Yesterday’s personalised service with tomorrow’s improved technology

shutterstock_190640423Digital technology has greatly impacted on consumer shopping habits over the past few years making things a little disjointed.

Buying and browsing items either online or by mobile phone and tablet is the convenient and flexible option for many people today to the extent that the actual retail outlet is struggling to establish where it fits in. Some retailers suggest that the store wins out when a customer service is required or the consumer wants to interact with the product first, where as virtual shopping is best for quickly identifying the best product price. David Grossman, chief executive of BT Expedite explains that: “It may almost be a cliché now, but excellent customer service is still a key reason why people buy things from you. They expect it to be good and hope that it will be excellent and, unless it is, you are competing on factors like price alone and you can easily be undercut.

The real challenge though for the omni-channel future of shopping is to combine all purchasing methods, physical and virtual, into one easy way to shop. The retailers that get this right will win customer loyalty in return. The ultimate way to make things easy of course is to make it personal and personalised service is fast becoming a growing influence in retail and is highly likely to stick. The introduction of so many new buying techniques, click and collect for example, are all about trying to meet with consumer expectations. Right now retailers are desperately trying to cope with demand and second-guess the customer’s next requirement in order to set themselves apart from the competition. “It’s not always about having the shiniest technologies or prime locations, it’s about using your data and assets well to enhance omni-channel customer service and product offerings. Sometimes it’s about harnessing the power of your people to create a bit of old fashioned personalised service that can set you apart from the competition”, said Grossman.

It seems that in the past retailers had it right, and the introduction of technology caused them to lose focus. That’s not to say these new technologies aren’t working, because they clearly are. The point now is that all the new technologies need to be joined together in order for retailers to go back to the original shopping strategy of providing excellent customer service to a loyal community of shoppers by making it personal and affordable. According to Retail Week’s recent report ‘The consumer 2014’ 40.7% of 2,000 UK shoppers told that convenience keeps them loyal to a retailer. The expectation of price was also ranked in the top five by the majority of people surveyed.

A good example of how modern store and mobile environments are merging to create personalised service is Walmart’s new e-receipts. Walmart is using an e-receipt platform to allow shoppers to store their receipts on their Walmart mobile app. The customer can then use the information on the receipt in a number of ways, such as for building future shopping lists. Meanwhile Walmart is looking to use the receipt data to remind customers when to top up on purchases or to forecast product demand.