Shopping is often still a contact sport but, when it comes to advice seeking, bagging a bargain and ensuring the item you want is in stock, online retailers often have a distinct advantage over traditional ones.
Online shopping has changed people’s perceptions of service, value for money and convenience. Search engines have made the world our shop window, social media has become our source of trusted advice and smart phones have given us superpowers and blurred the lines between the physical and the virtual.
Showrooming is a symptom of customers’ increasing love affair with multiple channels. 1 in 2 of us now continuously leap around channels in order to get what we need, when we need it and at the right price. As more channels emerge, customers’ appetite for using these channels is continuously evolving. 82% of “autonomous customers” in BT’s recent survey of both UK and US customers say that they want organisations to give them access to all the channels that will help them to meet their needs.
However, more channels often means more complexity. It used to be easy to cope when your customers only walked through the front door of your store – now multiple channels mean multiple doors and multiple connecting corridors and it is very easy to get lost!
When things go wrong, it’s often the old, trusted phone channel that customers rely on to get answers or express our disgust. However, we may not stop there – we may then email, webchat and Tweet our way around the same issue.
The challenge for retailers is to ensure that these multiple doors are connected. The store, the website and the contact centre are intimately linked in the customer’s mind, but are often not even next door to each other organisationally.
Staff in physical stores need to regard the web as an asset rather than a competitor. They need to be empowered to cope with some of the more challenging things that customers (particularly the under 34s) are doing in store – like barcode scanning or location based searches. They also need to be networked in, alongside contact centre advisors, supply chain and product specialists, to newer channels for advice seeking, like webchat and social media. In short, they need to become as omni-channel as their customers.
If you want to hear more about this kind of thing, I’ll be presenting a session at the BT for Retail Summit 2013 on 22-23 May at Whittlebury Hall, Northamptonshire. You can get more information and register for the event here.
Posted by Dr Nicola Millard, Customer Experience Futurologist, BT