Retail Digital Performance Best Practices for Improving the Customer Experience
A friend of mine recently wanted to purchase a bicycle rack for his car. He looked online at options that met his criteria and product reviews narrowing the results down to a short list of three candidates. Eager to start using the rack, he searched the web and located a nearby store with his top pick in stock. The retailer was a higher-end sporting goods store and buying the bike rack there was going to cost more than if purchased online, but my friend wanted to take it home that day for a weekend excursion. He drove a short distance to the store and after 30 minutes of looking and waiting, asked for the help of an employee. The employee couldn’t locate the product; it wasn’t on the floor or in the bike display area. The employee looked at the point of sale monitor and checked with the manager. “Sorry,” he said with a shrug, “we don’t have it in stock.”
My friend was disappointed as you can imagine. He was ready to purchase the product that the store showed as having in inventory. He returned home and purchased it online for less than what he would have spent at the store that day. With an hour less left in his day and his weekend bike adventure postponed, his experience left a negative association with that retailer. After wasting his time and leaving empty handed he resolved not to spend his money there in the future.
Looking at how this experience played out for my friend it’s easy to envision alternative outcomes that might have resulted at the checkout counter that day. The employee could have attempted to locate the product from another store in the region and directed him there. The order could have been placed in store and delivered to his home. Another product might have been suggested as an alternative. If you are an active seller you might be wincing in discomfort at this shared story especially when customer retention is top of mind. We can’t change how the experience ended up, but we can look at some recommendations to help your business stay competitive, responsive and ideally your customer’s first choice.
With adequate planning, connected platforms, teams and a retail ecosystem architected in an optimized way you can deliver a smooth customer transaction that drives repeat business. One of the biggest transactional challenges that established retailers face in the digital era today is finding a common digital performance platform to connect their physical in-store systems with their online offerings. Services can be deployed to the in-store and online fulfillment systems that provide essential visibility into inventory management, transaction risk, store or website anomalies and more.
The new solutions required to support a service that allows for a blended, seamless omni-channel browsing, selling and fulfillment in-store and online is a change for many retailers. Planning for, developing and deploying these services can be simpler and less risky and the final service more efficient, reliable and secure if retailers follow some simple steps during the process:
- Understand the solutions that provide the existing services instore and online, measure their current state and understand any dependencies and other systems that may consume or supply services to them.
- Use a visibility solution to understand your users current user experience, you will be changing the way they interact with your services and this understanding will help you provide a solution that is as good as or better than the services you are replacing.
- Use a comprehensive end to end visibility solution during your test and development phases and plan to keep this in place when the new solutions enter production.
Having full visibility of all the performance and availability issues during development will reduce your development and test cycles. Your new services will be available earlier resulting in a more reliable solution when put it into production and one that’s more capable of coping with peak loads. Retaining the same end-to-end visibility solution in the production environment gives operations and development teams a common set of tooling and language of visibility to manage issues if and when they occur. Full monitoring of new solutions will rapidly help identify that a problem exists without user reporting, identify the functional domain or domains in the environment where the problem originates and then get to root cause and to remediation quickly, causing less interruption to key services. Critically it will ensure that each of your channels is able to provide a service which ensures that employees and customers are not forced to migrate to another less optimal channel to interact with you.
If you are in the business of selling, here are a few additional steps to consider:
- Watch and learn: Pay attention to customer behavior both online and in-store. You can provide an always-on, high-performance, rich-media experience online and in-store. This also allows you to collect insights on user satisfaction, response times, adoption and trends.
- Be agile: Enable new services to streamline in-store and online experience. In-store you can leverage technology to increase displays, promotions, and provide a better shopping experience. You can also extend agile benefits to your staff by providing training videos, and ongoing learning.
- Keep it safe: Identify and monitor threats with enhanced data security. In-store you can use reliable and secure connections to create check out points and reducing point of sale lines.
- Personalize the experience: Consider embedding a “personalized shopping experience” with recommendations that add value to the main purchase.
- Simplify transactions: Make it easy for your customers to purchase from you whether they are in-store or online. For in-store consider adding a click to ship option. If “needed” merchandise is not in the store, take the sale and ship from warehouse or from another store, rather than losing the sale.
I’ve shared a few suggestions to help enhance your customer experience and business momentum, but where do you start?
For many of our customers, understanding the performance management maturity of your existing digital services and critical applications is a first step in building out an end-to-end visibility solution that matches the needs of your digital environment. Often times, retailers are surprised to discover that key components in what makes up a business critical service are unmonitored or have limited coverage. Many are also surprised when they uncover services considered to be of limited criticality which are required for their business critical services to operate successfully. Identifying performance management gaps and then creating and then implementing a plan to fill them helps retailers provide more reliable, more consistent and better performing omni-channel services. It has also helped them plot a trajectory to evolve products, services, and routes to market or discover untapped customer insights.