Ramping Up Tech Could Give Retailers a CX Edge

Despite all the talk about the customer journey, the increasing use of CRM, the omnichannel approach, and the seamless customer experience, stores still don’t have technology down pat for the holiday rush, according to the “2015 Connected Shoppers Report” Salesforce released last month.

In-store shoppers want associates to know their purchase history with the store, but only 10 percent believe this will happen.

“Although major retailers have made investments, many are still dealing with legacy and disconnected systems that don’t recognize the virtual customer from the in-store one,” remarked Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research atNucleus Research.

“The advantage of connecting the entire journey is that the in-store employee doesn’t have to know much,” she told CRM Buyer. “The intelligent marketing system, when connected to POS or customer loyalty programs, can do most of the intelligent work for them.”

Hi, Robot

More than 80 percent of consumers research products online before walking into a store, and 48 percent of in-store shoppers believe they typically know more about a retailer’s product than sales associates on the floor, the survey found.

Sixty-seven percent of shoppers sometimes doubt whether sales associates are telling the truth when asked for their opinions on products.

Things are so bad that 28 percent of respondents think robots could replace store associates.

The consumer is in control, and stores should empower associates to fix customer issues, the report said.

Tension Between Training and Tech

Many sales associates at this time of year are seasonal hires, and companies may not have the time to train them adequately, the budget to do so, or both.

“Certainly there’s an issue with training, but some of the omnichannel vendors have invested in technology to basically engage in clienteling — where stores equip sales associates with tablets so they can engage the customer on the sales floor,” observed James Cooke, a principal analyst at Nucleus Research.

“If the technology is simplified enough, you wouldn’t need a lot of training to use it,” he told CRM Buyer.

Specialty retailers have enabled such solutions, which also allow sales associates to upsell to consumers, Cooke said.

However, such solutions work best in specialty stores such as the Apple Store, with a limited line of products, rather than department stores with a variety of products, he pointed out.

Half of the 2,000 respondents to the survey would be more likely to shop at a retailer based on the technology its sales associates use to assist customers, the report said.

“A couple of” software vendors do offer a complete omnichannel platform with a front end that takes orders and a back end that connects with the fulfillment side, and “many others” are working on a similar solution, Cooke said.

Another problem consumers face is the return process: 49 percent of survey respondents said the postholiday gift return process in stores is difficult.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Thirty-six percent of millennials — people ages 18 to 34 — would like retailers to use location-based technologies to know who they are when they walk into a store.

Sixty-one percent of millennials are willing to disclose their personal data and social media profiles to brands to get better service.

Customer satisfaction and where customers shop have much more to do with the overall customer experience than price does, said Leslie Hand, a VP at IDC Retail Insights.

“At the end of the day, relationships and relevant interactions will drive retail growth,” she told CRM Buyer.

Little Hope for the Tardy

Retailers that haven’t rolled out a full solution by now are not going to have a very good time this holiday season.

“If you haven’t put out your technology already … whoops!” Cooke said. “You should’ve deployed the technology and had your retail associates trained on it by late summer. Now is the time for action, not the time for deployment.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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