Connected Consumer Series Wrap-Up

  • July 3, 2012 at 1:38 PM EDT
  • By the Retail TouchPoints editorial staff
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Retail TouchPoints recently completed its eight-part webinar series covering the most challenging issues on retailers’ minds and in their conference rooms. Industry experts, analysts and retailers gathered to share their experience and insights with more than 900 webinar registrants.

The compilation below reveals highlights from each session.

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Table Of Contents:

I. Transforming the Workforce from an Expense to a Competitive Advantage
II. Creating Cohesive Cross-Channel Strategies
III. Moving Beyond CRM & BI To Improve The Customer Experience
IV. Mobilizing Store Associates To Mobilize Sales
V. Strategies For Courting And Capturing The Mobile Consumer
VI. Bringing The Benefits Of The Onine Experience Into The Store
VII. Embracing The Social Shopper
VIII. The C-Suite Perspective On Using Data To Boost In-Store Conversion


I. In a session titled: Transforming The Workforce From An Expense To A Competitive Advantage, Workforce Insights’ Strategic Services VP, Scott Knaul, focused on workforce management (WFM) and its impact on the customer experience.

More than 35% of retailers have quantified their customer experience in terms of the payroll required to deliver the defined vision. Two-thirds of the retailers surveyed in the report said their customer service model has room for improvement or unacceptable at driving improved customer satisfaction.

“The driving force when you are defining or implementing any type of workforce management program must be to deliver a better customer experience overall,” said Scott Knaul, Strategic Services VP at Workforce Insight. “If you can do that you are going to increase conversion rates, basket size and profit.”

Familiar symptoms as to why retailers are not able to deliver a high-quality, or more consistent, customer experience include the lack of time and task abundance, according to Knaul. To address these concerns, Knaul focused on three common causes: 1) undefined labor standards; 2) excessive workload; and 3) store variability.

“Inspect What You Expect”
Retailers understand that in order to keep pace with new trends there must be a level of monitoring and measuring success. To help retailers do so, Knaul offered three points to monitoring and measuring tasks:

  1. Continually optimize new framework and systems;
  2. Revisit standards, processes and labor drivers for both customer-facing and non-selling tasks; and
  3. Identify fresh new ways to look at data to impact customer service.

II. In a session titled: Creating Cohesive Cross-Channel Strategies, Martin Gill of Forrester Research shared recent research and insights related to the connect consumer, the future of mobile shopping and implementing agility into the marketing mix.

Connected consumers are accessing pricing information as well as ratings and reviews. As many as 61% of U.S. shoppers have used an in-store price scanning station, he noted. Connectivity is a global phenomenon, with 45% of web users in China accessing the Internet on their mobile devices as teir primary web connection.

Gill described today’s retail environment as a place for agile commerce, requiring a new approach. “It places the customer at the center of every decision and embraces a mantra of constant change.”

Before leaving her home to shop at a store, today’s typical consumer may access a mobile app, do some research on Facebook and peruse Pinterest.

At checkout, she may add items to her mobile wish list,  use her mobile digital wallet to pay and collect mobile loyalty points.

Gill also explained the four steps of the agile journey: optimize the experience, be customer-obsessed, encourage cross-touch point metrics and excel at both strategic and tactical changes.

During the presentation, Rebecca Bucnis of Teradata presented the company’s perspectives on omni-channel retailing.


III.
In a session titled: Moving Beyond CRM & BI To Improve The Customer Experience, sponsored by PivotLink, Kevin Permenter, Supply Chain Management Research Associate at Aberdeen Group, highlighted key trends for integrating the voice of the consumer (VoC) across all channels, as well as the impact of the customer centric model and approach on all aspects of store operations.

“Customer channel preferences are constantly evolving; changing the way they engage and shop across channels,” said Permenter. “Retail and consumer marketing organizations need to change with the times in order to stay relevant in the eyes of the consumer. This customer-centric mindset must go beyond sales and marketing.”

To ground the discussion, Permenter shared a quote from Macy’s CMO Peter Sachse during National Retail Federation’s 2012 Big Show. During the conference, Sachse said customer loyalty relies on placing the customer at the center of all decisions. “We’re bringing customer data into what historically have been merchandising decisions,” Sachse said.

Today, retailers must consider customers’ demands in key points of the purchase decision. “Sophisticated retailers understand that they need to bring the customer beyond the sales and marketing end and bring them to the forefront: supply chain, merchandising decisions and assortment planning,” Permenter explained. “All must be focused on what the end-user is telling you based on the collected data.”

Top three pressures retail executives face when implementing customer loyalty programs, according to research from Aberdeen Group:

  • Inability to capture or analyze customer data (50%);
  • Customers lack similar loyalty experiences across all channels (35%); and
  • Lack of loyalty promotion effectiveness (32%).

IV. In a session titled: Mobilizing Store Associates To Mobilize Sales, Steve Rowen of Retail Systems Research discussed the value of certain technologies in the retail environment. One of the top uses of in-store technology today is related to helping employees become better educated. In addition, Rowen noted, retail winners are actively adding mobile technology to the in-store mix.

Some of the most challenging issues include creating a more consistent store experience and improving customer service while holding the line on payroll costs. Mobile plays a key role in most, if not all, of today’s challenges, since shoppers are using mobile as part of their overall experience.

Mobile technology, according to Rowen, will differentiate stores and brands. Stores can perform a variety of functions with mobile, from improving customer loyalty and creating personalized offers to halt sales losses and discourage price comparisons.

What’s stopping retailers from moving forward with mobile initiatives? ROI, budgeting and internal resource challenges are the top three organizational inhibitors.

With the lines blurring in the conference room, different types of executives are participating in decisions around mobile and other strategies. While the CIO remains a vital player, the CMO has taken on a more significant role. Many companies also now have an eCommerce executive on hand.

Also during this session, Mary Ann Gunn from Motion Computing talked about the benefits of implementing mobile tools in the retail store.


V.
In a session titled: Courting And Capturing The Mobile Consumer, Gary Schwartz, President of Impact Mobile, presented key insight into how brands including Coca-Cola, Estee Lauder and Hot Topic are increasing conversion by engaging shoppers across channels.

“The notion in retail of having a fast shopper, but a slow store, can be a daunting issue,” Schwartz noted. “There are lots of things that pop up in the news and we try to navigate statements like ‘death of email,’ ‘the end of plastic’ and ‘the store as a showroom.’ It’s very difficult to understand where to position your brand and store in the ecosystem and navigate all this disruptive talk that seems to boil down to the smartphone and mobile consumer.”

While the mobile phone presents a huge opportunity, many retailers regard it as a threat. Rather than treating it as a mini computer, Schwartz encourages retailers to view it in its truest sense — as a communication device that helps people connect. 

And while there’s been a great deal of chatter about new rollouts to bring the mobile wallet to life, mobile checkout is still in flux and retailers are unsure how to embrace these new concepts. But the bigger picture that mobile paints is need to understand the new rules of customer engagement. As the lines of retail channels become increasingly blurred, mobile offers a new engagement touch point.

“In a world where you don’t want to interrupt purchase intent, and people have intent to buy your product, you can now actually drive impulse conversion. You can get that purchase happening right now — for example, in a subway station — and enable consumers to make the purchase right there and then.”

Schwartz pointed to UK-based grocer Tesco, a retailer that installed simulated shopping environments in Korean subway stations to enable on-the-go consumers to scan a photo of an item and purchase it to be delivered to their homes.


VI.
Best-in-class retailers are utilizing digital technologies to boost interactivity, education and conversion inside the four walls of the store. During a recent session from the Connected Consumer Series, retail industry experts gathered to share their insights on the must-have tools and strategies to bring brick-and-mortar stores to more innovative heights. 

Titled: Bringing The Benefits Of The Online Experience Into The Store, the presentation offered in-depth insights into how retailers can leverage smartphones, kiosks, tablets and other digital tools to keep pace with consumers’ expectations of the in-store experience. Speakers also offered best practices and detailed strategies regarding how retailers can revamp store locations to create seamless brand experiences.

Speakers included: Christopher Krywulak, CEO of iQmetrix; Kris Parker, Director of Marketing and Brand for Jump.ca; and Tate Fisher, Chief Creative Officer at Katalyst Group.

Krywulak shared research from Google, revealing that 89% of consumers use their smartphone throughout the day. Additionally, consumers admitted to using their mobile devices while waiting in line (59%), eating (48%) and shopping (44%). Although the growing proliferation of smartphones has led to the growth of “showrooming,” Krywulak reaffirmed that this cross-channel shopping tactic doesn’t occur often.

“We’ve certainly seen a rise in showrooming shopping strategies,” Kyrwulak said. “However, retailers should keep in mind that these price-sensitive shoppers only make up a small percentage of the overall population.”

By implementing interactive retail, merchants can create a fun and compelling environment to drive traffic and conversions, Krywulak explained. Additionally, the utilization of digital tools in the brick-and-mortar environment drives education and engagement among consumers and employees, creating a platform to display promotions, campaigns and recommended items. As a result, shoppers can move across the browsing and buying lifecycle more efficiently.

During his presentation, Parker offered a detailed walk-through of Jump.ca’s goals in adopting iQmetrix’s solution suite for more engaging brick-and-mortar experiences. A reseller of wireless and telecommunications products and services, Jump.ca revamped its flagship store to exceed its competition.

Fisher — who closed out the webinar — offered a checklist of four principles that help create memorable and compelling store designs. These principles are as follows:

  1. Intentional: Retailers should showcase products, services and other offerings in an efficient manner.
  2. Consistent:  Signage, in-store technology and overall layout should match a retailer’s overall brand mission and culture.
  3. User friendly: Customers should have access to technology and other in-store resources that are easy to navigate throughout the browsing and buying journey.
  4. Flexible: Stores should be modular and easy to alter based on shifts in design trends and technologies.

VII. Social networking sites are impacting how consumers receive information and offers, and interact with brands. Now more than ever, shoppers are demanding more personalized communication across Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. However, retailers are not keeping pace with these trends, according to Christina Heggie, Senior Analyst at A.T. Kearney.

During the Connected Consumer Series session, titled: Embracing The Social Shopper, Heggie shared in-depth insights on how new consumer trends and technological advancements are shaping the future of customer engagement strategies.

Because consumers are engaging with brands and buying more through digital channels, retailers are beginning to develop e-Commerce strategies and trial social media marketing campaigns. As a result, retailers shouldn’t be asking “if,” but “when” and “how” e-Commerce will fully integrate with social media, Heggie reported.

More consumers are turning to their social graphs to comment on pictures, share information and receive feedback from family and friends on recent purchases. In fact, consumer actions, including comments, replies, “Likes,” and shares are significantly outpacing fan growth, according to Heggie, reaffirming higher activity rates for each user.

Additionally, consumers are more likely to “Like” personal messages on Facebook versus promotional ones, according to A.T. Kearney research: 69% of consumers “Liked” unique/personal messages, while only 11% “Liked” promotional content.

However, results from A.T. Kearney’s report, titled: Can Companies Use Social Media to Find the Way?, reveal that most retailers are still struggling to build memorable and compelling communication with consumers. Through an analysis of Interbrand’s top 50 brands, the report indicated that most companies utilize promotional updates (61%), rather than personalized messages (13%).


VIII.
Bob Willett, former CEO of Best Buy International, kicked off the Connected Consumer webinar series with an invigorating discussion about  using data to improve conversions through the retail brand experience.

Titled: The C-Suite Perspective On Using Data To Boost In-Store Conversion, the presentation sparked questions from attendees around merchandising, global commerce and the latest data collection tools.

During the presentation, Willett stressed the importance of equipping store associates and managers with real-time information in order to meet the needs of today’s demanding shoppers. He also urged all retailers to ensure that every business decision is designed to impact the customer experience in a positive way.

Willett shared real-world retailer examples, mentioning Apple and Nordstrom as two retailers that have successfully dedicated business decisions to their customers’ experience.
  

Click here to register for the on-demand version of the Connected Consumer series. Attendees who register for one session have complimentary access to all 8 webinars.

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