NRF 2020: Key Takeaways

It was a vintage year at #NRF this time round, despite the floor perhaps being a little lighter than some previously, the array of delights on offer was as impressive as ever.

It feels like something of a shock that it’s all over, but having had a week to digest the highlights over some much heated conversations back at TruHQ, we think we’ve just about got our heads around the key emerging themes and talking points from the floor.

As always, it’s going to be interesting to see how these play out across the rest of the year, but for those looking to place a bet, we reckon the below will give you a good starting point. 

Brick and Mortar is ‘BACK’ (once again!) 

A safe call for key takeaway from NRF 2020 would be that the experts are now once again firmly backing brick and mortar as the key to retail’s ongoing and future success.  A widely shared piece by Retail Dive’s Daphne Howland, caught the mood, highlighting the increasingly visible presence of cutting edge concept stores from the likes of Showfields, Area15, Enjoy and Neighborhood Goods. Big names such as Nordstrom have also showed their willingness to embrace the ‘push things forward’ mantra, with the launch of their ‘product free’ Local stores (covered previously on this blog).

With some of the major eComm players of the last few years starting to show signs of a slow down (Howland noted to Caspar Sleep’s $90 million in losses as one clear example) the resurgence of an appreciation for physical retail that has been growing behind the scenes for some time, came into full bloom at this year’s show.  Where pure-play online disruptors were once seen as an existential threat to a struggling retail industry, the role of the store is now being re-evaluated and pushed into a new role at the start of the fledgling decade.

Rediscovering Retail’s Human Side 

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, who led the proceedings on Day 2, delivered a passionate call to arms for providing retail experiences that truly embrace what it means to aim high, inspiring many with his call for retail outlets to reconnect with their role as a place where humans can gather interact with one another, as well as just buy things.  Across the speakers at NRF 2020, there was a real sense that retail was reconnecting with its human side, with increasingly loud calls for authenticity and connection resounded across each of the main stages.

With keynotes from the likes of Patagonia’s Head of Corporate Development Phil Graves emphasising the ethical responsibility that retailers need to focus in an increasingly fragile world, perhaps another quote from Johnson can be taken as synecdochical for wider attitudes on display across the rest of the show,

“The pursuit of profit is not in conflict with the pursuit of doing good” 

Kevin Johnson, Starbucks, CEO

The Female Quotient 

Now in its second year at NRF, despite feeling like a much longer established part of the proceedings, the Female Quotient Stage, set up by Shelley Zallis, offered a world class line up highlighting the variety and impact of female talent operating across the board in retail.  Honesty and self-determination were the name of the day, with many a speaker calling on founders to acknowledge the difficulty of the challenges they face, by understanding personal strengths and weaknesses.

There was a dogged persistency to much of the advice given to those keen to listen – perhaps best captured by Poshmark co-founder Tracy Sun’s advice that while there’s theoretically never a good time to start a business – your best bet is to just get on with it and do it!

A huge array of brands and speakers were represented across the three days –  from Untuckit’s Chief Digital Officer Lockie Andrews to TechStyle’s President of Global Fashion Brands Laura Joukovski – representing a bright and exciting future for the future of female talent in the retail industry.

The AI Invasion

From the fringes of imagination to front and centre of the world’s largest retail show, everywhere you looked it was hard to miss some sort of mention of AI as a talking point.  If it wasn’t for the wide-spread pontificating about the importance of the human touch in retail, a casual observer might have thought that all stores will be run entirely by robots in the next few years…

As it stands, many of the uses for AI are to fuel distinctly ‘human’ needs, with artificial intelligence continuing to drive an ever increasing sophistication when it comes to personalisation (or hyper-personalisation as it’s now referred to) along with the resurgence of the Loyalty Program as two major AI-driven talking points to look out for in the new year.

Blurred Lines – one channel to rule them all?

While at one point the word ‘omnichannel’ was the buzzword par choice for the movers and shakers in retail, the advice coming from the world’s largest retailers is that we need to now focus on how to treat all channels as one.  ‘Unified Commerce’ is a term that is increasingly replacing the ‘omni-focus’ of the near past, and in a world where as much as half of store sales now involve an online journey, treating the two channels as separate entities already feels distinctly outdated.

Erik Nordstrom’s keynote laid out the bare facts about the way people are shopping today, and his talk highlighted that consumers are thoroughly in control when it comes to driving the way that today’s retail journeys are evolving.  The brands who sit up listen, and most importantly are able to react to these shifting expectations, are the ones who will lead the way in 2020 and beyond.

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So that’s it for another year!  We’d love to hear your take on what you felt were the most important emerging themes at #NRF2020 – let us know in the comments or on Twitter at any time.

If you’re still feeling the pangs of withdrawal from the Big Event, why not check out our full post on the best of Day 1 to keep you going. 

 

 

 

NRF 2020: Day 1 Round-Up

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – there’s never a dull moment at NRF (except perhaps when queuing to get passes…).  Having taken a booth for the first time this year – #1362, thanks for asking – has given us an even greater appreciation of the huge amount of effort that goes into the ‘Big Show’ for speakers and exhibitors alike.

With so much going on, it can be hard to know where to focus – luckily we’re here to provide you with an overview of the highlights and dominant themes of this year’s event.  Here’s our key takeaways from Day 1 of NRF 20202 – we’d love to hear yours in the comments or on social!

Opening Keynote – Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO 

As always, part of the joy of NRF is the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the biggest names in the industry, and the event’s opening Keynote from Satya Nadella didn’t disappoint.  Delivering an inspiring call to arms for ‘Intelligent Retail’, the Microsoft CEO spun a neat turn on an old saying when he noted in today’s world there are only three certainties, ‘Death, Taxes and ever increasing digital advertising spend”.

Speaking on the modern retail relationship to data, the Microsoft leader noted that retailers are now generating up to 40 terabytes of data every hour, with the real question being what on Earth do you do with all this information?  Nadella took a no-nonsense approach, observing that, “data is only useful if you can predict something in real-time,” speaking to a theme that is already emerging as one of the key talking points of this year’s event.

Walmart’s John Furner on ‘Good Jobs’ in retail 

From the CEO of one of the largest tech companies in the world, to the CEO of one of the world’s largest retailers, John Furner (recently named leader at Walmart) was next up on the main stage discussing his approach to staffing in the digital age, with a focus on his time as leader at Sam’s Club.  Speaking to Zeynep Ton, Operations Professor and author of The Good Jobs Strategy, Furner put forward a vision of the modern corporation as beholden not only to the shareholder, but committed to ‘build social and shared value for employees, customers and shareholders’.

While the message of social responsibility would’ve likely resonated in an NRF where brand authenticity is emerging as a dominant theme, Furner also noted that customer complaints at Sam’s Club about things like ‘needing friendlier staff’ were often about more specific needs like ‘the meat department manger’ not being experienced enough.

As champions of the need for increased granularity when it comes to customer feedback, this really resonated as a clear example of why retailers need to evolve beyond simply relying on top-level experience KPIs – for the sake of consumers and staff both.

Kohl’s Michelle Gass named retail Visionary for 2020

Another big draw on day one, saw Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass honored as ‘Visionary’ of the year.  In a wide-ranging conversation with CNBC’s Courtney Reganm, Gass cited Kohl’s focus on thinking differently about stores, particularly with a view on the interplay of retail and digital and its impact on the overall customer experience, as key to its success.  Echoing the the popular sentiment of social responsibility, Gass said that the core of Kohl’s purpose was “to inspire and empower families to lead fulfilled lives”.

Speaking to the existing challenges in the sector, Gass agreed, “we’re all going to have to change, evolve and adapt”.  Perhaps the most visible example of this evolution in Kohl’s recent history, is that of their widely publicised returns partnership with Amazon – which after an initial successful pilot saw a full roll out across all Kohl’s locations in 2019.

While some commentators may be sceptical about whether this drive for increased footfall, has actually had the desired impact on sales (see Kohl’s recent holiday results) from the top down at least, the message was clear – it’s working. 

The Best of the Rest

Drowning in Data?

Speaking to the thorny subject of ‘data overkill’, the ‘Retail Prophet’ Doug Stephens neatly captured a widespread issue at the heart of the retail sector’s approach to data – while everyone agrees they want more of it, not everyone seems to know what to do with the data they have.  As the integration of data into day-to-day strategy becomes increasingly common place, it’s hard to see this as a conversation that’s going to fade away anytime soon.  Whether retailers rise to the challenge of understanding data through a CX lens, may soon be cited as the defining difference between future successes and failure both.

Rapid Retail Evolution 

Larisa Summers picked up on a less talked about trend at this year’s NRF, noting just how many of brands and platforms showcasing have emerged in just the last four years.  With an increasing number of ‘ecomm challengers’ now investing in their physical footprint – it’s likely that the conflation between online and physical outlets will continue to blur, as we enter a retail world that doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to ‘omnichannel’ but actually delivers an operating model that supersedes it.  It’s clear that the catalyst for this change is the consumer – and expectations around fluid and convenient customer experiences look like they’re only set to grow.

 An inherent conflict at the heart of retail? 

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While many of the day’s biggest speakers could be heard evangelising a retail philosophy of positivity and empowerment – on the other side of the hall the loudest calls for action were around continued investment in the technology, or as writer Mark Thornton bluntly put it, an implicit call for automation e.g. ‘get rid of staff’.

For those looking to place a bet on retail’s next ‘existential’ challenge, squaring the peg of how to take advantage of technological advances while maintaining the ‘human’ core of retail, might be a good bet.  At the very heart of all great customer experiences is something uniquely personal, that can not easily be mass produced.  The struggle to find a balance between human-first and tech approaches is going to be a fascinating one to see pan out over the coming years.

Our bet? The retailers who harness tech to support their staff, not replace them, will be the long-term winners. hem – will be the ultimate winners in our Brave New World. 

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If you’ve made it this far – congratulations.

We’ll be back soon with more highlights form the event, in the meantime, why not come and say hello to the TruRating team at Booth #1362 to learn a little about or next-gen CX solutions.  You never know, it might turn out to be the best thing you do at this year’s event!

Book your slot here, or just swing by the booth at anytime.

 

Why is it so hard to prove the ROI of CX?

Ask any CX professional.  Proving the direct ROI of what you do can be hard work.  Any number of reasons can be given for this – lack of executive understanding, business ownership or clear objectives of a program immediately to mind – but a recent article by Alyone Medellyan, co-founder of AI-startup Thematic, clearly identifies three key recurring issues that many face when trying to establish an effective CX program.

  1. Speed and Precision of Insight – getting hard data that is both timely and accurate is tough
  2. CX ‘Fatigue’ – customer experience is seen by some as fluffy and non-quantifiable
  3. Revenue Opportunity – the impact of even small changes to CX on revenue is often not fully understood

If customer experience is to have an extended life beyond a buzz worthy business phrase, CX professionals need to take a hard look at building in a clear proof of ROI when proposing strategic initiatives.

The Problem with Contemporary CX Methodologies  

If one was to take a glance of the most common measurements of customer experience across the US, Europe and APAC, the likelihood of coming across references to the terms OSAT or NPS would be pretty high indeed.  While recent years have seen an increasingly sophisticated approach to analysis – it’s not uncommon to see terms like social listening, AI-powered surveying or natural-language processing in the modern CX toolbox – many of the world’s largest businesses continue to rely on one or two common methodologies.

One of the reasons for the prevalence of CSAT and NPS – is that traditionally they are two of the only CX metrics that have been able to show any real correlation to sales.  That said proving the ROI of your efforts using these tools isn’t simple.  Compared to digital marketing efforts, which provide a simple cost-evaluation effort based on objectives vs spend (see below), it can take months, or even years, to show the value of CX programs.

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Digital Marketing allows for simple attribution (if not guaranteed results!)

In the article mentioned at the top, Medelyan, lays out a multi-step process for measuring the return on investment for CX:

  1. Measure CX using a metric like NPS and identify its drivers
  2. Implement improvements
  3. Wait for customers to notice improvements
  4. Measure again and evaluate change in behaviours – are customers mentioning the same themes? What’s their impact on NPS?

While providing a ‘framework’, it’s not one that suggests speed to action.  Not only is it unclear how long we might have to wait between second and third steps, there’s no guarantee that positive results will be the yield, potentially rendering the whole process a lengthy and costly mistake.

A compounded problem

Beyond simply being a clunky and slow process – there is no guarantee that using an NPS or OSAT style measurement will give you accurate readings.  While these metrics can provide a useful top-level indicator of consumer-opinion, once you start to dig into the data to look for key drivers between behaviour and spend you immediately start to lose the connection to financial performance.

The metrics most commonly used by businesses today are simply not granular enough to show you what’s happening in real terms, and worst still, the lack of response rates usually mean there’s simply not enough feedback at the store level, to actually drive the outcomes you’re looking for.

If you’re a store manager doing up to 2500 transactions a month, yet you only hear from 19 customers – there’s a clear disconnect.  For those who’ve made it through the potentially cumbersome process of filling out a receipt-tape invitation survey, there may be the odd high-level response that you can track down to make right, but how many others have you missed?  Acting on trend data that’s been delivered 5 months after the fact based on a total of 100 responses, is not a viable approach.  Too much has changed, staff have turned over, the store layout is different, it’s a new season… and potentially yet another missed opportunity…

Redefining CX as it relates to financial performance

There’s a case go be made that the primary issue customer experience professionals face today, is a problem of attribution.  Put simply, there has not been a fast or easy way to prove that CX initiatives are actually having a positive impact on business numbers. 

Many businesses have historically seen the role of the customer experience team as something more akin to tactical brand managers, read to intervene when a customer complains or to monitor and respond to online comments.  But for CX to have a functional role in 2020 and beyond, it has to prove itself as a metric that drives and impacts spend across the board. 

No matter how customer-centric you are or how positive the experiences you design – if you can’t tie that back to profit and show it’s increasing company numbers – there’s absolutely no point to it!”

Mary Drummond, CMO Worthix 

Businesses and customer experience professionals must continue to invest in ways to understand the impacts of their actions at a granular level, to search for tools that allow them to make decisions in a timely and measurable way and to ultimately, reassert the strategic importance of their actions as they relate to profit.

Want more?  Check out some of our recent posts on the issues facing retailers when it comes to CX and feedback today:

 

 

 

 

Frustrations with CX today and NEXT-GEN approaches (Part 2)

The Problems with CX today: a recap

In the first part of this post, we cited the following reasons why current approaches to Customer Experience (“CX”) measurement and change management, have all but lost the attention of the C-suite…

1) CX programs, in general, FAIL to clearly and simply connect the dots to what C-level executives really care about: increasing revenue, reducing costs, and improving profitability.

2) Current approaches to CX do very little, if anything, to support rapid innovation and test & learn in-store, which is critical to success in a rapidly changing retail environment.

3) CX today promotes a very “reactive” approach which has the business constantly looking in the rear view mirror with slow developing insights and trends, as opposed to instilling an aggressive, offensive mindset that puts the organization on the front foot.

4) Even when combined with key driver analyses, today’s programs are deemed as NOT ACTIONABLE by store operations teams— who are often frustrated by stagnate scores, anaemic response rates and general poor visibility into customer perceptions at the individual store level.

Before we start to solution, it’s important to quickly discuss the current role response rates and key driver analyses play and why they are missing the mark for so many retailers.

The Feedback Gap

The traditional approaches to collecting feedback—whether receipt-tape invitation, email or SMS—have seen a steady decline in participation over the past several years, as time-poor consumers are simply not willing to take the time to engage with these cumbersome and often painful methods.  It’s pretty ironic that these are often referred to as “Satisfaction” surveys – talk about a bad customer experience.

As we explored in a previous post (What Retailers can Learn from the Last Presidential Election) the net outcome of this is low response rates, that tend to capture in most cases only extremely good or bad experiences.  This is especially painful for store operations teams and field management, as it leaves them blind to the majority of customer interactions.

The key to being recognized is to be 10% better than average all of the time”. – Shep Hyken

Continual improvement at the store level, requires customer feedback pouring in by the minute for each and every location, enabling ops manager to quickly understand how their execution and levels of customer engagement are impacting their sales while providing the ability to measure the immediate impact of corrective actions taken.

If the majority of stores can then begin to make these incremental improvements, week over week, month over month, the aggregation of continuously meeting and exceeding expectations is how retailers can systematically move the needle on fundamentally important KPIs, like same-store sales growth.

And if we really want to re-capture the attention of the C-suite, isn’t better to be able to show a 0.75% lift in same-store sales growth, as opposed to a 4 point lift in NPS scores?

So, what does NEXT-GEN CX look like?

Where today’s CX programs foster a primarily “reactive” mindset to CX measurement— waiting quarters for trends to develop often focusing on customer complaints and customer resolution—NEXT-GEN CX is focused on speed to insight and simplicity enabling retailers to be more aggressive, more precise and more agile. Exactly the traits needed to survive in a world where continuous evolution has become the new norm.

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NEXT-GEN CX In Action: Customers who answered YES, when asked if this simple associate behavior was performed, spend on average 24% more

Real-world example: “Did our associates offer to start a fitting room for you today?” is one of the simple questions asked by an apparel retail client of ours on the payment terminal during checkout.

With an 83% response rate, they learned in just three weeks that customers who responded YES spend 24% more versus those that responded NO, which also turned out to be the #1 driver of customer spend in-store.

Just as eye opening, this retailer quickly discovered execution on this behavior varied by over 60% across their 600+ stores, representing over $54M in lost sales over a 12-month period, just taking into consideration the impact to average transaction value (ATV) alone.

“While I wouldn’t say I was surprised by the result – that’s the reason we asked the question – it’s just that we could NEVER measure these types of behaviors with enough precision to do be able to do anything with it, much less predict the economic impact.”

—COO, apparel retail client

A Recipe for Success

If we break this down a bit further, there are several important takeaways from this example:

  1. SIMPLICITY is the ‘secret sauce’ of NEXT-GEN CX

Making it simple for customers to provide feedback yielded an 83% response rate, opening up this retailer to hear and learn from the once silent majority of customers.  Store managers know now exactly where to focus— which stores, which day(s), which shift(s), as well as how much money is being lost as a result of inconsistent execution.

  1. DIRECT CONNECTION TO SALES and items purchased is a MUST

The power and benefits of collecting customer feedback and perceptions tied to directly sales and items purchased, in the moment, cannot be understated.

  • First, it greatly simplifies the organization’s efforts to quickly pinpoint the key drivers of customer spend and repeat visits—key tenets for improving comparable sales. As opposed to waiting years, retailers can learn in weeks the specific behaviors and onsite conditions that truly impact sales and not just the customer’s fleeting perception of ‘satisfaction’ or ‘likelihood to recommend’.
  • Second, it greatly enhances buy-in at the store-level when it comes to driving change by enabling field and store management to quickly and easily understand the immediate financial impact based on their current level of execution. Many retailers are actually seeing this change the dynamic between field and store management, bringing both parties on the same side of the table, aligned around truly representative feedback from customers with a clear understanding of the economic impact.
  1. SPEED to INSIGHT

Enabling the retail organization to hear from the overwhelming majority of customers drastically truncates the time it takes to see patterns and trends in the data, which greatly enhances the organization’s capabilities in two key areas:

  • The ability to improve day-to-day operations due to dramatically improved visibility into execution and perceptions, most importantly, with the ability to measure the immediate impact of corrective actions taken both on CX and financial performance; and
  • The flexibility and speed to measure the immediate impact of single and small store test & learn initiatives and pilots, building the financial business case for investment and at the same time reducing time to market for new initiatives.

NEXT-GEN CX: A compliment not a replacement

NEXT-GEN CX is providing retailers the ability to surgically leverage CX measurement across departments, supporting continuous innovation and test & learn initiatives, while at the same time providing store operations teams with the tools they need to drive change at the, all-important, store level.

As opposed to applying a blunt force “CX club”, NEXT-GEN CX is providing retailers with a “CX scalpel”, including a level of fidelity and precision measurement that takes CX from being a simple pulse of the customer to an indispensable instrument that can help fundamentally change the trajectory of the company.

So, am I suggesting that multi-location retailers completely dismiss and throw there current CX approach to the curb? Absolutely not! But what I am suggesting is that retailers take a long hard look at how they currently engage and collect feedback from their in-store customers and honestly evaluate the value this is delivering to the business.

And at a bare minimum, keep an open mind to some of the more innovative approaches for collecting feedback from your customers and ingraining this into the DNA of the organization.

Read Part 1 Now. 

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We’ll be at NRF – if you’re heading there and would like to book time with us, you can do so here.

Alternatively please feel free to reach out to Sam via email or LinkedIn at anytime.

Frustrations with CX today and NEXT GEN approaches (Part 1)

The Problem with Boiling CX Down to a Single KPI

With Customer Experience (“CX”) now, undoubtedly, considered a critical component of retail business strategy — notice the tremendous spike in mentions of the term CX on Earnings Calls since 2010 — more and more analytics experts are turning a critical eye toward some of the most popular KPIs being employed to measure experience and customer loyalty. And, frankly, it has not been all that flattering.

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CX was mentioned 2,710 times in US earning calls in Q3 2019.

For example, The Wall Street Journal’s widely shared piece ‘The Dubious Management Fad Sweeping Corporate America’ really ruffled some feathers earlier this year, with detractors and fans (pardon the pun) taking to the LinkedIn comments section to debate the merits of Net Promoter Score (“NPS”) founded by Frederick F. Reichheld back in 2003.

Academic research, by the University of Cambridge, has raised significant concerns about NPS’s inability to accurately predict actual customer behaviors and loyalty.

And while such criticisms are often valid, they tend to gloss over just why such metrics may have been widely adopted in the first place.

In Partial Defence of the Single-CX KPI

Prior to NPS, there was arguably very little in the way of a recognisable ‘metric’ by which to quantify customer experience.  Traditional indicators of performance such as sales per square foot and same-store sales growth, while remaining dominant in the boardroom, didn’t really encapsulate or fit in with the philosophy underpinning the emerging practice of Customer Experience.

The growth of tools like NPS and OSAT helped to bring customer experience to the attention of the C-Suite, because they provided a simple indicator of growth that could be tied to financials.

In a tweet in response to the WSJ article, Nate Brown, CX leader and founder of the CX Accelerator community, wrote…

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The Achilles Heel?

As CX has begun to be taken more seriously, not surprisingly, the expectations around what it needs to deliver have also increased.

However, the continual decline in customers’ willingness to provide feedback through traditional survey invitation methods (receipt-tape, email, SMS, etc.) combined with the inadequacies of today’s approach to CX is causing many programs to the lose the attention of the C-suite. This is happening primarily due to four reasons:

1) CX programs, in general, FAIL to clearly and simply connect the dots to what C-level executives really really care about: increasing revenue, reducing costs, and improving profitability.

2) Current approaches to CX do very little, if anything, to support rapid innovation and test & learn in-store, which is critical to success in today’s rapidly changing retail environment.

3) CX today promotes a very “reactive” approach which has the business constantly looking in the rear view mirror with slow developing insights and trends, as opposed to instilling an aggressive, offensive mindset that puts the organization on the front foot.

4) Even when combined with key driver analyses, today’s programs are deemed as NOT ACTIONABLE by store operations teams—often voicing frustrations with stagnate scores, anaemic response rates and general poor visibility into customer perceptions at the individual store level.

Taking into consideration the above, for many organizations, it is time to sound the alarm regarding their approach to CX. The list of multi-location retailers filing for bankruptcy or now deceased is littered with companies that cited exceptionally good NPS and CSAT scores.

In the next follow-up post, we will be diving into what NEXT GEN CX looks like, how it is addressing the problems listed above, including real world examples, and how CX can help companies better compete in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace.

Read Part 2 Now

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Sam McKeveney is the Head of North American Sales at TruRating.  Sam works with businesses across the US + Canada, to help them understand how to take a pro-active approach to customer feedback in a rapidly evolving retail environment.  To reach Sam, send him an email or feel free to connect on LinkedIn.

If you’d like to read more, why not check another recent post from Sam, on the dangers of relying on misrepresentative data:

Attending NRF 2020?  We’d love to see you there!  Book a session with the team today.

What can the last US election teach us about Retail in 2020?

Cast your mind back if you can to the November 7th, 2016 presidential election.  Hillary Rodham Clinton is on the precipice of defeating Donald Trump to become the first female President in the history of the United States.  Time Magazine has just published an article in which no less than seven highly-esteemed polling organizations predict a Clinton majority.  Celebrations are already beginning.

Yet as history would soon reveal, the experts in this case got it wrong.  Very wrong.

When pressed for an answer as to how they got this so wrong, the polling experts’ explanation was Non-Response Bias (NBR), in which the results of a study are skewed by a disproportionate sample base.  Put a bit differently, people who do not take surveys are not represented in the results.

Where the pollsters fell down was in assuming their data set truly represented the national opinion.  They failed to consider that a large (and influential) portion of the public simply hadn’t responded to their pre-election polls at all.  They preferred to cast a different kind of vote – straight to the ballot box.

So, how is NRB impacting Retail?

While the political landscape of 2016 might not immediately present itself as a direct analogy for the state of contemporary retail, dig in a little and the parallels start to reveal themselves.

Current estimates suggest that in the last 20 years, the median response rate for feedback surveys for all businesses has dropped from around 20% to just 5%, with many brick and mortar retailers falling well under 1%.  At the same time, the rate by which customers are more likely to ‘vote with their wallet’ is higher than ever.

96% unhappy customers won’t complain, 91% of those customer will simply leave and never come back – 1st Financial Training Services 

The DANGER of the ‘Silent Majority’ caused by NRB 

The truth of it is retailers and political pollsters, both, struggle with a common issue: the vast majority of people today simply don’t have the time and aren’t willing to engage via traditional survey methods, whether it’s printed on a receipt, emailed, or even an intrusive text.  Instead, the tendency of the ‘Silent Majority’ today is to simply ignore these requests for input, and this poses a major problem for any business that wants to hear what their customers think and adjust accordingly.

So, how, exactly, is NRB dangerous for retailers?

Imagine a pyramid, if you will, with executive strategy and company direction at the top, mid-level management and corporate decision making in the middle, and day-to-day operational decision making within each store at the bottom of the pyramid.

NRB permeates it all. Informing strategy and company direction based on a biased, anaemic representation of the customer base can set companies back years.

The NRB Pyramid
The Impact of NRB: a lack of feedback impacts all areas of your operational decision making.

Today’s trickle of feedback often means project teams and various departments are slow to react as it often takes quarters for patterns and insights to develop.  To add insult to injury, testing new initiatives in store also takes much longer than it should delaying time to market, ultimately, making the organization appear sluggish and behind the times.

But, probably worst of all, NRB results in huge blind spots and a general lack of visibility into operational execution, associate behaviors and customer perceptions at the individual store level—where the rubber meets the road for the majority of our clients with most seeing 85% of sales coming through their stores.  What’s the old adage, “Your brand is only as good as your last customer experience.”

Actually, I rather prefer Warren Buffet’s version, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.  If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Well, to be able to do things differently, to become more agile, and to get better connected with the heart of the customer base, companies must find a way to tap into the ‘Silent Majority’ caused by NRB.

But, what do you do when the majority of your client base is seemingly inaccessible?

Awareness is Half of the Battle 

The good news is that a number of providers in the CX space are increasingly aware of the issues inherent with traditional feedback methodologies and the resulting biases.  By working with a provider that is transparent about these issues – and pro-active in terms of providing ways to counteract them – there’s an opportunity to tap into that once ‘Silent Majority’ and in turn gain a competitive advantage.

Here’s a selection of points to consider if you’re looking to build an effective customer feedback program that accounts for and has the potential to eliminate NRB.

  1. Examine where your data is coming from

When looking for a partner or vendor(s) to support your CX efforts, consider where the data being collected to support their recommendations is coming from.  How large is the audience being polled?  Are you receiving enough responses to be actionable on a daily, weekly or monthly basis?  Is your data at risk of being unrepresentative and misleading, NRB?  Are you collecting enough data at the store level to support in-store test and learn and pilot initiatives in real-time, thereby improving the agility and ability to adapt more quickly to a constantly changing retail environment?

  1. Revisit your goals for the program

While many CX platforms are very good at focusing on feedback that allows for ‘brand level’ analysis, building a data set that can be used at a ‘store-by-store level’ is often the greatest challenge and, frankly, the biggest gripe of most store operations teams.  Look for providers that are able to give you both a brand overview as well as more granular store level precision.

If the ultimate goal of the program is to drive measurable improvement, having visibility (ideally down to the hour) into execution, associate behaviors and customer perceptions for every store will be critical.  While most KPIs are rolled up to the brand level, improving performance starts within each individual location, which requires the ability to tap into the thoughts and perceptions of the majority of customers that shop that location each day.

  1. Explore the potential of collecting feedback at point of sale (POS)

Collecting feedback as part of the checkout process has proven to yield the highest customer participation rates in the industry, with many retailers experiencing response rates well over 65% depending on the placement of the question(s) within the payment journey.

Note: To ensure the highest possible response rates with minimal interruption, asking one question per customer (with a set of rotation questions throughout the day) is a best practice.

Another critically important benefit of integrating surveys directly into the payment journey is the immediate understanding of the link between Customer Experience and sales.

Having the ability to share with each store how their individual level execution and the customer experience they are creating impacts their financial performance, specifically, is the key to improving store performance each and every day. And it’s this aggregation of continuous small improvements across the estate which will drive those brand level KPIs through the ceiling.

So, the next time you’re considering whether your CX data collection practices and resulting datasets are fit for purpose, think back to those pollsters on the night of November 7th, 2016.  If something doesn’t feel quite right, perhaps it’s time to ask, am I missing critical information that could fundamentally change the trajectory of our organization?

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Sam McKeveny is the VP Enterprise Sales for North America.  If you’d like to reach out to him, he’s always happy to discuss how TruRating can help you or your business – try him by email or feel free to connect on LinkedIn.

For more like this, check out our recent posts on the issues with mainstream CX today:

How to make the most of the holiday season – a retail guide.

While it may feel like the holiday season is still a little while off, it’s a given truth of retail life that the season tends to creep up earlier and earlier each year.  While for some, this might be enough to make you want to exclaim ‘Bah Hambug!’, the fact of the matter is holiday sales are stronger than ever, with the season seemingly immune to the slump impacting other parts of the sector…

Just last week, the National Retail Federation announced that retail sales look set to increase between 3.8 – 4.2% this year again, consistent with a period of growth, which has seen sales rise annually for the past five years.

It’s in timely fashion therefore that we happily announce the release of our latest data report: Holiday Insights: A Retail Guide.

Based on analysis from our 1-Million strong data ratings base and featuring advice and tips from TruRating retailers, the report serves as the perfect compliment to your holiday preparations.

Amongst other treats, we take a look at topics including:

  • The kinds of holiday shoppers to look out for in your stores
  • Why the holidays are a ‘season of two halves’
  • Practical tips on how to prepare for the rush

Download the full report here!

Has an experience-focused HMV found its mojo again?

For those with an interest in the retail landscape, the opening of HMV’s flagship store the Vault presents yet another interesting example of a well-established retailer taking an ‘experience-first’ approach.  Considering how things were looking for the brand at the beginning of the year, the fanfare which the opening of the Vault is a receiving, is remarkable in more ways than one…

The story of HMV is a familiar one.  Once one of the most recognisable brands in the UK – shopping for records in HMV was a cultural rite of passage for many a British teenager – the seemingly unshakeable giant, found itself in hard times with the rise of the streaming generation, and a global decline in CD and DVD sales.

While it’s certainly true HMV suffered in some part due to an inability to keep up with the rapid changes in the industries that were once its stock and trade – there was sense if you entered a store in the years between it’s two periods of administration, of a business that simply wasn’t quite sure what to do with itself.

 

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Putnam showing of his record collection in the newly opened HMV Vault

Some recent innovations – a partnership with the independent cinema branch Curzon in South London and an attempt to capitalise on the vinyl boom – showed attempts to innovate in the face of increased customer demands, but the things that made shopping at HMV special in the first place – knowledgable staff, interesting stock – were slowly being eroded by the all-encompassing convenience of online.

For self-admitted vinyl junkie Doug Putman (the man behind the acquisition of 100 HMV stores in February of this year) the answer to the question ‘How does a well loved brand get its mojo back?’, appears to be double down on those aspects of the record store experience that simply can’t be replicated online.

With a huge selection of over 25,000 vinyl records (plus 80,000 CDs), and a projected lineup of in-store signings, performance and DJ sets, the Vault feels like a store designed by a team who truly understands what its audience are looking for from a retail experience.

Speaking to Retail Gazette, before the Vault’s grand opening, Grahm Soult observed that many recent examples of successful retail take-overs have been driven primarily by the passion of their leadership, “If you’re trying to rejuvenate a brand and appeal to people’s emotions and senses, it needs someone who really gets it”.

It will be exciting to see whether Putnam’s vision for HMV can translate into a new era of destination stores, one that not only creates happy memories for the next generation of music fans, but sets an example for experience-driven retailers everywhere.

 

In search of the retail metric of the future…

With the opening of not one but two ‘product-less’ concept stores (Nordstrom Local announces openings in New York), it seemed timely to re-examine a recent blog post in which we explored two arguments against the use of ‘traditional metrics’ in a rapidly evolving retail world.   The opening of a store that literally cannot measure sales provides a refreshing (and exciting!) context to reflect on those positions in an interesting new light….

Are traditional retail metrics dead?

In the article “The Way We Measure Retail Store Performance Needs to Change” retail M&A banker Richard Kestenbaum puts forward a well-reasoned and sensible argument for why retailers need to evolve their thinking when it comes to measuring store performance.

Retailers in the past relied on two key metrics, both sales driven, as a general gold standard for measuring performance – sales per square foot and store income statements.

Sales-per-square foot was used as a base-level indicator of performance; crucially, one that gave retailers to chance to make store-by-store comparisons, regardless of the size of each location.  While it may not have accounted for a host of important factors (age of store, local demographics etc.) it did at least provide a standardized basis for competitive analysis.  Combined with the evaluation of store income statements – a more localized viewpoint that treated each store as though it were an independent business – the two were presumed as sufficient by the majority of retailers.

The modern consumer’s relationship with physical retail is much more complex than it once was, having evolved beyond the point of that only looking at success from a ‘sales’ perspective can accurately represent.

Stores are no longer mere warehouses for goods, but rather interfaces for a wide range of interactions.  Customers today may use the store as a pick up and drop off point for online purchases, while retailers may use their physical locations to host experiential events, or even simply view as a showroom for product.

While traditional KPI’s are not without value, if our relationship with stores has evolved, so too, argues Kestenbaum, should our success measures as a result.

The Store as Media? 

In, “Measuring the Store of the Future“, ‘Retail Prophet’, Doug Stephens goes a step further, denouncing retail’s traditional KPIs as mere ‘industrial-age metrics’,

Judging a store’s performance simply by regarding its most recent sales results is like evaluating a patient’s health by asking what they had for breakfast that day.” 

For crystal-ball futurist Stephens (in an argument echoing the thrust of his 2017 work Re-Engineering Retail) it is not simply how much product a store can shift that represents its effectiveness, but rather how well the store is working as a ‘channel’ for the brand.

In an increasingly saturated digital space, reaching anyone online through targeted media becomes increasingly cost prohibitive.  Stephens argues that the real value of the store is its potential to reach an audience directly – in the ‘real world’. “Your stores are your media,” Stephens declares, “you’re just not measuring it” – yet.

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A glimpse into the future? Customers wait for an event outside a Supreme store in London.

While looking to establish a more accurate method for performance measurement is a valuable endeavour, the parallels Stephens looks to draw to contemporary digital metrics (‘one positive in-store experience’ as the equivalent to a single digital impression or click through) feel perhaps a little too out there for some of the more literal-minded in the C-Suite.

Measuring the success of the store that doesn’t sell anything

Opened last week, Nordstrom’s “Local” concept store, is an 1,800 ft Upper West side behemoth, that doesn’t stock any product at all.  Customers can book ‘consultancies’ with stylists, or use the locations as a place to return products they’ve bought from other retailers (see our recent post on the announcement that Nordstrom will accept returns from Macy’s & Kohl’s in their stores).

With such a radical re-thinking of the traditional store experience, are metrics as sales per square foot even possible?  Speaking to Bloomsbury, James Nordstrom, announced that the success of his latest stores would be measured by increased market share – nary a sales metric in sight.

Is this what future of retail will look like?  No longer as a place of pure commerce, but rather something closer to the original vision of Harry Selfridge – the store as a place where people come to socialise and chat, with the incidental occasion of making a purchase an added bonus.

Have we lost that loving feeling?

In a recent interview with Forbes, TruRating CEO Georgina Nelson, observed a serious problem in contemporary retail, “Traditionally there has been something of a disconnect between customer experience and store operations… without a consistent way to measure it, how do you operationalise the customer experience in-store?”

In a world where customers no longer have the patience to put up with poor experiences, the need for a simple yet unobtrusive way to gauge customer sentiment in ‘real-time’ is more important than ever before.

If your customers are unable, or worse, unwilling to let you know how they feel about your service, then whatever the metric you land upon for measuring success, will ultimately be of little matter.

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To find out how TruRating’ point-of-sale customer feedback solution can help you to understand your customer experience and deliver rapid innovation in real-time, get in touch with one of the team today for more information. 

 

How Did I Do?

Top retail influencer and friend of TruRating Andrew Busby, recently celebrated the publication of his first book: Harry Was Right All Along is a collection of short stories from the high street, tracing the ups and downs of the ‘profoundly human’ business of retail.

Writing with an experts eye for detail, the collection offers “a refreshing and thought provoking insight into the rapidly evolving high-street from a skilled practitioner”.  Containing a selection of some of Andrew’s best writing from across the various platforms he contributes to, including Forbes, Retail Reflections and Retail Week, it’s an essential read for anyone with an interest in contemporary retail trends.

We suggest that you immediately buy your own copy before enjoying a taster below in the form of an article that may just contain a little reference to a certain company we know and love.

“How Did I Do?”, originally published in Forbes magazine, February 6th 2019.

Based on my last Forbes article, how likely are you to recommend me to a friend on a scale of zero to ten?

Sounds familiar?

They can be found everywhere; they even appear when we’re asleep, they ambush us when we’re least expecting them and they drive us crazy.

You know what I’m talking about, customer satisfaction surveys of course. They have become part and parcel of almost every consumer (and more besides) interaction we ever have. But are they really effective?

The last time I flew to the U.S. earlier last month, I received a survey via email from the airline asking how the flight had been and that was before I’d even landed!

My personal favorite, however, is of one at the exit of the public toilets at Victoria Station in London with the caption ‘did our facilities meet your expectations?’. Yes, they did thank you, I expected them to be gross and they were.

Which goes to show that the question being asked and the context in which it is being asked matter. A lot.

Car manufacturers have embraced customer surveys with a vengeance. When collecting my car from having its annual service recently, I was asked to complete a survey and gave them an overall eight out of ten, which I thought was pretty good.

‘Oh sir’, came the response, ‘why have you marked us so low?’ It transpired that anything other than a ten would result in the dealer being taken to task by the manufacturer.

This to me would appear to be a fairly pointless exercise, obfuscating any real underlying issues. Seeking feedback in this fashion to satisfy some opaque corporate metrics seems to be the very opposite of customer centricity.

Customer Sentiment In Store

All this is giving rise to a new retail metric, perhaps the most critical one of all, namely, how is my customer feeling? The days of running a retail business on sales per square foot alone are rapidly receding.

Savvy retailers are now realizing that understanding customer sentiment drives something far greater than just short term sales figures.

To help understand this, I spoke to Georgina Nelson, Founder and CEO of feedback company TruRating.

‘Traditionally, there has been something of a disconnect between customer experience and store operations’ she says, adding ‘how do you operationalize customer experience in the store?’

Eschewing the traditional means of capturing customer sentiment that most review sites provide, capturing customer sentiment in real time at the point of purchase has proven to be very revealing for online purchases and in-store alike, but it is in identifying gaps in the latter experience where much of the interest lies.

“It’s not just about spend in the moment, it’s about the customer’s propensity to come back and spend more.”

Georgina Nelson, Founder and CEO, TruRating

And with an astonishing 85% response rate, it is proving to be a pretty accurate barometer of store performance linked to the customer experience.

Georgina gives the example of one customer, London based Chinese restaurant chain Ping Pong, who now have had more ratings than Disneyworld!

Intriguingly, just asking one simple (anonymized) question at the point of transaction is providing insights which have their roots in psychology more than anything else.

Just addressing the customer by name, for example, has shown a 30% increase in average transaction value.

In the relentlessly competitive and challenging landscape in which retailers now find themselves, capturing customer sentiment might just be the difference between survival and oblivion.

Maybe I’ll ask the question again, how did I do?

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Follow Andrew on Twitter for regular updates and commentary or check out his website for more details on his company Retail Reflections.

Is Nordstrom putting customer convenience above the competition?

In ‘shock of the week’ news Nordstrom, announced that it will be accepting returns from two major department store rivals – Macy’s and Kohl’s – at its recently opened NYC concept stores, Nordstrom Local.

With returns a pain point for customers and retailers alike, the strategy marks a bold leap into the prioritisation of convenience over competitive rivalry, in a surprise but welcome move from the retailer.  Discussing the reasoning behind the decision, Jamie Nordstrom commented, “Once the customer decides they want to return something, they want to it as quickly as possible… unlike wine, fashion doesn’t get better with age.”

While the open-arms policy may be a first for Nordstrom, it is not entirely without precedent.  Indeed Kohl’s announced only this past July that it would be launching a full roll out of its ‘Amazon-return’ kiosks in over 1,100+ US stores, following a successful trial pilot earlier in the year.

While the apparent move to place customer convenience over the retailers own short-term needs is an inspiring example for other retailers, the stores are unique in more than one sense as they don’t actually sell any traditional ‘product’ in store at all.  The stores instead offer customers the opportunity to book consultancies with stylists, along side a range of additional services such as shoe repairs, charity drop-offs for used items and stroller cleanings.

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Jamie Nordstrom, President of Nordstrom Stores

“In New York you have more choices than probably anywhere else in the world on where to buy stuff,” Nordstrom said to Bloomberg,  “Everything that we sell, you can buy lots of different places. Our service offering and focus is on engagement and convincing the customer that we’re a better alternative.”

With the so called ‘experience’ economy on the rise, Nordstrom is pinning its hopes on picking up an increased market share, by luring busy New Yorkers in with innovative offerings.  Could Nordstrom’s bold move mark the end of an older era of direct competition and see retailers joining together to truly put customer convenience at the heart of all the do?

There could be worst places to watch things play out then at one of the luxury retailers latest NYC locations.

3 CX Improvements To Drive Revenue Growth

We recently submitted a guest blog post for our fantastic partners Retail Pro about three simple customer experience tactics you can implement to drive revenue growth for your business.

Because we’re generous, we’ve decided to share the intro of the article here, enjoy this taster and be sure to click through for the full read below!

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For retailers looking to compete with the fast pace and convenience of online businesses, the in-store experience is an increasingly important battleground.

While historically success for retailers may have been measured by metrics such as comparable growth by store, sales per square foot, and gross margin return on investment, these no longer tell the full story.

Modern retailers need to know more than just what your customers are buying.

To succeed today, you need to understand how each of your touchpoints impacts the totality of your customer experience.

And the trend is one that’s catching – a recent study by the Forrester Group reports, “72% of businesses now say improving the customer experience is their No.1 priority.”

Using CX to drive loyalty & revenue

For today’s retailers, the availability of point-of-sale data provides a huge range of options when it comes to building true and lasting engagement.

Creating customer experiences that are truly memorable can help drive loyalty and advocacy for your business, so it’s important to make every single moment count…

Make every experience count

In an increasingly competitive landscape, you need to focus on creating memorable experiences.  This doesn’t need to involve a radical overhaul of everything you do.

As we found with one of our retail partners, the little things can add up.

The Retail Prodigy Group (master franchisee holders for Nike) is committed to providing the ‘ultimate customer experience’ with every visit. In practice, this manifests itself in a series of relatively cost-efficient but rigorously maintained, service measures, especially at the point of sale.

Staff at RPG are trained to ask for each customer’s name and always offer multiple product selections at the checkout. Customers are made to feel welcome with small personal touches, creating an authentic and warm experience.

This not only creates happy customers but can lead to financial gain too – we measured a 30% increase in the average transaction as a result of these measures and 5% increase in total revenue.

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To read the article in its full unabridged glory, click here!Image result for retail pro logo png

We’d love to hear your thoughts as to the best ways to create memorable customer experiences and how to measure the results. Get in touch with us on Twitter or Linkedin and leave your comments below!

The Influencers: Andrew Busby

Second up to bat in our new series The Influencers, we were lucky enough to speak to the fantastic Andrew Busby.  Having worked in the retail industry for over 20 years, Andrew’s time is now primarily spent working as a retail analyst, writer and keynote speaker.  As the principal and founder of Retail Reflections, Andrew regularly speaks to audiences around the world and has been recognized as a Vend 100 influencer and IBM Futurist to boot.

Andrew’s regular Forbes column is a great introduction to his work and style, and he is also a contributor to Retail Week.  Having recently wrapped up his first book (we’ll let you know as soon as it’s hit the shelves) it was great to catch up with Andrew to get his thoughts on all things retail. We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did!

Hi Andrew, to start things off, could you tell us a little about your background and how you ended up where you are today? 

My retail journey started over 20 years ago when I joined Superdrug to run IT Operations and Services.  It was a great business and a fantastic way to learn all about retail.  From there I moved onto business development roles, working with a number of technology partners, but always retailers too.

I’ve always wanted to do what I’m doing now – writing, speaking and working as a retail analyst and commentator.  Initially, I began to write columns for Retail Week as a sort of ‘extracurricular activity’.  A few years ago, I took a couple of months off, leaving the corporate world behind me, and that’s when I really began to focus full time on Retail Reflections.

It’s been a fascinating journey.  I’ve learnt that if you’re open to opportunities, one thing tends to lead to the next.  One of the fantastic things about the power of social media is that, even if people aren’t always actively commenting on everything you do, you have a platform to get your content out there. And if it’s informative and entertaining, people will read it!

When did Retail Reflections officially open doors? 

March 2017 – a major milestone for me. About a year after Retail Reflections setup, I began writing for Forbes as a retail columnist, which has been amazing so far too.  The next big personal project is the book I’ve been working on for the past several months.  We’re exploring publishing options, but it’s given me the taste, and I’m already thinking about the next one!

What’s your take on the current retail landscape – are these challenging times or our are we in a period of opportunity?

It’s definitely the latter. I get frustrated when people talk about the ‘death of the high street’ or the ‘retail apocalypse’.  It might feel like that for some brands but usually, there’s a reason why they’ve struggled and sadly in some cases, why they’ve ultimately failed.  I refer to it as ‘Darwinism on the High Street’ – the survival of the fittest rings true.

We’re currently seeing a rapid, rapid period of transformation.  The role of retail, where it sits in our lives and in wider society, is being challenged.  I see a lot of ‘legacy’ brands still clinging to the old ways of working, which are clearly no longer fit for purpose.  Old KPIs, like sales per square foot as an example, are pretty meaningless today, but some retailers struggle to move on.

What this evolution really presents is an opportunity for retailers to become more relevant to their customers.  Just setting up a website or a new store is no longer enough. Retailers need to start thinking about themselves like small media organizations or service providers, adapting and evolving to their customer’s needs.

How do you see the relationship between physical and online retail developing in the coming years?

They will become one and the same and we won’t refer to them separately, it will all just be ‘shopping’.  That’s how most consumers already see it today.

If you listen to a legacy retailer speak, they still tend to talk in terms of channels and they try to calculate sales attribution as to whether something is an online sale or a store sale, but those lines are becoming increasingly blurred…

I read a report from a consultancy recently that said that by 2030, online sales will make up and account for 53% of total retail sales.  If that’s the case, it says two things. Firstly, we’re probably going to see more and more white vans, rushing around the country to deliver all those online sales.  Secondly, it’s that ‘online’ is the norm.  Physical stores will come to be seen as the physical manifestation of the brand – there won’t be room for weak stores, they simply won’t be tolerated.

“Physical stores will come to be seen as the physical manifestation of the brand – there won’t be room for weak stores, they simply won’t be tolerated.”

You say that weak stores won’t be tolerated – what will be important to the survival of the stores of the future? 

There’s a number of elements that will drive success.  The store experience needs to be exciting, it needs to be inspiring and it needs to create an element of intrigue.  Take somewhere like Selfridges, one of the all-time great department stores and retailers.  Every time you go in there, there’s always something interesting just around the corner.

And here’s a shameless plug for the book that’s coming out – I’ve called it ‘Harry Was Right All Along’ after Harry Selfridge.  If you look at what he was saying over a hundred years ago, he wanted his Oxford Street store to be a place where people socialized, where they ate and drank, where they chatted. If they happened to buy something along the way, great, but if they didn’t, that’s okay too.  Hopefully, they’ve had such a wonderful time that they’ll want to come back again and again.

For me, the ironic thing is that he was saying these things over a hundred years ago, and now you hear people today talking about ‘experiential retail’ as if it were something brand new! We’re seeing a shift in perception as far as the purpose of a physical location today, and that makes these exciting times.

Do you think that technology is driving retail’s current evolution or are there other forces at play? 

Retail is fundamentally a human business. Technology is the enabler – it should always be human first, tech second.  At big shows like NRF you often see retailers clamouring over the latest technology.  I often look at this and think to myself, but do you know who you are? What does your business stand for? Who is your audience?

If you do know this, and your organization is aligned in this understanding too, it will help you to make the technology decisions that are right for you.

As far as what’s driving consumer expectations, that’s a fascinating question. We’re constantly learning from our peers and our children and the environment around us.  It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy in retail, the more we see, the more our expectations grow. To give an example – there’s a company based in Stockholm that partners with retailers to deliver any item you might need, wherever you are, in under an hour.  Forgot a loved one’s birthday? Here’s your solution!

The ability to provide this level of customer service will become almost expected.  The art is in making all the hard work that goes into providing these experiences invisible to the consumer.

Retail is fundamentally a human business. Technology is the enabler – it should always be human first, tech second. 

Is operational excellence going to become a key differentiator as far as customer experience is concerned?

Absolutely – I think it that will come to define brands in the future.  Most people when they interact with brands have already accepted a certain level of price and quality as a sort of agreed-upon terms of engagement.  We know what to expect when we shop with Group A or Group B. What actually matters to us now, is convenience.  Who makes it easiest for us to shop with them?  Because of this, inventory management is going to become one of, if not the most, important parts of successful retail going forward.

Is this expectation for immediacy what people refer to when they talk about ‘Amazon Effect’?

There’s an element of truth to that, yes.  When it comes to Amazon, we love the convenience, but I think most people have a pretty practical or functional relationship with them as a brand.  People don’t love Amazon, it’s often just the easiest choice.

As far as the impact of online on the modern high street is concerned, the issue is really a social and community one.  As we become increasingly accustomed to buying things online, we’re going to see more holes appearing where businesses used to be.   There’s only so many coffee shops, hairdressers or estate agents that any one person can bear!

I’m hoping that we will see regeneration in the form of properties combining residential space with retail on the ground floor.  Done well, this will bring people into town centres and create a community hub that preserves the idea of retail as a social activity.  The problem comes with getting all the various stakeholders aligned and moving in the same direction.  As we’re already seeing today, that can be an incredibly difficult thing to do.

Thank you so much for speaking to Andrew – to close things out, what would your single piece of advice be to the retail community? 

Be relevant.  That applies to the customer experience, your distribution methods and everything your brand stands for.  Make your customers needs’ your own and you’ll do well.

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For regular updates, follow Andrew on Twitter and while you’re at it why not follow Retail Reflections also.  You can check out Andrew’s fantastic Forbes column, and keep a lookout Andrew’s soon to be published book, ‘Harry Was Right All Along’ – we can’t wait!

Introducing… the CX Primer

Making Sense of CX 

In today’s information overload world, while it may feel like access to near anything imaginable is only a quick Google search away, it can be hard to cut through the noise to find the relevant information you’re looking for.  Sometimes what we really need is a curator’s hand to point us in the right direction, particularly if the subject you happen to be interested in belongs to a fairly new or growing field. 

While Customer Experience (CX) has enjoyed a significant profile boost over recent years, for newcomers it can still be a slightly confusing place.  What exactly is CX? How does it differ from good old customer service? Who ‘looks after’ it within an organization? Why is it so important to modern businesses?

Introducing the CX Primer

For new initiates into the world of CX, we have some good news for you.  All the answers to any questions you might have (and many more you probably hadn’t thought of yet) can be found in a useful – and completely free resource – developed by the good folks over at CX Accelerator

Nate Brown, co-founder of the site and a director of customer experience in his own right, developed the ultimate resource for anyone looking to take a crash course in what it means to be a modern customer experience professional: the CX Primer 

The Customer Experience Guide 

Breaking the CX manual down into four key disciplines – CX Strategy, Voice of the Customer, Experience Engineering & EX and Culture – the Primer covers pretty much everything a new starter could need, while serving as a fantastic reference guide for experienced people in the field.  

With an appendix covering the top CX resources around today and introducing many of the field’s top thought leaders, there’s simply no better resource for those interested in learning about contemporary CX thinking. 

View the CX Primer now

The Story Behind the Story 

We wanted to know a little bit more about why Nate decided to put together the guide, and he kindly obliged us with a response, in his own words… 

“These past five years have just been tremendous from a learning perspective.  I’ve been blessed with incredible mentors and opportunities to bring new knowledge to life as a practitioner.  You could think of it as an academic diary of sorts. 😁 It was really exciting this year going back and doing a massive update based on the growth I’ve had since the original version.  One of the things that attracted me to CX in the first place was how incredibly generous and helpful the leaders in this space are. Continuing in that tradition, it’s a great pleasure to be able to offer up whatever wisdom I can for the betterment of experiences everywhere.  My hope is that the CX Primer will be a terrifically helpful starting point for new CX professionals in particular!

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Thanks, Nate! We recommend checking out the CX Accelerator Slack channel as a fantastic and friendly place for anyone with an interest in customer experience.  For more frequent updates, you can also follow both Nate and CX Accelerator on Twitter.

 

RetailNow 19: The TruRating Round-up

The TruRating team was lucky enough to be in attendance for the annual RetailNOW event in San Antonio this past week.  While we certainly enjoyed our panel session on Innovating as an SMB Retailer – thanks to ScanSource’s Kevin Kent and TSYS’s Marc Castrechini for being such good sports! – there was more than enough on the floor to keep even the casual attendee interested.

With the VAR community undergoing something of a transformation at the moment, evolution was a key word on the lips of many. Here’s a selection of some of our key takeaways and what they mean for the payment’s world at large.

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“We have to do the hard things today, so we don’t have to do the impossible tomorrow” – John Kirk, President of RSPA

The traditional VAR model has long focused on one thing and one thing only – selling POS and then making money on the processing.  While this may once have been sufficient, the model has evolved and it’s a plain fact that SaaS (Software as a Service) and HaaS (Hardware as a Service) are the new norm.

While some forward-thinking parties have embraced this change, a large part of this has been driven by an increased sophistication in terms of expectations from retailers.  Technology has changed the game – the businesses who succeed in the future are those who offer a truly consultative approach to payments – a one-time cash hit and run is no longer a sustainable approach.

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SMB retailers are ready to innovate  – with or without you.

A point echoed in several sessions across the course of the event was that SMB retailers are ready to innovate – and they’re ready now.  Many SMBs are now run by tech-savvy millennials with high expectations.  The role of the reseller community is now judged by a new standard – ‘near perfect’ is taken for granted as the rule, not the exception.

The VARs and ISVs that will succeed in this new world are not necessarily expected to be ‘experts’ when it comes to every value-added solution under the sun, but they do need to know what is available and, perhaps more to the point, which solutions will add the most benefit to their retail clients.  By bringing new opportunities to the fore that deliver clear and measurable value to the retail community, resellers can not only keep their current customers happy, but drive acquisition too.

ISVs and VARs need to maximize vendor-partner relationships for growth

While the message from retailers sounded loud and clear, on the other side of the ecosphere vendors, manufacturers and distributors were also vocal about their desire to work with the reseller community to help drive innovation and growth.

In a panel hosted by veteran Jim Roddy, it became clear that the idea of VARs as purely buyers, and vendors as purely manufacturers, is one that is now simply out of date.  By working closely together and developing a deeper understanding of the services each party offers, there is an opportunity to maximize vendor-partner growth, through identifying adjacent revenue streams and delivering an expanded business offering that works for vendor, partner and retailer simultaneously.

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The future

 In a statement from the closing session of the event – Uncrappify-ing the future – Jeff Haven made a passionate plea to the reseller community to provide solutions that are simple but powerful enough to allow retailers to focus on what they do best: selling. “We’ve got to find a way to make the world smaller for our customers, so they can feel they have a place in it.”

By empowering retailers with innovations that give them the confidence to know that they are providing experiences their customers love, the community as a whole has the power to do just that.

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If you were in attendance at RSPA 2019 and have thoughts on the key takeaways from the event we’d love to hear them – tweet us @TruRating.

To find out more about TruRating’s point-of-sale customer feedback technology, visit our website and book time with one of the team today.