Future of Retail — The CFO Issue

issue 04

As well as offering omnichannel shopping, retailers should provide omnichannel care.

option should be clear and straightforward – especially as almost half of customers who use it say they might walk away from a sale if credit isn’t available, according to research by Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance. Some 50% said the availability of finance is ‘very important’ in their decision to make a purchase, while 53% spend more if credit is available. Stores that don’t make credit clearly and easily available risk losing out on big purchases.

THE VALUE OF KNOWLEDGEABLE STAFF What makes the biggest difference to shoppers when they’re in a store? Unsurprisingly, it’s the staff. In that PwC survey, 59% of British consumers named ‘sales associates with a deep knowledge of the product range’ as the most important attribute of their experience. This is what people are looking for when they step into

a store: a level of expertise and advice that they might not be able to find online. And retailers should look to carve out a niche for themselves by providing it. That means keeping their sales force well-informed and up-to- date on the pros and cons of the latest products. And staff should to be up-to-date with the latest retail

tech, too. Whether it’s handheld scanners and self- checkouts in the store, or apps and websites for when they leave, customers often need help making the most of them. These innovations may change the role of in- store staff, but they certainly don’t diminish it.

USE TECHNOLOGY TO ENHANCE THE IN-STORE EXPERIENCE It’s not just about keeping up with recent developments, though. To thrive, retailers must also pioneer new ones. Some shops already offer apps to guide customers through their aisles – and towards their special offers. These apps not only make the consumer experience smoother and easier, but can also provide retailers with invaluable data on what their customers are looking for. Things are getting even more futuristic. In America,

home furnishers Pottery Barn have launched a new augmented reality app that let’s customers ‘see’ a product in their own home, before they buy it. Just imagine: when buying a bed, as well as testing out the

mattress, you’ll soon be able to see how it would look in your bedroom.

OMNICHANNEL SHOPPING REQUIRES OMNICHANNEL CARE Nowadays, retailers know how important it is to give their customers a seamless journey between different channels. From store to website to app, consumers expect the same quality of experience whichever shopping method they use. And the same goes for customer service. As well

as offering omnichannel shopping, retailers should provide omnichannel care. They should show the same responsiveness whether a customer comes into a store with a query, calls a helpline, or simply tweets about it.

DON’T FORGET THE OLD-FASHIONED STUFF Amid all the new apps and futuristic technology, it’s vital that retailers don’t lose sight of the importance of good, old-fashioned customer service. Building a good relationship with customers – by treating them courteously and making their in-store experience a pleasant one – is the best way to keep them coming back. Trust and loyalty are still important considerations when consumers choose where to shop, so cultivating both remains as crucial as ever. The future is nothing for retailers to fear. But it is

something to prepare for. The high street has always been a place where pioneers thrive, and those pioneers are needed still, to find new ways to enhance the consumer experience and grow customer loyalty. As technological developments put more choice

and control in consumers’ hands, stores must do so too. They should embrace innovations that provide customers with more information or that cut checkout times, whilst making the most of their biggest advantage: knowledgeable, friendly staff who can provide a personalised service that adds value to a shopping trip. Those who believe good customer service won’t

matter in the future are wrong. Those who believe high street retailers can’t thrive are wrong too. They can, and – by following these key principles – they will.

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