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A team from MediaTech Solutions recently took part in a major event in Great Britain, 100% devoted to the Retail sector. We had the privilege of meeting the leaders of customer experience development. Pure-players and omni-channel retailers offering diverse and varied products and/or services, but in the end, all facing the same problems : (1) How to obtain reliable customer information?  (2) How to engage with them at each point of contact and at every moment of their journey ?  (3) How to analyze the collected data and act on it ?  (4) How to build a customer journey ?  (5) How to industrialize personalization and involve employees in the approach ?

Is there a difference between them and us, the French ? Are they in advance, as everyone likes to imagine themselves ?

Similarities between the British and the French

In the field of retail, globalization and the development of digital technology have both deeply changed and standardized the consumer’s behavior, in France as in Great Britain. The customer’s expectations as well as his fickleness demand immediate attention and profoundly transform purchasing behavior, thereby disrupting the retail sector. Although companies on both sides of the Channel have understood the need to place the customer at the heart of the organization, the processing of customer data still raises many questions: How to unify the data ? How to cover the entire target ? How, by what means, and how often should this data be analyzed and translated into tangible and rapid actions ?

In response to these transformations, technological investments are increasingly substantial, for accompanying changes within organizations, for developing the interplay and scope of digital technology, and more specifically the scope of mobile phone technology. This channel is perceived as being the system that provides the link between the online and the in-store, thus offering a global view for the customer. However, one question remains unresolved : how to unify information systems so that employees’ workstations do not resemble the control panel of an A320 airbus ?

In France as in Great Britain, the transformations that companies are experiencing lead to similar questions : Who will manage the “Customer Experience” within the company ? How to handle the complexity of omni-channel ? How to build it so that it is fully unified, transparent and simple ? How to advise pure players and provide them with concrete answers about customer relations, with different answers for multi players ?

To be or not to be “customer centric” ?

illustration-retail

Unlike the French, the English have well-developed practices for benchmarking and often call on consulting firms to accompany them in a structured and cogent way in their approach to driving change. In the field of Customer Relations, their priority is data management so as to improve the customer experience. Indeed, this field requires managing a large volume of data (which attracts most of the attention across the Channel), whilst optimizing the ability of companies to engage customers and retain their loyalty. Moreover, since we are in a predictive situation, all of this should happen within a personalized approach !  Not so easy … However, it is quite possible to combine the industrialization of data management with a personalization of the relationship.

The British put the accent on 3 essential elements :

  1. Enabling analysis (performance, irritants, optimization of the experience …) at each point of contact – for both the pure player and the omni-player – so as to be able to manage progress.
  2. Industrializing customer personalization to cover 100% of the addressable database, thereby being able to create services by target typology: Fostering loyalty, cross selling, up selling, average basket….
  3. Involving all employees in the transformed culture.

The customer relationship is usually initiated by top management. Multidisciplinary teams are formed to implement the projects, with the role and tasks of each player being well defined. They are very reactive, accustomed to creating new services and monitoring their e-reputation.

However, although the welcome at the points of sale is always inspiring, it has to be be optimized in favor of understanding the customer’s needs and personalizing their contact with customers

Evolving brands, leaders seeking answers…

The retail brands we encountered belong to various sectors of activity: Amara (furniture, decoration), House of Fraser (department stores), Net à porter (ready-to-wear and accessories), Pizza Hut, Missguided (women’s fashion), AB InBev (brewers), Fiskars (tools), Moncler (luxury jackets), 66North (outdoor clothing), Musgrave (wholesaler and food product distributor), My Optical Group (online sale of optical products)…

The participants were representatives of all types of departments, from marketing to customer experience, as well as customer service, digital strategy and finance. They came to get concrete answers to their needs. The exchanges were rapid ; the participants went straight to the point and expected direct answers to their questions.

The British, who are especially focused on the “tooling” for interactions, are becoming more aware that it is a human affair.  Hence it is important for them to listen to lessons learned from experiences and to discuss with their peers. By concentrating on customer feedback and leveraging the data, they will be able to build a more solid customer experience. Indeed, the strategies of customer experience and “customer orientation”, as such, are not part of their “top priorities”, even though these are critical to improving their customer relations.

We noted that the higher the customer value (in other words, the cost of the product and/or service purchased), the more advanced the company’s customer strategy. In general, they are accompanied by a consulting firm and are equipped with a feedback platform. No surprise !

In the end, the British only possess a small amount of data on their customers. As far as the pure players are concerned, they seek to capture the customer’s perception at point of contact on the digital device, in order to have the ability to analyze, make progress and eventually engage customers. Concerning omni-players, the capture of customer data is facilitated by their visit to the point of sale; all that remains is to act correctly on it.

The English retail market is thus a topic that is both rich and interesting. It has a promising future in the field of customer relations, to be followed very closely !