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.

 

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…

Screen Shot 2019-11-28 at 10.53.28.png

 

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!

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.

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.

 

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!

 

 

 

Leaving a Lasting Impression: Traditional vs. Digital Marketing

Modern Marketing:  A Digital Love Affair

Good data is the foundation upon which strong marketing decisions are made.  The more data at our fingertips, the more targeted we can get.  Which goes some way to explaining the contemporary marketer’s infatuation with all things digital.

Digital is steeped in data.  The ability to A/B test every permutation down to the smallest detail often makes it irresistible to the analytically minded.  Indeed, spend on digital now dwarves that of all other categories, having beaten out its closest rival television just recently.

Traditional vs. Digital – but is it a binary choice? 

Of course not. While digital may be the market leader, at least when it comes to pure $-spend perspective, we’ve gathered evidence to suggest that traditional marketing still has a few tricks up its sleeve and that a combination approach is the most effective.

We’ve collated over 48,000 responses from shoppers across a variety of retailers that deploy our technology, and made some surprising discoveries about the type of marketing that lingers longest in our minds, and is most likely to shape our behaviours.

In our latest white paper, we take an in-depth look at the fresh evidence we’ve pulled together combined with further industry research, to give practical advice and recommendations that will be invaluable to any marketer looking to optimise their budget.

To download your very own copy, just click on the link below.

Leaving a Lasting Impression: A Marketing White Paper

The Art of the Survey

Customer Experience Icon Shep Hyken, was kind enough to feature a guest post from Georgina on his wonderful blog recently over at Hyken.com.  A fantastic speaker and all-around nice guy, Shep has authored several NYT bestsellers including his most recent opus The Convenience Revolution.  For daily doses of  CX wisdom, we highly recommend following Shep on Twitter where he posts regularly along with collecting his five top customer experience related articles each week.

We wrote a piece focusing on the much-maligned ‘art of the survey’ and why in nearly all cases, one question is more than enough for the majority of customers. Here’s a little taster of the post, you’ll find the link to the full article at the bottom of the link.

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One of the biggest misconceptions about collecting customer feedback is the idea that asking more questions provides more of the insights you’re looking for.  In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

While it may be tempting to ask a customer to fill out a survey before they leave your store or solicit feedback online with an incentive on their receipts, there’s a reason those methods tend to fall short on capturing meaningful insights.  In many cases, the response rates are extremely low because customers simply don’t have the time or desire to take a survey.  And when customers do respond, you run the risk of only hearing from those who complete it to earn the incentive, which can damage the accuracy of their responses.

With short attention spans and little patience for anything that may slow down the shopping experience or infringe on free time, many shoppers aren’t looking to fill out long surveys for businesses.  In fact, roughly 80% of consumers believe the most important part of good service is the ability for a company to respect their time.

Striking the delicate balance of garnering feedback from customers, without negatively impacting their experience can be challenging, but the good news is it’s not impossible.

Sometimes a less is more approach can help you gain accurate and powerful customer insights…

Click here to read the full post. 

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What is social proof and why is it important in marketing?

The history of social proof

Social proof as a concept has been around for quite some time. Psychologists were describing it decades ago (perhaps most notably Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence: The psychology of persuasion). However, it’s only recently that we’ve seen it become the focus of intense interest from marketers – particularly marketers in the digital space.

A great example of social proof from pre-digital times is choosing a restaurant. You’re on vacation in a completely new area. Your first day you go for an early evening stroll to find a place to eat. Of course, the beachfront is filled with appealing-looking seafood restaurants.  You walk by three that are almost exactly the same. All look good, but two are almost empty and one is almost full. Which do you choose?

The vast, vast majority of us will choose the busy restaurant. Even though we know this means that service will probably take longer. It may not even be a fully-conscious decision – such is the power of social proof.

This is but one example – there are all kinds of ways that social proof is influencing our behavior every day – from working later because our colleagues tend to, to watching a box office hit movie or reading a bestselling novel.

As much as we all love to think of ourselves as independent, free-willed individuals, the truth is that we’re all human, and as such all subject to a certain amount of ‘herd mentality’: we like to fit in.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Social Proof Pioneer: Elvis Presley

Recent developments in social proof

So why has ‘social proof’ as a concept suddenly moved front and center of many a marketer’s spheres of interest?

Well, consider the above restaurant example. These days people are as likely to hop onto the TripAdvisor app on their phone as they are to take a chance on strolling up & down the road to pick out a restaurant. And what powers TripAdvisor? Social proof in the form of ratings and reviews.

While restaurants and cafes remain the top category that consumers check reviews for, all types of commerce are now subject to social proof. Even in the case of buying products in a brick & mortar store, people still often jump online to check out reviews first (usually for larger ticket items – not so much when buying a pack of gum). In fact, in 2018 56% of consumers read reviews on their mobile devices while browsing in-store.

It’s not just reviews. The simple power of knowing that lots of people have made the decision we’re considering can help push us one way or the other. Hence ads and sign-up CTAs have started to include little nuggets such as “114, 506 people in your area have already joined us!”. Next time you’re booking a hotel, notice the little pop up that tells you something like “This hotel has been booked 19 times in the past 24 hours”.  Even Candy Crush, when encouraging you to buy extra moves to get past a level, now tells you reassuringly, “28, 881 people used extra moves to complete this level”. Oh, well, in that case…

Other types of social proof include celebrity endorsements, expert endorsements (“9 out of 10 dentists recommend…”) and quick stats similar to those above, like “84 people are currently viewing this webpage”. However, ratings and reviews are where the big business (and hand in hand, the gaming and the fakery) lies.

Social proof and marketing

Whether you’re marketing a product, service or experience, if you have no online reviews, you have a big problem. 92% of consumers will hesitate to make a purchase if there are none, according to this 2017 survey.

86% of shoppers will look for reviews according to this 2018 consumer survey – and this is only going to grow. In the 18-34 category, 95% of people look for reviews, and 92% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

This last stat was fairly astounding to me. As a marketer, I’d always understood ‘Word of Mouth’ (or WOM) marketing to be the ever-elusive holy grail for marketing, something that money can’t buy, and that ‘friends & family’ recommendations were the most powerful of all.

And yet here is a growing body of evidence that online ratings and reviews are almost as powerful as a personal recommendation from a family member.

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TruRating collected more reviews for a London based DimSum restaurant than Disney World

How to get social proof

Whether you work in retail, hospitality, service or pretty much any industry going, there is a multitude of tools available to help you increase your business’s social proof.

Here is our run-down of the factors you should keep in mind when considering these tools:

  • Mix it up. Online ratings may be the most powerful tool in the kit, but ‘recent customer activity’-type quick stats have been said to boost conversion rates by 10-25% in e-commerce.
  • Quantity counts. People find your rating more trustworthy if they can see a lot of people have rated. Choose a tool that makes it as easy as possible for people to rate, and watch your social proof skyrocket!
  • Don’t aim for perfection. This fascinating study found that not only is the quantity of ratings way more important than quality but that a perfect rating average can actually hurt your business, as readers view it as a suspect.
  • Timing is, if not everything, then certainly very important. 70% of people responded to a question about how recent the reviews need to be in order to trust them with ‘within one month’. More than half of those preferred ‘within two weeks’. Choose a tool that keeps your ratings display fresh.
  • Make sure you’re pushing traffic in the right direction. No sense having all this fantastic influence on your consumer’s buying behavior if they’re not then directed to the right place (such as your website). If the increase in traffic picks up enough, you’ll also see a positive impact on your SEO – win-win!

TruRating and social proof

By asking customers one simple question each as they pay, both online and in-store, TruRating gets businesses more ratings than they’ve ever had before.

With the highest response rates of any customer rating system, we’ve helped a small London restaurant chain gain more ratings in just two years than Disney World has in total.

And it’s not just about the numbers…once you’re collecting all those ratings, we can help you leverage them in the most valuable possible way, through real-time updates on your website that help positively influence your customers’ buying behavior.

Speak to us about how you can use your in-store ratings to boost online social proof.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RetailEXPO 2019 Wrap-Up – what we learnt.

RetailEXPO has fast become a highlight in the European retail calendar and this year’s event was another fantastic showcase for the latest in technology, design and innovation. We were absolutely thrilled to play an active part in the show this year, with TruRating founder Georgina Nelson speaking to a packed house on the Marketing + Branding stage on Day 1. It’s hard to capture the breadth and diversity of the action on display over the course of the event, but here are a few of our key takeaways.

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Dismantling Myths – ‘The death of the high-street’

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, picked up on a common thread for industry analysts worldwide when she noted that a lot of her and the BRC’s time was still spent “trying to dispel the myth of the death of the high-street”.  In 2019 the fact that this message still has to be driven home feels a little strange.  While no-one would deny the seismic impact of e-commerce, as industry analyst Steve Dennis noted this time last year – Physical Retail Isn’t Dead. Boring Retail Is.

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The Future is Personal

Martin Wild, the Chief Innovation Officer for MediaMarktSaturn (one of Europe’s leading electronics retailer imprints) delivered a refreshingly honest keynote on the future for next-generation retail.  While Wild was happy to admit that, “I don’t know what the future of retail will look like”, he was clear on one thing – “personalisation and hyper-personalisation will be a very big thing.”  As customers become increasingly used to brands building experiences around their expectations, this seems like one of the few remaining certainties in an ever-changing retail landscape.  A quick shout out to Andrew Busby, who ably intro’d the Headline Stage at the event – if you haven’t already, check out his excellent regular retail column in Forbes.

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Data-Driven Insights Today

While we’re not usually ones to toot our own horns, we’d be remiss not to take a quick look at Georgina’s feature on the Marketing and Branding Stage.  Discussing our work with JD Sports, it was great to be able to shine a light on a collaborative relationship, showing how TruRating has helped the retailer to operationalize their customer feedback, rather than simply use it as a marketing opportunity. George offered a strong call to action on the day, “Find a customer feedback solution that removes friction, connects sentiment data to basket and delivers in real-time”.

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves 😉.

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As always, a huge thanks to all the hard work put into the event by the organizers and folks behind the scenes.  We were honoured to take part in such an exciting showcase for the retail community.

A final word of appreciation to our incredible partners FIS, Worldpay and Payment Express for giving us the opportunity to showcase our technology on their stands.

We can’t wait to do it all again next year.

How to put Customer Experience Theory into Practice

A recent report by Bain & Company contained the somewhat shocking statistic that while 80% of businesses believe they provide a ‘superior proposition’ only 8% of their customers agree.

For those in the retail business, this highlights one of the key challenges facing the industry today – how to close the gap between the service you think you’re providing and your customers lived experiences.

The evidence is there to show that a well-executed CX strategy really is one of the key drivers for the ‘holy trinity’ of customer spend, loyalty and advocacy, but actually implementing an approach that works for your business can be a complicated endeavour.

To help you make the leap from theory to practice, we’ve collected a series of insights from some of the best minds working in customer experience today.  Practical tips that you can start to put to work right now, or at the very least, use as inspiration for your future CX adventures.

Jeanne Bliss – Get Deliberate

For five-time Chief Customer Officer Jeanne Bliss, taking a deliberate approach to customer experience is key: “What is the memory you want to imprint on your customers? Are you hiring the right people and behaving the right way to make those moments?”

In a world where up to 80% of Gen-Z shoppers prefer to shop in-store, but often turn to online for convenience sake, it’s up to retailers to find ways to draw shoppers into their doors. By focusing on the tangible elements of your customer experience (our data indicates that outstanding service is a key driver here) you can connect with your customers in a truly ‘meaningful’ sense, without necessarily requiring a huge output in terms of costs.

Tip: Every interaction with a customer provides an opportunity to create an ambassador for your brand – be deliberate in your efforts to empower your staff so that they can make decisions that are right for your customers and business both.

Jeremy Watkin – Be Part of the Solution 

Jeremy Watkin, thought leader and co-creator of the Customer Service Life Blog, believes everyone is responsible for the customer experience: “Before we start beating the drum, let’s roll up our sleeves and be part of the solution. This means that whatever your level in your organization, you can start improving the CX right now.”

Whatever the size of your business, individuals should be given the chance to shine. A shift manager at one our partner merchants, noticed a dip in scores for product and service scores across the evenings in his busy urban location. After an inspection of the floor, it became clear that stock and staffing issues were affecting the customer experience.  Through a few simple measures – reshuffling the staff schedule and ensuring product layouts remained consistent across the day –  he was able to achieve a 22% increase in satisfaction with a 12% associated increase in customer spend.

Tip: ServiceChannel recently reported two-thirds of customers have walked out of stores because they were messy or disorganised.  Investing in a tool that helps measure service standards at the individual and store level can help you to avoid basic, but costly, mistakes.

Shep Hyken – Convenience is King  

For New York Times best-selling author Shep Hyken (The Convenience Revolution), the businesses that will lead the way tomorrow, are those that make it easy to shop with them.  To truly please your customers, you have to focus on ‘innovation that makes life more convenient for them’.

The rise of “Click & Collect” is one example of a recent retail trend, born as a result of businesses adapting to the needs of the modern consumer.  While overcoming limited retail space can pose a challenge in terms of fulfilment pressures, for those who can get it right, it’s been shown to be a winning formula.  UK retailer Next was able to see off the challenges of an increasingly difficult market, largely in thanks to its Click & Collect program, which grew by 15% following a strategic investment in fulfilment capabilities.

Tip:  Investment in operational capabilities like fulfilment can be just as important as the more obvious front-line aspects of your customer experience.  If you can anticipate your customers’ needs, it makes the choice to do business with you a much easier one.

Nate Brown – Voice of the Customer is Key   

Nate Brown, Director of CX at UL EHS Sustainability and co-founder of CX Accelerator, warns that in today’s environment, “Competition is too fierce to be asleep at the experience wheel”.  For Brown, the missing bridge from theory to action is the “Voice of the Customer” (VoC). Without having an accurate tool in place to help listen to and react to customer response, it can be hard to know if you’re focusing on the right priorities.

Retail Prodigy Group (master franchisee holders for Nike in Australia and New Zealand) utilized VoC technology to help them do just that.  By measuring the impact of a series of relatively simple service standards – asking for a customer’s first name, offering multiple product selections, smiling at checkout – the retailer was able to clearly demonstrate their value to staff, increasing compliance, and shortly thereafter revenues, in one fell swoop.

Tip: A Voice of the Customer tool can help you to make informed strategic decisions for your business.  When looking at providers, it’s important to consider both measuring customer satisfaction and the associated revenue opportunities. 

Brian Dennis – Show the ROI of your Initiatives    

For Brian Dennis, former VP Customer Experience at Kohl’s, one of the greatest challenges facing professionals today is the challenge to secure executive support for customer experience initiatives, “All the time and effort spent planning and designing a CX program will be for nought without an ROI that meets similar criteria to other areas within the business.”  While trusted sources like the Forrester Customer Experience Index have shown that incremental CX performance can be worth millions of dollars in revenue, external evidence isn’t always enough to make a business case.

Working with a large discount-retailer, we helped the operations team to deliver quantifiable proof that the cost of additional training to special ‘Service Champions’ was a worthy investment.  By providing a simple framework to measure the impact of their efforts (and a clear projected long-term ROI) a once seemingly complicated decision, became much simpler. 

Tip: If you can clearly tie your initiatives to revenue opportunities, it becomes much easier to earn support for CX goals with executive teams. Be prepared to justify your ambitions at both a customer and business level!

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No matter the size of your budget or team, there is never a wrong time to think about the ways you can implement CX best practices into your day to day operations.

Tools like TruRating, provide a simple and effective way to both manage and prove the value of your initiatives. If you would like to discuss how we could help you to get the most out of your CX strategy for the year ahead, we’d love to hear from you.

Email us at hello@trurating.com or visit our Let’s Talk page to find the direct phone number for your region.

Continue reading “How to put Customer Experience Theory into Practice”