Retailers should sync online/offline shopping experience to improve sales, says Appirio

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Justin Anderson, GM EMEA at cloud consultancy firm, Appirio has guidance on how retailers can engage customers through their employees in order to ensure strong sales growth 

“The latest end of year footfall and online sales figures from SpringBoard Insights have revealed declining brick-and-mortar traffic, with a 28.3% fall year-on-year, but strong online sales. Reports have highlighted the accessibility of online sales and a combination of cold weather and bank holiday trading hours prevented shoppers from venturing outside. While these are points to remember there is a lot to be said and done internally so that retailers can understand the data and improve their customer and worker experience.

“What is really key is how retailers can join up the customer experience both online and in-store. Whichever channel customers choose to shop on, they will gravitate towards the retailer that best understands their likes and dislikes. As a result, retailers must collaborate better with their stores, arming their workers with the tools necessary to ensure that every interaction is consistent and takes the customer on one journey rather than disjointed, separate trips.

“When customers walk into a store, they are often better equipped with information on what they want than the associates in the store, and that makes for a frustrating experience on both sides. Retailers need to focus on their real-time data collection strategy. It’s no longer good enough to have the tools in the back office, associates on the shop floor need to have all the information they require at their fingertips. For instance, new products, pricing and promotions need to be communicated quickly and efficiently to stores and staff while being consistent with online offers.

“Using and sharing data and online shopping behaviour trends across multiple store locations can unlock a 360 degree customer view, which will enable store employees to sync up with ecommerce. Website download lag and inefficient point of sale technology can be barriers to collecting accurate customer data. Therefore, old legacy systems need to be consolidated into the cloud, so retailers can start making data work more effectively by building a better view of their customers and offering a more bespoke service both online and in-store.

“Retailers should also look to arm their workers with the tools to offer a true omni-channel customer service. For example, providing customer service agents with ticket tracking across locations to enable them to live chat with customers. Self-service portals can also lighten the load on store locations and customer service teams by giving employees and end customers access to quickly find answers to their questions before they become concerns.

“The more retailers engage with their customers, the better they’ll know how to serve their needs. Customers require a seamless connection between online and offline shopping experiences and a retailer who masters both channels will be in a better position to link the current gap between bricks and clicks.”