more important since the start of the pandemic. It’s followed by promotions and deals (60%), a good reputation and trustworthiness (60%) and having a wide range of products available (58%) — perhaps fuelled, in part, by shortages on the shelves earlier in the year.

Over half of respondents said that an easy returns process (55%) and next or same day delivery options (51%) have become more important this year — naturally coinciding with 49% doing more of their shopping online and 44% doing most or all their shopping online now.

The ability to pay flexibly has also grown in importance, according to 45% of respondents — and this can be a real dealbreaker. Four in ten (42%) prefer to shop from brands or retailers that offer flexible payment options, while three in ten (32%) won’t shop from those that don’t.

Commenting on the research, Luke Griffiths, CCO at Klarna, said: “This year’s events have transformed the way we browse and buy, reinventing our relationships with brands and retailers and accelerating change at an unprecedented rate. Merchants must keep a finger on the pulse of their customers wants and needs and adapt their products and service offers accordingly to build a connection with shoppers to drive loyalty and, ultimately, sales.” 

Natalie Berg, Retail Analyst and Founder of NBK Retail, added: “The retail industry is no stranger to disruption, yet nothing in our lifetime has jolted the industry like Covid. As retailers look to navigate the new normal, resilience and agility will be essential for survival. There will be no return to the status quo. The days of being everything to everyone are well and truly over: in order to find their tribe, retailers need to be bold about who they are and what they stand for. Opportunities have emerged, enabling retailers to reimagine both physical and digital commerce for the future.”

Download the full report here.

Categories
Retail trends Store of the future

The Retail Exchange Podcast: 2020 Review & 2021 Predictions

Natalie Berg joins Karl McKeever, MD of Visual Thinking, as co-host of The Retail Exchange‘s final podcast episode of the year. 

If you were trying to end this year by winning a prize for its greatest understatement, you could describe 2020 as ‘eventful’. It is difficult in many respects to argue that 2020 was an especially good year. Emerging trends didn’t just gather momentum, they marched forward to turn the industry on its head in ways we could never have imagined. For retail, it’s been a year of contrasting fortunes. Some have faltered. Others have thrived.

To set the tone, we revisit some of the interviews and discussions that have shaped The Retail Exchange’s podcast episodes in 2020, with special co-hosts Karl McKeever and Natalie Berg reflecting on the past year – the challenges faced, things we’ve learned, the opportunities taken – and looking ahead at what’s to come in what we all hope will be a brighter 2021.

You can listen to the full episode here.

Categories
Retail trends

Future of Retail 2020

What will shopping look like in 2021, 2025 and 2030? I had the pleasure of speaking to Raconteur for this annual supplement in The Times. Always an interesting read but especially this year given that we are in the middle of a pandemic that has upended the industry like nothing before. You can catch my thoughts in the following sections:

You can download the full PDF here.

Categories
Retail trends

DTC: 2020 Review and 2021 Expectations

Ding dong, Avon calling!

The direct selling channel is one of the few bright spots in retail right now. But how does a model that is based on human interaction adapt to today’s challenge of social distancing?

This week, I had the pleasure of chairing a roundtable discussion hosted by the Direct Selling Association and the opportunity to learn more about this £2.7 billion-a-year channel of UK retail where products are sold directly to consumers outside of a fixed retail environment.

Panellists included:

  • Cliff Jones, Sales Director, The 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan
  • Peter Kropp, Global Director, The Body Shop at Home
  • Alessandro Martinez, Managing Director, Vorwerk UK
  • Susannah Schofield OBE, Director General, The Direct Selling Association
  • Andy Smith, General Manager, Amway UK & Ireland and Chair, The Direct Selling Association

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Here’s what the direct selling channel gets right:

Agility. Direct selling is an inherently nimble, flexible, and low-risk channel. One thing that has become clear this year is that necessity is the mother of invention so when the pandemic hit, at-home demonstrations and shopping parties quickly went virtual. The panellists believe that this blended experience will stick post-COVID as online and offline worlds continue to merge. Pandemic pivots have actually enhanced certain aspects of the CX and enabled brands to reach a broader customer base.

Community. The panellists all stressed the importance of selling an experience, not a product. Moving beyond the transaction to build a community and foster a sense of belonging is going to be vital for traditional retail as we move into 2021. The pandemic has reinforced the importance of strengthening community in a digital setting – an active online community that swaps ideas, recipes and advice will garner greater loyalty in the physical world.

Brand evangelism starts internally. The very nature of this model grants its ‘consultants’ a significant amount of autonomy which empowers and enables them to offer a highly personalised, relevant experience to customers. The panellists stressed the importance of authenticity here – consultants are the brand’s first customers; if they don’t believe in the product, they’re not going to not sell it. We must not underestimate the importance of training and supporting consultants/staff. They are the face of the brand and, ultimately, retail’s most important asset.

Some important lessons here for the wider retail industry as we begin to emerge from this crisis.