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Bazaarvoice partners with The Insiders for ‘impactful’ product reviews…

Bazaarvoice has announced its partnership with the global shopper advocacy network, The Insiders to create ‘impactful’ product reviews for retailers, brands and consumers as part of its Content Acquisition Partner Program (CAPP).

Working together as partners, product reviews written by The Insiders as part of client campaigns are aligned into the Bazaarvoice Network that syndicates the reviews to thousands of retail and brand websites around the world; allowing marketers to generate and display product reviews faster on retail websites immediately after a product launches.

With access to more than 10 million consumer advocates (people dedicated to protecting and promoting consumer welfare and rights), Insiders SmartReviews® claims to tap into an engaged community consisting of ‘word of mouth’ ambassadors to generate authentic online reviews.

Bjorn Cassier, CEO and founder of The Insiders said: “With 95 per cent of shoppers consulting peer reviews during their purchasing journey, according to Forrester Research, shopper to shopper storytelling and recommendations are currency to enable better product decisions faster and influence their purchase.

“We’re excited to partner with Bazaarvoice, leveraging the authentic feedback and stories of our global shopper word of mouth network even further.”

Reaching more than 25 countries, members of the CAPP are able to regulate content from shoppers’ experience and recommendations during their purchase journey on a regional and global basis.

Aaron Bollinger, vice president of Partnerships at Bazaarvoice added: “Quality consumer-generated content fuels the Bazaarvoice Network. We are excited to collaborate with The Insiders to offer clients an expanded toolkit for collecting more content to power their CGC programs, which has already proven to drive great results for our clients.”

Big-name UK retailers still baffled by eCommerce basics…

Research published on eCommerce performance has revealed that UK retailers are missing out on £2 billion in online revenue every year due to the running of slow websites and failing to introduce ‘guest checkouts’.

Based on four key factors: technology, marketing, trading, and service and logistics, the Scorecard analysis conducted by Summit found Argos and Sainsbury’s to be the top performers across the board, closely followed by John Lewis, Screwfix and Tesco.

Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Topshop and Superdrug all hold the bottom position with an overall score of 56 per cent, and as a result of limited contact options and slow response times for customers, Topshop scored just 13 per cent for online customer service.

The report also found that 38 per cent of the top 50 retailers do not have a guest checkout option, costing an estimated £1 billion per year as over a quarter of shoppers abandon their baskets without this option.

Hedley Aylott, co-founder and CEO at Summit said: “The Summit Scorecard provides us with an understanding of what the top 50 UK retailers are really like to shop with online. “While retailers have made huge strides, with most now getting mobile right, many are still struggling to offer delivery options that meet shoppers’ needs.

While this will not be an easy fix, no-one in retail needs further convincing or evidence of the importance of the online experience on overall profitability. These results are confirmation that there is still a lot of room for improvement, highlighting the real opportunity for retailers to fix some of the basics.”

Despite the imperfections, when looking at eCommerce technology and mobile compatibility, Scorecard discovered that 92 per cent of the top 50 retailers have websites built for mobile.
To download the full report, click here

Shop Direct ‘first UK retailer to launch WhatsApp-style service platform’…

Shop Direct has become the first UK-based retailer to apply conversational user interface (CUI) technology for customer service, launching ‘Very Assistant’ for customers to find answers to their questions in a WhatsApp–style chat environment.  

The owner of Very.co.uk, Littlewoods.com, VeryExclusive.co.uk and LittlewoodsIreland.ie has initially made the automated platform available via the Very.co.uk iOS app, and claims the technology makes the user journey even simpler for customer service questions, allowing people to easily interact with Very.co.uk representatives in a format that they are adept at using on a day-to-day basis. 

Developed in-house by Shop Direct’s multi-award-winning eCommerce team, Very Assistant works by asking the app user if they need any help. The customer is then presented with a sequence of questions and multiple action options, which the customer taps within the chat environment. The customer’s answers enable the platform to instantly serve up the information they are looking for. 

Jonathan Wall, eCommerce director at Shop Direct said: “This fully native platform is squarely focused on what our customers need. It’s delivered through our app because that’s where they want to have questions answered. It’s also the best place for us to collect feedback and constantly improve Very Assistant. 

“We think this new technology will simplify our user journey, improve satisfaction, and help to boost efficiency in our customer service operation. It’s also the first step towards ‘natural language’, AI-driven CUI – which is something we’re hugely excited about.” 

Customers can use Very Assistant to make a payment on their Very.co.uk account, check their payment dates, track an order, confirm that recent payments have been processed and request a reminder of their account number. 

Retailers that shun technology risk major dip in consumer confidence…

Three quarters (75 per cent) of UK shoppers say they have more confidence in retailers that use up-to-date technology, with Londoners and the under-35s considered the most judgmental. 

Conducted to support the launch of Worldpay’s My Business Hub till system – an all-in one, tablet based point-of-sale (POS) created to help independent retailers transition into the digital age – the payment company’s research found that 80 per cent of respondents in these demographic groups said they are more likely to trust retailers that utilise up-to-date technology than those that do not. Many state tech-savvy retailers come across as more professional and committed to improving the overall experience. 

Among the 2,000 consumers surveyed, only seven per cent said they had concerns that technology could get in the way of delivering the type of experience they were looking for in-store. 

Retailers that refuse debit and credit card payments provoked a particularly strong reaction within the research, as one in five under-35s said they would be concerned about the quality of products in stores that only took cash, and a further 22 per cent have abandoned purchases when their preferred payment option is not available.  

Dave Hobday, UK managing director at Worldpay, said: “Consumers still have a strong connection to the high street, but technology has transformed their expectations. Today’s digitally driven shoppers want to be able to research their purchases online, seek advice from staff in-store, pay in any way that they choose, and return items at the click of a button. Businesses that fail to offer that level of service are increasingly viewed with suspicion. 

“80 per cent of consumers think retailers could be making better use of technology to improve the instore experience, so it’s reassuring that similar proportions of high street businesses see technology as holding the key to their future survival. Innovations like My Business Hub ensure that great technology is easily accessible to all business. Small businesses need to embrace change and digitally evolve in order to thrive as part of a modern and diverse high street.”   

Cash only payments, handwritten receipts and the lack of a website were among the main ‘technology triggers’ which led consumers to think twice about whether or not to part with their money. 41 per cent of consumers said trustworthy retailers make it easy to pay by card as well as cash; while 39 per cent said they trusted retailers who offered digital receipts to make returns easier.  

Learn more about ‘MyBusinessHub’ here 

Guest Blog, Paul Russell: Productively lead and engage your retail workforce…

Employee engagement is the level of involvement an employee feels with their organisation which in turn affects their overall satisfaction with the job and their enthusiasm (or otherwise) for performing their role to the best of their ability. In retail, with its characteristic fast pace and numerous employee/customer interactions, engaging employees is particularly relevant. Where companies achieve the holy grail of retail, engaged staff, they can not only create and maintain the best service quality for customers, but increase employee productivity and customer satisfaction and reduce employee turnover. In essence, engaged staff means greater business success.

Work from Kahn suggested that there are three key aspects to employee engagement; meaningfulness, safety and availability. Meaningfulness is how vital an employee perceives their performance in their role to be, the value they place on what they do and how beneficial to overall business performance they find their work activities to be. A key way of managing perceptions of meaningfulness in employees is through effective leadership, clearly communicating not only the specific tasks that must be undertaken but the overall business benefits, where possible allowing retail staff to vary tasks and roles, and regularly sharing stories of success.  Employees can come to retail with subconscious negative perceptions of the role, or without effective leadership these can develop over time, and it is down to managers to identify and alter these beliefs before they erode engagement.

The safety aspect of employee engagement involves how able the employee feels to be authentic within their role. Environment is particularly relevant here, imagine for example a new luxury retail employee who has not worked in luxury before. There is a certain acclimatisation that needs to occur, of which training is key, before they understand both the environment and the customers and feel safe. Once this luxury acclimatisation has occurred and the employee feels confident and assured within their role, safety is no longer a barrier to employee engagement. Safety needs can also be met through strong leadership and effective internal communications that show support for staff, and that their wellbeing is being looked after.

Availability is concerned with resources, physical, cognitive and emotional, and the employee’s assessment of whether they have adequate resources to undertake their job. These resources can be both workplace and home based. From a workplace perspective, an employee would look at resources such as personal development provision and the training matrix put in place to cater to their physical, cognitive and emotional needs, alongside employee benefits schemes and rewards. Outside of work, an employees’ personal situation can impact upon their perception of resources available to do their job through tiredness and so forth and once more this is a management issue necessitating effective leadership.

The thread that links all elements of employee engagement is leadership and the creation of a workplace culture that promotes personal development. Equipping retail staff with the requisite skills and knowledge to provide excellent service to their retail customers results in confident, happy and above all engaged staff who will flourish in their positions.

 

Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London, a multi-national private training company with offices in London, Delhi and Visakhapatnam. Prior to founding Luxury Academy London, Paul worked in senior leadership roles across Europe, the United States, Middle East and Asia.

iTradeNetwork expands fresh food supply chain solution across EMEA…

The leading global provider of on-demand supply chain management purposely built for the food industry, iTradeNetwork, has confirmed it is expanding its offering for the EMEA market after experiencing substantial success in the US.

Headed by the VP for EMEA, Bob Godfrey, a newly appointed team will focus on delivering the organisation’s solutions in key segments such as retail, food services, distribution, and manufacturing across the region. Furthermore, it will will continue to develop on its existing network of suppliers, retailers, food service distributors and operators including five of the top five food service management companies; nine of the top 10 food service distributors; and 16 of the top 20 food retailers. 

Godfrey said of the expansion: “Highly functional fresh produce departments are key drivers for customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and profitability. But the fresh food supply chain, which is more demanding than staple goods, has a unique set of challenges, with high inventory turnaround and variables in both the quality and availability of stock.”

He continued: “Supply chain directors know there is a need for much smarter logistics management and complete transparency to adhere to new food safety rules. iTradeNetwork’s product suite offers supply chain traceability, in addition to easing the day-to-day aspects of the commercial buy/sell transaction.”

The company claims to offer the only solution that integrates visibility, control and insights to quickly get products to the retail shelves; meanwhile optimising costs and minimising waste across the entire food supply chain.  

 

Learn more about iTradeNetwork here 

Industry Spotlight, Detego: Why omnichannel is ‘everything’ in fashion retail…

It’s clear that omnichannel is key to winning customers in fashion retail and, now more than ever, retail bosses need to be fully aware of customer behaviours both in-store and online – how they move from page to page and view each item; the most popular product categories; the average length of time spent shopping, and so forth.

The concept of omnichannel can be seen as both a huge opportunity and an immense challenge for retailers. For some, it can be experienced as an ‘unrealised dream’ in today’s intensely competitive market. The technology readily available and brick-and-mortar stores can acquire ‘real-time data’ on stock, but how can retailers introduce a beneficial strategy to reap the rewards?

 

Implementing a successful omnichannel strategy

Essentially, to successfully implement a truly omnichannel strategy you need high quality real-time data analysis and smart merchandise management on the single item level, to ensure the consumer follows-through on a desired purchase.

You need to be able to map your customer’s journey, to fully understand how and why they might reach out to browse or buy on different channels at different times.

If you can anticipate and map out the typical customer journey, then you are far more likely to convert to a sale, whether in store or online.

Click & Collect is all well and good, but you need to deliver. Too many consumers have been let down by major retailers over the last few years, due to poor stock control and inventory management. Which is exactly why retailers now need to connect, integrate and bridge their customer experiences online and offline to deliver the seamless omnichannel customer experience today´s consumers expect.

You need to offer real-world personalised customer experiences that create engagement through both in-store and digital means and that can also transform an in-store experience with special touches – such as smart fitting rooms, for example.

The key is in deploying technology that will help you to view and manage your stock inventory in real-time, without having to completely rehaul all of your entire technology systems.

Based on Detego’s proven software suite for business intelligence, which is on the edge of technological advances also in terms of hands-free infrastructure, the solution was deployed in a very short time frame. The fast implementation and deployment was underpinned by a lean and agile approach to immediately realize the aimed business benefits for Denimwall Inc.

We helped to achieve their goals using a variety of technologies to compliment their business vision. A full automated, hands-free RFID ceiling reader system combined with real-time analytics software gave them item level visibility on their garments, plus a mobile application that integrated with our existing retail system all worked together to help them achieve one phase of their overall onmichannel vision.

This is a great example of how an onmichannel vision should be implemented and what it means to deliver stock control for a connected and efficient retail operation. Retailers need to consider a number of elements to achieve this.

First, item-level visibility in real-time and full awareness of the in-store customer is absolutely crucial. How they move and interact with items, where they linger, and what goes into a fitting room with what, in addition to awareness of the online customer – and integration between the two.

Second, implementing predictive analytics can bring a personal shopper experience to each customer whether on the premises or off.

Thirdly, a mapped customer journey helps retailers understand how and why a customer might reach out on different channels at different times.

Last but not least, providing real-world personalised customer experiences can create engagement through digital means and transform an in-store experience with special touches – like smart fitting rooms.

With these elements in place a retailer can automatically collect data about their merchandise, provide accurate inventory information and real-time transparency. Al mobile, 24-7 and hands-free, no matter the size of the operation.

What does this mean? It means that the customer experience is amazing. They find something – in store, online or on a mobile app – and then they can buy and collect it as soon as they want.

And fashion retailers know that customer experience is everything. You can offer the best choice of products via multiple channels. But if you cannot deliver, the customer moves on. Very quickly!

 

Words by Uwe Hennig, CEO at Detego

Barclays: Supply chain at the forefront of retailers’ minds following Brexit vote…

A survey carried out after the EU referendum by Barclays has shown that many retailers are already reviewing how their supply chains operate as a result of the Brexit vote; suggesting the origin of products on British shelves could potentially change to suit any upcoming changes.

With this said, in a potentially positive sign for the British economy, 32 per cent predict that they will source more from the UK, with only 12 per cent expecting a reduction. Asia could also reign supreme; 52 per cent expect to increase supply chain activity in India and 43 per cent in China.

However, the research did encounter mixed opinions amongst retailers when considering the effect of the referendum vote on their supply chains. Although 52 per cent think that their business is unprepared for Brexit, a small majority (56 per cent) believes that Brexit will have no real impact (41 per cent) or a positive impact (15 per cent) on their supply chain.

Read more on the research here

Report exposes best and worst performing UK multi-channel retailers…

The eCommerce analyst group, Ampersand, has released its annual ‘Multi-channel Retail Report: 2016‘ which, based on Ampersand’s Real Matrix scoring mechanism, explores the best and worst performing multi-channel retailers and details core strategic methods for improving the customer service experience.

Surveying 160 retailers with a high street and online presence, the research suggested that chains including Argos, River Island and Halfords are the top performing retailers in multi-channel integration, whereas companies such as Thorntons, Mulberry and Lloyds Pharmacy were analysed as some of the worst performing in the sector.

Furthermore, delivery and return operations continues to prove a complex operation in regards to options and pricing, with just 24 per cent of retailers offering same or next-day click and collect and is  significantly lower than the 40 per cent of retailers calculated in the 2015 report.

Darryl Adie, managing director at Ampersand commented: “A truly multi-channel offering requires an understanding of customer behaviour across all shopping channels and how this should impact your overall business strategy. Many retailers are still taking a siloed approach to ecommerce; Ampersand hopes to encourage an integrated approach to retail across all channels through our report. Our research provides retailers with a quantitative framework for measurement which they can benchmark against and use to develop their multi-channel strategy.”

The report also revealed that 66 per cent do not advertise free postal returns for online purchases; in addition to 62 per cent currently offering real-time stock availability.

Download the full report here 

 

More retailers plan to install omnichannel solutions to combat lack of in-store technology…

According to a report from the Omnico Group surveying 31 UK retailers with more than 100 stores and two department stores under one brand, 32 per cent have stated that they plan on introducing in-store omnichannel capabilities, which will enable consumers to order an out of stock item from other company branches.

Despite a rise in sales via technology across the retail sector, only 13 per cent of retailers surveyed acquire the advanced in-store technology allowing consumers to take this action. The survey also found that 26 per cent plan to grant customers the accessibility of ordering online or from another store while shopping on one branch and, currently, 29 per cent provide the capability.

CEO at Omnico, Mel Taylor, said: “Retailers are now coming up with firm plans to invest in an omni-channel retail strategy as they know they must do more to meet the increasingly high expectations of the digitally-savvy, mobile customer. With the right solutions retailers can give a significant boost to their sales, knowing that by being able to say ‘Yes’ more often they can guarantee they will never lose another sale due to unavailability.”

Although recognising the current limitations of existing in-store technology, 33 per cent said that the biggest challenge in handling stock across channels is having an accurate view of available stock in all stores, followed by 20 per cent who cited having a ‘real-time’ or ‘near real-time’ update on their central stock file.