Long is gone the time when people used to go to the street to do ALL their shopping. Street retailing is becoming something of the past and only reserved for the weekend shopping experience. This “outdoor” activity has evolved as people don’t have the time neither the energy to do it for endless hours, so it has to be done in a more intelligent and effective way.
There are a number of things that retailers must have in consideration to progress and not falling back in time. In the “old days” having the latest products on display and having extra discounts or extended period of “sales” were methods that worked in the past. Progressing and adapting to technologies is the only way to survive.
Intelligent CRM and self-aware stock
Maybe I should start with the basis: your stock. I still find it incredible when I look for something in a web page which resembles the stock of a shop, then visit the shop to find out that the product is not available…and not because it has been sold in the meantime. It is because stock inventory is done manually or only refreshed every now and then. That is not acceptable. If you pretend to have the technologies to do business in the internet era you should do it in every possible way.
Some may say that I am exaggerating, but you can not imagine how many businesses do not know the real number of items, stock or where they are. They call it allowed inaccuracy. I call it carelessness. There are hundreds of programs (CRMs) that allow you to keep track of your products related to your customers with endless features (or with as many as you can afford). Some basics could be the “balance” in between demand and stock in warehouse so the program “prompts” for the needed stock to be sent. If you have the right logistics in place you don’t even have to worry for this as the needed stuff may be sent automatically without human intervention.
Real Omni-channel towards the Unified e-commerce
Nothing upsets more that having to introduce the same order all over again in different ways: through the web page, through the application, etc…to find out that your can not be tracked as systems are not interconnected.
Omni-channel (cross-channel business model that companies use to improve their customer experience) means that regardless the way the customer contacts the business, customer needs are taking care for in a responsive way, improving how the customer interacts and improves the shopping experience, reaching a point in the future in which all communications and systems interacting with the customer and within the company will seem to be one in a Unified e-Commerce system.
When there are so many retailers offering similar (or sometimes the same) products at similar price, there is only one way that will make your offering more “palatable” than the rest: make it unique. How do you do this? Well, this depends on your kind of business:
Lets imagine that you are in the shopping business and your clients want to try their cloths before they buy. It will be very difficult for you to have all the stock available for your customers to try. However, introducing real-imagine technology (through cameras and interactive monitors) your customers may seem to be able to wear anything that you have available, even those items that you dont have physically at their disposal. Your customers will have an almost perfect idea how their cloths will fit so the can move forward with their buying.
The VR (Virtual Reality) Experience
There are shops that can not show everything they have as it is physically impossible. We are talking such as those that sell furniture or real estate firms. How do your customers know if what they are about to buy is suitable for them? Make your customers be involved in what they are expecting. If they want to buy furniture you can show them how it will look, for instance, in a virtual environment using VR glasses, or even you can ask your customers to take 360-degree pictures of their house, office or environment and, through virtual reality, introduce those items that are sough after giving an almost real-vision experience on how it will look.
For those in the real estate, decorating or similar business they can actually move straight forward from their virtual designs in their AutoDesk or similar programs to artificial environment programs. Customers will be able to walk through their properties-to-be long before they have set even foot in their first visit to the site.
If your customers have to use different methods to achieve the desire result (a sell) then you are doing something wrong. Your application must be able to do it all, from reviewing your stock, look at the latest offers, make an order, pay for the products and, finally, arrange and follow the delivery.
If any step of the process is missed your application needs reviewing. It should contain all the features that will make your customer feel confident with their process order, even when in trouble. Your customer should be able to contact you from within the application using all the ways that you would otherwise use in a non-technical environment: from your app your customer should be able to call and chat, an even video communication (if your business allows or needs of such a feature).
Real time intelligent logistic
Even though it has been mentioned slightly earlier on this is a point that will make you succeed or fail, and it is the delivery. Your customer does not want to know neither does he/she care (normally) who you use to deliver the goods. The delivery is not the end but a way for the customer to obtain what they want, and the faster the better. Regardless of whether you use MRW, Seur, Official post, UPS, DHL, etc that is your only business and you will use whoever you have a better relation with or offers you better price for the service. Having said that, keep in mind you will have to contract a delivery company to send your products that offers reliable, fast, accurate and real time trackable delivery. Any other thing will not suffice. The delivery company will be a commodity in your process…and delivery companies better start thinking that their business and way to operate have to change to adapt to this new era too.
Going the extra-mile: Delivery on-the-go
We are talking of unique experience and that delivery is the new commodity…but you want to be different, so you will have to offer something for which you can be remembered. There are multiple ways of doing this, such as offering discount vouchers, offering extra points or even including in your catalogs home delivery..but everybody does that already. What if you really gave something that not many people offer: delivery-on-the-go.
Imagine that you have purchased through your one-stop-application something that you want to be delivered to you rapidly: a book, a watch, a present for someone. Not only can you tell the retail company where things can be delivered but you also allow them to track you through the location – GPS system of your mobile. They can track you and at the time of dispatching they send you an alarm to your app so you confirm where you will be in the next 30 minutes so you receive your package there and then.
Obviously delivery-on-the-go will have to be pre-arranged so you agree what sort of proof-of identity will be shown to the delivery man. Again, technology demands and something simple like biometrics could be used to confirm that the delivery is given to the right person. Your application will scan the tracking barcode of the package and a sample of your voice or finger print will have to be introduced through your mobile for verification.
The sky…and your imagination is the limit
Technology allows for almost anything. It is just a matter of deciding what you want to do, how you want to operate and what results and experience your customers should enjoy. Once you have that clear the solutions are endless. It is just a matter of using the imagination to put those in place.