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

2019 has not been a vintage one for physical retail.  By the end of year, it’s predicted that more than 8,600 stores will have closed across the United States.  The UK has also suffered, and with the recent announcement that Mothercare will be shutting its doors at the cost of 2,800 jobs just before Christmas, there doesn’t appear to be much holiday respite.

While many in the sector have been quick to point blame at the likes of Amazon, read around and you’ll find any number of well-versed arguments that we’re seeing is really just the full expression of latent problems that have been plaguing the sector for years.

A glance to the retail commentariat offers a variety of reasons in turn –  Steve Dennis has recently pointed to the ‘unrelenting collapse of the middle‘ as an extension of the death knoll of ‘boring retail’.  Richard Kestenbaum has suggested that consumers are increasingly driven to shop with retailers who we can identify with at at a personal level, a sentiment echoed by friend of the blog Andrew Busby in a recent entry to his Forbes column. 

In-spite of the uncertainty and upheaval, not everyone is suffering (remember #not-all-retailers team).  On this blog we’ve covered exciting examples of innovation on both sides of the Atlantic, while the runaway success of Primark shows that even the flagging fast-fashion sector seems to have life to it yet.

Introducing Non-Response Bias

Perhaps another explanation for the apparent slow-drift into retail-redundancy can be explained by a phenomenon more commonly associated with the world of surveys (but which is highly applicable to customer feedback) – non-response bias. 

The term Non-Response Bias (NRB) has its origins in the world of elections, studies and polls and describes the event in which the results of a study are skewed by a disproportionate sample base.  If 80% of respondents to your poll, come from a proportion that represents just 30% of your total audience, it’s likely that things are going to end up a little skew-whiff.  Indeed, the potential of non-response bias to have a truly significant impact played out on the world stage in dramatic fashion during the last US election cycle. 

HRC vs. DT – NRB in effect? 

Cast your mind back to the 7th November 2016.  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 organisations predict a Clinton majority.  Celebrations are already being planned.  Yet as history was soon to reveal, the experts in this case had it wrong.  Very wrong.

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.

 

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What happens when a large part of your potential audience doesn’t want to talk?

The Connection Between NRB and 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%.  At the same time, the rate by which customers are more likely to ‘vote with their feet’ is higher than ever.

96% unhappy customers won’t complain; 91% of those customers will simply leave and never come back.

While ‘putting the customer at the centre of everything you do’ has become something of a retail cliche, what do when a significant proportion of your audience is actively avoiding your attention?

Engaging the ‘Silent Majority’

The truth of it is that retailers and political pollsters both struggle with a common issue: a large majority of people today simply don’t have the time or inclination to engage with you.  The tendency of ‘silent majority’ is to simply walk away, and this poses a problem for any business that wants to hear what their customer base thinks. 

There’s only so many give-aways or gift vouchers you can offer before you run the risk of skewing a sample.  And unless your customer data is coming in thick and fast, it’s very hard to effectively ‘operationalize’ that data in so far as using it as a tool to help with your daily decision-making processes.  

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.  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 turn non-response bias into a strategic advantage. 

Here’s a selection of points to consider if you’re looking to build an effective customer feedback program:

1. Think about where your data is coming from

When looking for a partner vendors to support your CX efforts, consider where the data they’re using to support their recommendations comes from.  How large is the audience being polled? Are you receiving enough responses to be actionable on a daily or monthly basis?  Is your data at risk of being unrepresentative?

2. Consider whether you’re doing a brand or store-level analysis. 

While many CX platforms are very good at focusing on feedback that allows for a ‘brand level’ analysis, building a data set that can be used at a store-by-store level isn’t always as easy.  Look for providers that are able to give you both a brand overview as well as more granular store level drivers of behaviour.

3. Is your question set leading? 

It’s important to remember the potential for ’emotive’ questions to lead to skewed data sets.  While it’s invaluable to be able to uncover emotional drivers for customer behaviour, remember the lessons of ‘non-response bias’.  Are you capturing feedback that enables you to understand the relationship between customer spend and sentiment?  If not – how could you be doing that better?

Next time you’re considering whether your own dataset is fit for purpose, think back to those pollsters and the night of the 7th November.  If something doesn’t feel quite right, perhaps it’s time to ask, am I missing the woods for the trees?

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TruRating works with retailers to collect representative feedback at scale.  By making feedback easy, we’re democratising insight for consumers and businesses alike, bringing the life back to ‘customer-centric’ retail.

Contact us today, if you would like to discuss how we may be able to help your business too. 

 

 

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.

Mastercard Start Path selects TruRating to join award-winning program

TruRating recently had the honor of joining a select group of ten start-ups chosen to join the Master Card Start Path accelerator for 2019.  The award-winning program was designed to support later-stage tech startups as they scale through access to Mastercard’s technology solutions expertise and partners around the world.

With a starting pool of over 10,000 companies around the globe, acceptance to the Start Path program is a huge validation of all the work that has gone into building TruRating to where it is today.

To read our full press release, click the link below:

Mastercard Start Path + TruRating

PAX and TruRating Are Simplifying Customer Feedback for Retailers

TruRating, customer experience experts specializing in retail insights, and PAX Technology Inc, a world leader in electronic payment solutions, have announced today the availability of TruRating as a feature of the PAX payment platform, allowing retailers to collect real-time customer feedback at checkout.

TruRating’s point-of-payment customer feedback software is now integrated with PAX’s terminal range, beginning with the PX5 and PX7 models, giving PAX clients the ability to ask customer feedback questions on the terminal at checkout. The simplicity of the solution, coupled with the innovative use of payment technology, has seen a global response rate of 88% of customers, unheard of in the world of customer surveys and customer experience platforms.

“As a global leader in payments, PAX continues to add innovative products to their line of terminals,” said Georgina Nelson, Founder and CEO of TruRating. “They are known as being developer-friendly and the PX devices were the obvious choice for us to continue our success with multi-lane merchants.”

“PAX is committed to enabling our partners to provide services beyond just payments” Andy Chau, President and CEO, PAX Technology added. “In today’s rapidly evolving retail environment, listening to customers is more important than ever and the ability to engage with the once silent majority of consumers is a game-changer for retailers of all sizes. We’re very happy to be working with TruRating to deliver this opportunity to PAX customers.”

To learn more about how TruRating can help your business, visit http://www.trurating.com/business

About TruRating

TruRating is a company specializing in customer experience insights, with a particular focus on retail and hospitality industries. Utilizing original point-of-payment technology, TruRating operates on the simple principle of only ever asking one question per customer, which means the vast majority are happy to respond. As the feedback is collected at point of payment, in-store or online, every response comes from a guaranteed customer and is linked to transaction data. With industry-leading response rates at an average of 88%, TruRating’s unique technology platform gives businesses the real-time data they need to make better decisions. Founded in the UK by CEO Georgina Nelson in 2014, TruRating has since expanded operations to Australia, Canada and the United States, and is live in two additional countries, Ireland and New Zealand. Learn more about the ratings revolution at http://www.trurating.com.

About PAX

PAX Technology Inc is an innovative global provider of electronic payment solutions, offering world-class, cost-effective and superior quality products. Building on its service excellence and proven leadership position, PAX is one of the fastest growing payment industry suppliers with state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, excellent R&D capabilities and a worldwide network of sales and channel partners. For more information, please check out http://www.pax.us.

The Influencers: Nicole Leinbach Reyhle

In the first of a brand-new series, in which we talk to some of the leading thinkers and influencers working in retail today, we are delighted to introduce Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle to the TruRating hot seat.

As the founder of Retail Minded – an independent publication founded in 2007 – Nicole has been recognized by companies including IBM, American Express and Vend as a global thought leader, including a recent ranking as #7 out of 100 worldwide retail influencers.

Alongside her own work as a regularly sought-after contributor and consultant for various retail and media outlets, Nicole somehow found the time to co-found the Independent Retailer Conference and author the book, “Retail 101: The Guide to Managing & Marketing Your Business”.

We were delighted when Nicole agreed to give us some time out of her non-stop schedule to talk about some of the contemporary trends and challenges facing retailers large and small.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into retail?

I grew up just outside of Chicago, in a town called Libertyville.  We had a charming little main street and lots of small local businesses.  From the start, it was the business of retail that interested me, rather than where the products came from.  I was fascinated by the idea, that even in a small town, there were opportunities for people to create these unique, one-of-a-kind stores.

I studied retail business management in college and upon graduation built a career in retail.  After stints working as a Marketing Director for the likes of Adidas and Franco Sarto Shoes, I decided I wanted to take everything I’d learnt and put it into something that could help businesses big and small.

That’s how Retail Minded came to life – nearly 12 years ago now.

Are the challenges retailers face today much different to when you started Retail Minded?

There’s much more competition today than 12 years ago.  While it was still a competitive market then – maintaining a high-brand profile has always been a challenge – the way retailers are managing that competition has evolved.

Is there a distinction between the challenges that large businesses are coming up against, compared to the independent sector?

The biggest differentiator between large retail brands and small ones is often resource.  Large retailers may have entire teams dedicated to specific categories of their business.  For the independents, it’s often the case that one or two individuals are truly operating every business touchpoint themselves, which can be a lot to take on.

Does the nimbleness that comes with being an independent offer a competitive advantage over traditional retail? Especially in the light of the supposed ‘retail apocalypse’?

First of all, I don’t think that physical retail is dead. If we look back historically, it’s clear that an evolution is taking place.  There is an increased demand for retailers to make the shopping experience more engaging and exciting than ever before.  With so many choices today, why would someone choose your business if they could go somewhere else and have a better time?

That said, smaller retailers do tend to struggle with the increased expense of constantly striving to stay ahead of the competition.  Smaller retailers almost have to be more proactive in looking ahead to try and stay one step ahead of their customers, than the big guys.

How important is technology in modern retail?

Technology can provide retailers with the clarity to understand who their customers are, what they want and how to deliver against those expectations.  From inventory to marketing to employee management, technology can help with all sorts of different areas.

Can the clarity technology brings help retailers to deliver more ‘human’ and authentic experiences?

Technology alone isn’t going to improve a retail experience.  It needs to be combined with a strong human hand, as, ultimately, it’s human management that strengthens these experiences.  The data that technology collects is only valuable if you have someone who understands your brand on hand to review it.  That’s true across all points of the retail eco-system.

Where do you think the responsibility for providing the best possible customer experience ultimately lies?

When operating a retail business the customer needs to be top of mind in every conversation.  That’s true whether you’re in a forward-facing role or responsible for supply chain logistics far behind the scenes.  Retailers shouldn’t hold one department responsible – it should be top of mind for everyone in your organization.  At the end of the day, you don’t have a business if you don’t have a customer.

Commentators have said that by 2020, CX will be more important than price and even product – what’s your take there?

As we approach 2020 and our use of technology continues to strengthen consumer engagement with the retail-brand experience, customers are no longer going be content with just sitting around and waiting for retailers to catch up with them.  It’s going to be imperative for retailers to provide as many channels of communication to engage the largest captive audience possible.  For the vendor, retail is going to become increasingly complex, yet as far as the customer is concerned, any sign of complexity will need to be eliminated entirely.

Can you give an example of a retailer who you think is leading the way today?

In terms of physical retail, Athleta is doing a really great job of bringing the local community to their storefronts.  By getting local groups and organizations involved in things like early morning activity events, before traditional store hours, they’re reaching a whole segment of new customers they may never previously have touched.

It’s such a simple, but effective way to engage.  If you combine that with their social media, email, catalogues – all the traditional marketing channels – they’re truly making the most of their assets.  Now is it a competitive move? Of course, but I really appreciate the way they make the effort to engage with the local community.

Now when we look online, I’m seeing more and more independent retailers gain heightened visibility through online market places and social media.  They’re optimizing their social feeds to essentially function as storefront windows to their brand, which is allowing tiny little businesses to become quite profitable across the world.

What I love about this is it allows a business with one location to optimize that store to essentially function as a warehouse.  They can still engage with their local community, but thanks to the reach of social media, also send shipments anywhere around the world.

Social media is social selling and independent retailers are really starting to take advantage of this.

Finally then, who are some of your favourite thinkers working in retail today?

I really respect the founder of The Lion’esque Group, Melisa Gonzalez.  They design and curate pop-up shops for various brands.  I love what they do because they’re creating experiences that demand engagement.  The stores might be open for six months or it might just be a week, but they create experiences for product to sell through that people genuinely want to participate in and engage with.  Shoppertainment as my colleagues Kizer and Bender would call it, make sure you credit them for that one!

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A huge thank you once to Nicole for taking the time to speak to us! We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.  For more from Nicole why not follow her on Twitter or sign-up to the get the Retail Minded newsletter straight into your inbox here.

And remember to keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment in our retail influencer series very soon!

 

 

 

Dirty Floors and Retail Basics

While there has been a tendency to paint e-commerce as the thorn in the side of traditional retail, a  recent article in Forbes – Cleanup in Aisle 5? – suggests there are some more fundamental problems at play for the brick & mortar crowd.

As reporter Joan Verdon notes, a study from facilities management platform ServiceChannel has found that retailers who neglect store basics in an effort to cut costs are hastening their own demise…

“In a survey of 1521 consumers, 70% customers said they recently have had a negative experience with a messy store, ranging from dirty bathrooms and broken toilets, to disorganized shelves and burned out light bulbs.”

In an age where competition in the retail sector is at an all-time high, the fact that “over two-thirds of customers said they have walked out of stores because they were messy or disorganized” feels like a shocking statistic.

It seems obvious on paper.  If you’re not unable (or unwilling) to uphold basic hygiene standards, you’re not going to be able to count on repeat visits from your customers. So why is it that so many businesses are cutting back on store maintenance and investment in basic improvements?

Partly the approach might be explained away as an attempt to find a quick fix to a more difficult problem.  With rising costs and lagging sales, store maintenance – “a non-sexy part of the business” – can be one of the first things to suffer.  While a new breed of retailers who understand the importance of providing a consistently excellent (emphasis on ‘consistently’) experience have emerged, there remains a worrying trend to expect customers to reward lacklustre standards with continued loyalty.

Another issue lies in the outdated relationship that often still exists between consumer and business.  Many existing survey methodologies deliver poor response rates, providing little visibility into actual on-site conditions and the fundamentals that impact sales.  While a single store manager may be able to see the floor is a mess, from an operational perspective, it can be difficult for companies to measure and stay on top of such issues business-wide.  If customers are walking out because of poor conditions without telling you – clearly there’s a problem. 

While boardrooms may be under pressure to make cuts, failing to invest in basic fundamentals such as cleanliness is head in the sand behaviour. With four out of five shoppers saying they would “rather have a clean store than ones with the newest tech”, and two-thirds saying “retailers are forgetting the basics… in the rush to add tech”, it seems that for some, a back to basics crash course, may be required before it’s too late.

 

 

What lies in store for the future of retail metrics?

Typical – you wait an hour for one article about the inadequacies of our current methods for measuring retail performance, and two turn up at once.

Recently at TruRating Towers we came across two interesting articles both questioning the validity of today’s most commonly used retail metrics.

Writing in Forbes, Richard Kestenbaum’s “The Way We Measure Retail Store Performance Needs to Change“, puts a straight forward and well-argued case for change.

Historically, there have been two metrics fundamental to measuring store performance:

  1. Sales per square foot
  2. Store income statements

The first was often used to provide a base level indicator of performance that allows for store-by-store comparison, regardless of the actual size of each location.  The second is a more localized metric, that allows management to review performance as if each store effectively operated as its own business.

While these were once stable and generally industry-normative indicators for judging a store’s performance, the relationship the modern consumer has with physical retail locations is more complex. Stores are no longer mere warehouses for selling and holding goods but operate in a variety of ways including:

  • Boosting online sales in the local area (the store as billboard)
  • Pick up and drop off point for online purchases and returns
  • As a venue for ‘experiential’ events

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

In, “Measuring the Store of the Future“, Doug Stephens goes a step further, labelling retail’s traditional KPIs as ‘industrial-age metrics’, “Judging a store’s performance simply by regarding it’s most recent sales results is like evaluating a patient’s health by asking what they had for breakfast that day.” 

Stephen’s hypothesis, echoing his 2017 book Reengineering Retail, is that we will judge the worth of the store of the future in terms of it’s ‘media value’ more than anything else…

But what does this mean?  As the digital space becomes increasingly saturated and reaching anyone online via targeted media becomes near impossible, the value of the store as simply another channel by which to reach customers becomes increasingly tenable, “Your stores are your media,” Stephens writes, “you’re just not measuring it.” (Yet!)

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‘Store as Media’ – a glimpse into the future?

For Stephens, the retail metric of the future will be closer to our existing digital measurements e.g. positioning ‘one positive in-store experience’ as equivalent to a digital impression or click through.  Stephens proposes a method of value calculation that utilizes NPS scores to attempt to derive a quantifiable $-comparison to establish each store’s ‘media worth’.

While certainly thought-provoking, the idea of evaluating store success purely by this kind of hypothetical metric seems a little way off yet.

At TruRating, we believe that ‘Experience’ is the metric that contemporary retail needs to focus on.  While every customer experience is subjective to a degree, providing a consistent way to measure the majority of customer interactions, across a full range of experiential metrics, is the closest one can get to something like an objective truth when it comes to CX.

To put it in simple terms – if you want to understand your business, it’s a necessity to ask your customers about it frequently.  And if you can map that customer sentiment to transactional point-of-sale data while you do it?

Well, you just might be on to something!

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