Balance is important in relationships. When things get out of balance the harmony is lost and the relationship suffers. At the risk of working in sweeping generalisations, the retail industry is out of balance with its customers and the cause is easy to see. Looking back over the last five years, retailers and consumers have been going in completely different directions.
Retailers have had their hands full. They’ve been working hard on consolidation, cost transformation and efficiency. They’ve been implementing ERP systems and forecasting engines, upgrading their POS platforms, transforming their supply chains and providing e-commerce channels. They’ve been updating their stores, upgrading their networks, improving manufacturing processes and being more energy efficient. This is great stuff but when you get to the heart of it, it hasn’t really changed how retail works and the life of a store employee hasn’t materially changed.
Compare this with what the consumers have been up to. Smartphones, tablets, broadband, mobile broadband, Google, Facebook, Twitter. The list goes on. People communicate differently now (who would have thought that after the 160 character restriction of SMS messages were removed, we would voluntarily choose a service like Twitter that only allows even shorter messages) and are data rich. The transition of Google from a company to a verb is a strong indicator of how behaviours have changed.
OK. All of this is well known and documented to death. Customers are now highly mobile and informed so retailers need to give the consumer what they want – e -commerce, social interaction, richer information online, wireless networks in stores, better shipping options, apps, kiosks, customised promotions, seamless shopping experiences, to mention just a few.
And this is where balance comes into it. Customers want to engage with the retailer and have the social interaction that makes the process enjoyable, but the store employees just don’t have the knowledge to engage at the level that the customer now expects. Think of the store as a dance floor; the customers are all out there looking for a good time while the store employees shuffle their feet round the edges looking slightly embarrassed, not sure of what to say. Research has shown that customers are crying out for better service. So how can balance be restored? How can retailers get their store staff back onto the dance floor?
Simple. Go mobile, but as a retailer. Not a consumer. Then learn.
It’s not consumer mobile. That’s fickle, fast changing, uncertain. It’s not the old enterprise mobile – that’s clunky, slow and unwieldy. The new enterprise mobile is fast, predictable and secure. And compatible.
Imagine the opportunities. Your store employees, free to engage customers anywhere within the store and provide all of the services you have available today. Not limited by point solutions that do one thing, but with full access to everything with all of the capabilities that you need. And as they engage, learn from the experiences and adapt and evolve the processes and systems to better satisfy the customer.
It’s Retail. Unleashed.
Posted by Mike King,CTO, BT Expedite