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‘The customer is king’ is a long accepted truism in retail. Everything retailers do revolves around the customer. As a partner, we help retailers do two things:  provide that all important excellent customer service; and run the most efficient operation which frees your most valuable resource – your people – to focus on serving customers.

Technology can help with either of these, but they’re not mutually exclusive. In fact concentrating too much on the customer experience can have a detrimental effect on the operational aspects – leading, ironically, to an inability to meet customer demands.

So what if retailers ignored their customers for a moment? Not a popular approach in retail, I’ll admit, but hear me out…

In the technology sphere, the focus on improving customer service has recently taken the form of providing a more engaging in-store experience, with all the benefits of the web thrown in – no queues, full range available, instant reviews and recommendations and multiple delivery options. Meeting these expectations isn’t easy. It’s a real challenge for staff to keep up if they’re not given the right tools for the job and without a solid, integrated foundation you could see the whole kingdom come tumbling down.

To put this in context, on a recent Saturday morning pilgrimage to the DIY section in search of paint, I was on the verge of impulse buying a new gazebo (I know what you’re thinking and yes the weekends do just fly by!). When the sales advisor checked the stock for me he happily informed me that there were two in stock. Barcode scanned on the display, fast search on the stock and a positive result. So far so good. But it wasn’t on the rack the system pointed us to, nor could it be located elsewhere in the store or the warehouse. Result? A frustrated member of staff who now doesn’t trust the technology, and a sale lost – my appetite for garden furniture having now receded.

That’s why retailers occasionally have the right to be a bit more selfish; looking after themselves ultimately helps take care of customers better. Because getting it right behind the scenes – making the systems and processes smoother and easier for everyone – frees up and empowers resources on the shop floor, which in turn will help create that perfect customer experience.

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Almost any efficiency or process improvement you make will impact your customers’ experience. In-store mobility, for example, to enable store staff carry out day-today tasks out like checking for stock without leaving the sales floor, means more customer-facing time.

Similarly, enabling store managers to pick up daily communications on a mobile device gets them out of the office and onto the shop floor. At the same time, you’re saving on printing and distribution plus making it easier to allocate information directly to the right people rather than depending on a manager to act as the postman. This puts managers back on the sales floor where they want to be, rather than isolated from colleagues and customers. Mobile devices in particular liberate activities (which previously were tied to a PC in the back office) to be carried out in the store where they’re often more effective.

Of course changing the way you work isn’t easy – and you have to be confident that any new technology is going to intervene in your current business processes in a positive way. In the case of my DIY experience, if the stock had been recorded from the display rather than on what was reported to have been delivered the experience would have been very different.

With so many mission critical processes tied to technology, you can be selfish – get someone else to do the worrying about networks, systems, hardware, software and devices; you should just have to turn up and get on with the real work of retailing. Which brings us back to customers…

By Josh Pert, CEO – BT Expedite & Fresca

 

Posted by: Paul Mitchell  |   Comments  No Response

Passport? Check. Boarding card? Check. 700+ excitable marketing people in a giant tent bedecked with chandeliers? Check. It must be the B2B Marketing Awards 2012.

The Sky’s the Limit was the theme of this year’s ceremony as the business marketing world’s best and brightest descended on central London to celebrate the very best in B2B marketing. There once was a time when B2B was considered a bit dull. Not any longer. The word used at the ceremony to describe B2B was “sexy”.

And in line with the glamorous new image, we had beautiful air hostesses and stewards to dish out cocktails and champagne, and tables set with all the stuff you’d expect of a first class seat, including oxygen masks… which came in handy as we hopped on Routemaster buses to the after party burlesque show with Beatrix von Bourbon.

But of course the real reason we were all there was to find out who had come out on top. And guess what? BT Expedite’s very own Justine Arthur scooped top prize in one of the most fiercely contested and prized categories – B2B Marketer of the Year 2012. It’s a fantastic testament to the hard work put in by Justine – and her team – over the past year.

As part of Justine’s “extended team” (the phrase she uses when she wants some mad, last-minute rush job done) we at Westhill Communications have been closely involved in almost all of BT Expedite’s campaigns and events this year – providing editorial, design, technological and moral support to the marketing team whenever needed – as well as helping to write and design the award submissions. So along with WTA, Broadview, and Quatreus (the other members of Justine’s extended team) and  JP Creative (BT Global Services’ agency) we all felt like winners.

BT was also named runner up in the Best Use of Live Event Marketing category for the BT Expedite and BT Global Services Future of retail - Lighting up the High Street technology showcase at the Retail Business Technology Expo, when Justine ‘drove’ a bus into the centre of Earls Court!  

So it was a fantastic excuse to crack open some bubbly and celebrate in style. Now we just need to recover in time for Justine’s next campaign.

You can get a full rundown of the awards categories, winners and download case studies here.

Paul Mitchell, editor, Westhill Communications - BT Expedite’s marketing and communications agency

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The recent Retail Week Ecommerce Summit highlighted just how important e-commerce has become to retail. In fact, it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that e-commerce is the future of retail. Every retailer needs to work out their strategy in this area – now. And with some of the industry’s leading players gathered together for two days, the Summit provided a unique opportunity to get a little help with that.

It was a fantastic event, packed full of high-profile speakers and brimming with practical advice about how to tackle the challenges dominating – or about to dominate – the e-commerce world.

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Ish Patel from Aurora Fashions kicked off the whole thing in style with the first presentation of the event, speaking about the company’s Anywhere Everywhere initiative that we were heavily involved in. We then had a bit of everything – from dealing with x-rated online questions to Tesco’s invasion of Denmark.

But, for me the three main themes that came out over the course of the two days were

1.      The move towards mobile

Retailers need to be designing for new consumer gadgets, rather than PCs, and be clear about how their customers use the different devices to interact with the brand – particularly the tablet, where customers are looking for the most involved and lengthy engagement.

 

2.      Customer service is still king

Getting it right at the back-end is vital to deliver on the brand and service promise.  So we heard Mothercare discussing the (destructive) power of loyal customers who have a bad experience and use social media to spread the word.

 

3.      Several areas still evolving

Payments, delivery options and interaction with customers’ mobiles, for example,  are all still in flux and retailers need to be prepared to innovate, experiment and then learn in these areas – either ‘fast rollout’ or ‘fast fail’.

Everything’s so new just now and it’s moving so fast – these kinds of get-togethers can really help to see what the leaders in the field are doing. The Summit was a great place to kick around new ideas, with so many people sharing experiences and discussing the future of e-commerce.

There was certainly a lot of interest in our own exhibition stand at the event, where we demoed our e-commerce platform and multichannel capabilities, and even managed to entice Gordon Ramsay over. At least he swore it was him…

There was certainly a lot of interest in our own exhibition stand at the event

Posted by Jason Shorrock, Business Development Director, BT Expedite & Fresca

Posted by: BT Expedite  |   Comments  No Response

It may have been cold and foggy outside the BT Tower last week, but inside one thing was clear: in-store wi-fi is a hot topic right now.

More than 70 retailers squeezed into BT Tower to pick the brains of various product experts and mobility providers during a morning of presentations, discussions and technology demonstrations.

So what did we find out?

BT Expedite & Fresca’s product director Jason Shorrock kicked things off by outlining how mobile is transforming the bricks and mortar customer experience. The eventual arrival of  e-commerce as a mainstream for all retailers has helped change the role of the store, from a purely transactional customer experience to become a point of service.

In addition to using wi-fi to mobilise elements of the existing store experience, retailers are finding the key to success is identifying opportunities to generate more value from their two fundamental resources – human capital and floorspace. Mobile technologies create friction-free experiences for customers in store, whether that be through queue-busting in busy periods or providing staff with a live inventory of the stock room so they can provide better information to, and spend more time with, the customer.

One thing is very clear – mobile isn’t going to go away and it’s vital that in-store infrastructure is set up and managed properly – rather than allowing it to grow piecemeal. The benefits are material, as Julian Niblett former head of retail operations development at Boots UK, pointed out. Enterprise mobility can create real value through improved:

  • accuracy (mobile is real-time and paperless)
  • productivity (it removes tasks and introduces more automation)
  • management information
  • audit systems (by removing physical paperwork)
  • customer services (with staff on the shop floor more)

And all at a lower cost model by reducing stock investment and improving margins.

Which all sounds great, so how do we do it?

John Vaccaro of Mobilis Consulting and BT Expedite Infrastructure Services Director Eddie Dodds outlined the main challenges of managing mobile hardware, software and systems. Understanding the interplay of networks, access points and applications underpins the successful planning of effective delivery.

It’s all about the three Ms: measurement, monitoring, management. The real opportunity is knowing and reacting if something goes wrong – before it impacts the business. With so much now dependent on it, wireless is a mission-critical asset. So it needs to be brought into your existing systems and procedures with a central platform capable of managing as many devices as possible.

And that’s when the real fun begins.

Once you have the infrastructure and management in place you can throw your virtual doors open and invite some guests. Just don’t assume that your role as a host is to simply open the door! You need to spend a little bit of time getting to know your guests.

Carlos Gómez Gallego product management director at Aruba Networks described the different ways retailers are doing this. One thing was loud and clear: IN-STORE GUEST ACCESS IS NOT ABOUT INTERNET ACCESS. I’ll say that again: In-store guest access is not about internet access. The days of enticing customers to buy a coffee for some “free” internet time are over, especially as some of the behaviours that drove there were not always in the best interests of the retailer (anyone want to confess to sitting in Borders’  café reading a book you then didn’t buy?)

Smart retailers are using wi-fi access to capture customer info and to engage. They’re broadening the concept of a “session” to a “visit”. It’s a whole new channel with additional engagement and targeted marketing opportunities and the chance to learn from an even broader spread of behavioural and usage data.

Each time someone connects, you get information such as email addresses, phone numbers, time and duration of visit, pages visited… and with this you can start firing out personalised, targeted offers in real-time on their device – or even via in-store display screens running dynamic personalised messages. 

Watch highlights and hear from speakers Julian Nibblet (formerly with Boots UK), John Vaccaro (Mobilis Consulting) and Carlos Gomez Gallego (Aruba Networks) as well as and Eddie Dodds and Jason Shorrock from BT.

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By Josh Pert, CEO, BT Expedite & Fresca

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