BT pools access, services and apps to boost customer experience

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L to r: Emer Timmons, Anne Pithie and Rich Lowe: improving the customer experience

L to r: Emer Timmons, Anne Pithie and Rich Lowe: improving the customer experience

BT is pooling super-fast broadband access, IT services and retail apps to improve the customer shopping experience on the UK high street.

Billed as ‘Lighting up the High Street,’ and a world-first; the ‘end to end’ offer is designed to help retailers better serve their customers, help the supply chain match demand accurately, encourage shoppers to shop with stores and do so securely.

Emer Timmons, president BT global services, said: “It gives customers a fantastic experience wherever they are.”

BT is investing £2.5bn in the UK to improve access and said the new offer provided three key benefits including scalability and flexibility. “It allows retailers to be able to scale up, according to demand,” said Timmons.

This will be critical during the 2012 London Olympics, for instance, which some commentators have predicted will have the impact of three Christmases at once on retail businesses.

Timmons claimed the new model will also “take days out of the supply chain” and increase customer loyalty and the customer experience.

“One of the most important things is the increase in capacity, five times over what they [retailers] have traditionally and at 40% less cost,” she said.

Timmons said BT provided the best quality platform and innovation on demand from a suite of retail apps, available through BT Expedite, the company’s specialist retail division.

Rich Lowe, CEO at BT Expedite, said customers were looking for security in store and good customer service. “The challenge for retailers is to be operationally efficient and drive customer loyalty,” he said.  “There’s also a need for retailers to serve customers across all channels.”

Lowe said BT can assist retailers in the selling process and spending less time on transactional elements behind the till, for instance.

Lowe said BT was working with retailers including Crabtree & Evelyn to take costs of their businesses by investment in out-sourced data centres.

Anne Pithie, marketing director EMEA at Crabtree & Evelyn, said investment in BT’s virtual data centres to run its POS in store was central to future strategy and a repositioning of the brand to make it more accessible for growth.

“It’s a very exciting time in terms of our development and how we deliver the customer experience,” she said. “We also need to attract younger consumers and communicate with them in ways that are relevant. We wanted scalability and flexibility and could not find anyone else to give us that.”

Pithie said the investment had clear stock benefits.

“It allows us in the supply chain to ensure the right products are going to the right places,” she said.

Pithie said ranges, which sell well in cities such as Oxford and Cambridge, for instance, differ to those sold in tourist destinations like London and Edinburgh, where there is demand for floral-based products by Asian customers.

Pithie said the POS solution enabled Crabtree & Evelyn to spend more time selling the products. It is currently installed in 10 stores and will be rolled to the remaining 30 by 3 April 2011.

“Store staff are very excited,” she said. “It allows us to look at customers uniquely, for example where they are shopping.”

Another key benefit of the system is the ability to accept Chinese debit cards, said Pithie. The retailer is looking to extend this service to other foreign cards.