How retailers can leverage O2O effectively!

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The O2O concept is not new, rather it has been a buzzword for a few years now but in the last couple of years this concept has started gaining importance. In simple words O2O means online-to-offline where online channels are used to drive customers to the offline stores. The main aspect here however is to make this experience flow between the virtual and the physical channels seamless and impressive.

Below are three ways how retailers can use their existing resources to leverage O2O effectively.

Brick and mortar stores: By treating stores not just as sales channels but also as distribution centers, retailers can leverage their store network to satisfy customer needs by using store level inventory to deliver orders to customers’ homes as well as for click-and collect orders. With these new fulfillment options enabled by the store, consumers can click, collect and return goods as per their convenience. Modern day customers are demanding a better combination of value, convenience and experience and brands who strike the right balance between delivering great product value and offering superior customer experience and convenience will emerge as customer favorites.

Combination of channels: About a few of years ago retailers went about developing websites and mobile applications to expand their presence and some retailers also shifted to an online-only presence without having any offline stores since the trend seemed like the customer was increasingly going ‘digital’. Moreover running and managing brick-and-mortar stores were seen as an expensive and time consuming affair. But the modern day retailers have realized the need to go ‘omni-channel’ i.e. seamlessly integrating both their online and offline channels to enable customers to research, purchase, earn and burn loyalty points, and return, across channels. Brands focusing on getting their omni-channel right will definitely win the customer experience race.

Data Management: In order to get it right in omni-channel retailing, retailers need to manage their customers and inventory across channels. As customers randomly switch between channels while shopping it is imperative for retailers to ensure that the customer demands are satisfied, irrespective of the channel they choose. Here is where data management will help. Having insightful customer data such as past buying patterns and purchasing history, as well as accurate information of the product inventory and stock, and having all this available in near real-time will allow retailers to be proactive towards managing demands across channels effectively and thus mitigating chances of lost sales. Moreover profiling customers will also enable retailers to create and execute targeted promotions and campaigns to spike customer’s interest in the brand and thus boost sales.

Reinventing the retail shopping journey!

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Retail shopping experience right from research to purchase to post sales service has seen a paradigm shift over the last few years. One of the primary reasons for this shift is a significant change in the consumer behavior. This change has had a global impact across industries including retail and it continues to drive innovations and advancements which will shape the world through 2030. Further, economic and technological shifts have reinvented the shopper journey holistically. Previously, shopping revolved around the purchase and was highly transaction focused. However today, shopping is an entire journey. It is a relationship building process for the retail brand with their consumers.

The modern day’s shopper journey can be broken down broadly into 3 stages: pre-purchase stage, purchase and the post-purchase stage. Today, the brand experience has to be infused into all of these stages seamlessly.

Taking a look at the pre-purchase stage, this stage is all about the brand connecting and framing a relationship with the shopper, by being able to answer the shopper’s questions about products they are exploring and helping them realize how their purchase can fit within their values and lifestyle. This stage is where customers research about brands and their products/service offerings, and based on their evaluations considering various factors would decide to make a purchase for a particular product, from brand. Hence this stage is a huge opportunity for retail companies to influence consumers and thus lay the foundation of a solid relationship while ensuring their patronage.

Meanwhile, in the purchase stage, being central to the shopping journey as the transactions happen here, there has been a reinvention in the overall perception of the transaction. Price still remains extremely important; however, today’s customer is not only paying for the product but also the convenience that is associated with the purchase. This convenience will also be integrated into the shoppers’ perception of value. Moreover, making things quicker is not only about speeding up the payment process, but other factors such as curating goods and services and information faster, also contribute to it. These will influence the purchase experience of the shopper and retail brands should ensure that this experience is positive, personalized and perfect to establish loyalty.

In the final stage which is the post-purchase stage, it is important for retail brands to extend their post-sale services to shoppers and continue efforts to cement brand-customer relationships as well as enrich loyalty. As such, the shopper’s journey with a particular brand may end at the purchase stage itself and this would be a huge loss as retail companies will miss out on repeat business from loyal customers. Thus the brand value should be extended to the shoppers in the post purchase stage as it enables connecting the brand with the consumer’s lifestyle thus making the brand experience relevant.

Making A Dent In The Retail Universe

ETP blog Retail disruption

Disruptive innovation, a term of art coined by Clayton Christensen, is described as an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.  The retail business is experiencing tumultuous change and instead of fortifying a singular approach, retailers are adopting multi-dimensional technology through disruptive innovations which are fast establishing themselves within the industry. Emerging retail technology like Mobility, Digital Wallets, Big Data, Geo-fencing, etc. has helped retailers explore and expand to a global market. Simultaneously, it is providing the right system fitments that help reduce costs through optimized operations, gain profitable growth with better business intelligence and increase brand equity which becomes proportional to the rising customer connect and satisfaction.

The best example to support the above statement would be the continuing ascent that Apple has charted and secured for the future. In 2014, Apple retained its position as the world’s most valuable brand, increasing its brand value by 21% to $118.9 billion. The company trail blazed an era of disruption starting with mobile technology in 2007 and powering on with business apps and devices like iPod and iPad which fast became trendsetters in device technology.

Mobility in retail is changing the way customers interact with brands and consume products, services and information. Most retailers have gained and sustained increased productivity enjoying the ‘first mover advantage’ with mobile internet. The internet of things has made it possible for retailers to build assured ROI within the business. These are not device centric innovations but rather a universal solution that realizes projected growth and fulfills customer experience and the brand’s USP. Adding to the same, digital wallet technology is quickly catching on to become one of the key payment modes, especially in industries like retail, banking, entertainment, etc. Forrester research data reveals that 50% of US smartphone owners are open to using their mobile phones for in-store payments. While this technology lends access to finance and payment related functions on handheld or desktop devices, it also manages a behemoth of value added services like offers, discounts, loyalty credits, etc. and even one-click comparison shopping.

Big Data technology has changed retail market dynamics for good. Retailers are now targeting individuals rather than demographical sub-sets, building relationships and awareness over ‘sales pitches’. Recently, Walmart launched the social, mobile and retail-focused Walmart Labs in Silicon Valley, and it acquired a handful of tech startups, including Kosmix and Vudu. Walmart Labs developed the search engine, Polaris, which uses semantic search algorithms to understand what someone is searching for and thus boost sales. On top of that, the lab’s Social Genome Product culls through millions of tweets, Facebook messages, blog postings, YouTube videos and more to detect purchase intent and drive ecommerce.

Geo-fencing is the software application which uses Global Positioning System (GPS) or Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to create a virtual geographic fence. This can be dynamically defined and tracked as per requirement. Although this technology has multi-dimensional uses e.g. hospitals, human resources, high security, etc., it is being quickly adopted in retail to creatively engage and inform customers – attract them to the store at the most opportune time when they are within the location parameters. Retailers can also use the registered and opt-in customer data to further provide relevant content, as per their previous buying or payment history. For example, the Walgreens app has adopted Apple’s Passbook feature which uses geo-fencing to remind users to refill or pick up their prescriptions when they enter a Walgreens store.

The above examples represent a snippet of how disruptive technologies are making it possible for retailers to infuse advantageous sophistication into their overall brand experience. It represents profound opportunities, especially considering the potential of varied fast emerging retail markets worldwide.

CRM Is A Two-Way Street In Retail

Customer Relationship Management (CRM), as the name suggests, is primarily a customer-centric tool. But, it does have a multi-pronged effect on key business functions, proving to be the catalyst in organically evolving and optimizing retail planning and processes. Retail CRM helps retailers service, retain and grow their customer base.

The foremost and elemental expectation from a Retail CRM tool is to create more demand. It provides the necessary insights about the customer – her buying capacity, behavior or her preferences on products and promotions. It is no surprise then that many retail companies have begun implementing CRM programs in to the business. The promise of retaining and growing customer base through CRM is realized by these methods:

Loyalty programs: Global reports have shown that retailers can raise profits by 75% by retaining just 5% of the current customer-base. So, loyalty programs, if effectually planned and sustained, can be a substantial growth driving tool within the business. These programs can be planned to stay nimble as per the business objectives – to acquire more customers and make them stick, to increase transaction value from current base and to cultivate brand loyalty as a prestige token through preferential treatment.

Promotions: CRM based metrics help retailers evaluate their marketing campaigns and promotions. It applies the base of a seamless rewards and recognition program that can be automated and promoted through multiple channels. Determining the right channels for the promotions forms part of the strategy which can be allocated as per promotion phase, budget or target demographics. The promotions can be analyzed real-time to be revised or reinforced, basis customer feedback.

Personalized Offerings: This is perhaps the most significant part of retail CRM technology, albeit used inadequately, due to high dependency on external factors like trained staff, complete stock visibility, back-end system integration with real-time CRM information, etc. If these dependencies are adequately resolved, the retailer can break down his customer data and identify servicing factors which distinguish him from the competition. He can understand the product, payment, timing preferences and demographic details based on location, age, gender, race, etc. This information is worth its weight in gold, if employed successfully and executed perfectly towards providing superior shopping experiences.

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While increasing the demand side of the business remains sacrosanct, the course of action to achieve the same is subject to further correction. Most retailers reward the wrong customers and deprive the right ones by presenting equal or average service value to both.

With a powerful Retail CRM Software integrated across all operations, the retailers can have a 360° view of all business functions such as Omni-Channel and E-commerce, intuitive POS, Mobility, Daily Reports & Analytics, Social Media, Customer Support, Loyalty Programs, Promotions and Marketing Campaigns, which hold the potential to creating the desired demand from the right customer community.

At the same time, the customers’ expectations for a more delightful and better rewarding, personable experience and value will only increase through their consumption cycle with a retailer, making the transaction of knowledge and experience a two-way street.

Emerging technology is making it possible for retailers to match performance with desired pace in all channels across the globe. Cloud computing and marketing ensures that the process data shows the ‘one version of truth’ with real-time ease. Mobility in-store and online applications further provide the convenience and incentive to simply click, choose and buy. Through a powerful and engaging social media connect, brands can capture the most coveted real estate in retail – the customer’s mind. All these technological measures help improve the shopping experience, increase the brand equity and also keep feeding additional data to the CRM solution equipping it with the ability to harness potential with strategic speed.

The above points illustrate how CRM is a comprehensive tool, which can be used to not just grow the business but also to support it to stay competitive, apply sharper focus and merge the art of customer engagement with the science of derived business value.