Many retail omni-channel discussions have focused on two distinct areas of how companies interact with their customers:
- Different sites of interaction: for a retailer it’s easy to define the physical store, an app, and a website all as different places where the customer can interact and the need is for all of them to offer an equally good experience.
- Channels used for discussion: the ability to call, use online chat, use Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels and all of them offering an equally good experience.
I believe that there is an important third dimension that is only just starting to be appreciated: this is the combination of loyalty systems and payment. There are specific reasons why this is now becoming important.
It has been assumed for a long time that online shopping is a lesser experience compared to actually being in a store, close to the products and with personal assistance available. However, customers have really started to value the online experience. Why? The retailer knows all about what the customer likes, dislikes, and what they spend time looking at. By collecting this data and analysing it, online stores are able to offer highly personalised recommendations and even discounts designed just for that individual customer.
Customers have noticed this and commented that in comparison, the in-store experience feels rather anonymous. Nobody knows whether you are an infrequent or regular customer when you walk through the door and if there are any deals then they are for everyone – not just you alone.
The obvious way to address this is to offer a more personal experience through an app, but this requires that the customer logs in when they are in-store. Getting customers to download an app, configure it, and login when visiting a store is a big ask. How can they be convinced that it is worth the effort?
Smart retailers have thought hard about this and found that if they can offer additional services on the app – like payment – then customers will use it. If the app makes the customer’s life easier then they will use it for payment, capturing loyalty points,. Meanwhile, the app can use the knowledge of which store the customer is in combined with their shopping history to offer deals and recommendations.
The Starbucks app is a great example. The big advantage is that customers can order and pay using the app before they arrive at a cafe, so you can literally walk in, grab your cup of coffee from the collection counter and walk out. Loyalty and payment are all bundled into an app that makes the customer experience better because you never need to wait in line again.
In the USA, Walmart has offered a payment option on their app. It allows the customer to attach almost any payment system to their Walmart account. After collecting their items in-store, the customer can pay on the app and just leave – no checkout line or hassle.
It’s really hard to convince customers that they should use up space on their phone with your app, but if you are addressing this third wave of omni-channel expectations and making their shopping experience easier than it is possible. In addition, it allows the retailer to gather even more valuable data about their shopping habits and preferences in-store and online.
Have you seen developments in payment that are affecting the customer experience in ways beyond just improving payment alone? Leave a comment below, or get in touch on LinkedIn, and let me know.