Omni-Channel Retailing And The Customer Experience (Part 2)
By Bob Johns, associate editor
The world of retail has changed dramatically in the past 5 years, more so than other period in history. Never before have customers had as much choice in who they purchase from, and in what channel. As retailers compete for business, having a true omni-channel approach, integrating all channels together, is key to business growth and customer retention. In part one of this series, we discussed the role fulfillment takes in the new retail environment. Today, we will be discussing how loss prevention (LP) technologies are helping retailers better serve their customers.
In the past few months we have attended RILA, NRF-LP, and ASIS conferences across the U.S., and one theme permeated every event — focus on the customer. This is a completely new approach for most LP solution providers and LP retail personnel. Gone is the focus strictly on shoplifting, sweethearting, and internal theft. Now, the majority of the focus is on integrating with operations on customer service. This includes everything from scheduling and training associates, to replenishment and out-of-stocks, to e-commerce security. Everything goes back to customer service.
I have met with a few solutions providers that are touting the benefits of the latest facial recognition solutions. Initially, retailers were considering these types of solutions to target criminals who have been in the store before, recognizing the face, and preventing future losses or aiding in capture. Now, however, many retailers are using these solutions to go beyond LP. High-end retailers are beginning to use facial recognition to alert managers when their best customers enter the store. Associates can then greet them by name and offer recommendations based on prior purchase information, which can be integrated as well. Merchandisers can use the same software to see if customers are stopping at an endcap, how long they stay, if they interacted, and even what emotion they are displaying. Knowing if customers are even paying attention to your merchandising efforts can go a long way in understanding the customer.
Additional information these solutions provide are age and gender demographics. Suppose a retailer is targeting 15- to 25-year-old females with their marketing campaign. Now what if you notice no increase in that demographic during the campaign, but you notice an increase in the 35- to 45-year-old female category? Could it be that your marketing campaign is skewing too old? Perhaps a new approach should be taken with the advertising. Or, maybe you will discover a whole new demographic that is buying your product that you can better capture. The possibilities are endless.
People counting solutions are another product that has both LP and operational impact. LP personnel have used this type of software to see if someone is dwelling in a high-theft area or if there are too many people in the store for associates to properly monitor. How about using this software to see what displays customers are drawn to, or how they migrate around the store? Are you losing sales because no one is approaching the customer offering assistance? Are people standing around looking for an associate? Are the associates standing around, not helping customers? Again, multiple departments are gaining an advantage by using LP technologies to upgrade customer service.
Finally, another overlooked part of LP that affects the omni-channel customer experience is online security. You may ask what this has to do with customer service. I say everything. Have you ever had your customers’ data hacked? It is a PR nightmare. Not only does it immediately impact sales, but it creates a horrible customer experience. Do you want to make the calls to 10,000 customers and let them know you let their credit card data be stolen? Additionally, various types of attacks that can either slow down or crash your e-commerce site also create that horrible customer experience. I personally have left numerous sites when they ran slow. I would just go to a competitor site and make my purchase there. That is a lost sale, and possibly a lost customer.
All aspects of retail are essential to creating that valuable omni-channel customer experience. Part 3 of this series will focus on workforce management solutions (WFM), and how the latest technology is all about creating a better associate and customer experience.