Should retailers fear AI or is it now essential?
For a long time, I have talked about artificial intelligence as an enabling tool that should help to improve the customer experience. It’s a...
When new strategies, like omni-channel, come along it can take some companies years to see why they need to adopt the new way of doing things. It’s a natural reaction because change costs money, and early adopters of new strategies are not always right. Just look back at some of the CRM experiments in the past to see how much money can be poured into customer-related projects that end in disaster.
But in my opinion there is one major difference this time: customers are demanding change. I don’t remember any customer ever asking a retailer to buy a new ERP system so their back office could be improved, but now customers are demanding omni-channel service even though they may not be aware of the hidden complexities that make it work well.
I saw a great article on this recently in an Australian business journal. The author describes how he saw one store in Brisbane charging customers a $5 “just looking” fee if they were coming into the store and not purchasing anything. In light of further omni-channel developments, where the aim is to blend the offline and online experience, this idea of fighting “showrooming” (customers checking products in a store then ordering cheaper online) by charging a viewing fee looks ridiculous.
Customers today just want to interact with retailers who make their life easier. That could mean a great website, a great app, great people in-store or all of the above. Some brands need an emphasis on different channels and some may be operating without some channels entirely – like online-only retailers – but one thing is now very clear: omni-channel has moved on from being just a business concept and strategy. It is now something that customers demand.
That demand is not expressed as a request for omni-channel service. It comes in the form of customers who refuse to pay $5 to enter a store, or insist that you charge the same price in-store as online, or allow a purchase online to be collected in-store. Customers are demanding a more sophisticated retail offering, and stitching together these demands ultimately creates what commentators have spent years referring to as omni-channel.
Are you listening to all the omni-channel demands and managing to meet them? What aspects of omni-channel provision are harder to implement than others? Leave a comment below or get in touch on LinkedIn and let me know.