The Post-Purchase Experience Is Essential to Retaining Customers

CRM Magazine – It’s a well-established fact that repeat customers are more valuable to businesses than new ones, but e-commerce retailers remain focused on acquiring the latter, according to a recent report from BRP, retail consulting firm.

Online businesses also miss another crucial opportunity, the report finds. Specifically, after customers make online purchases, they enter a period of uncertainty, unsure of whether their products will arrive on time and in one piece. By providing regular updates on the status of the order, retailers can transform this period of doubt into a trust-affirming one. Removing that risk makes customers more likely to make repeat purchases.

For setting expectations before the customer clicks the buy button, Jeffrey Neville, senior vice president and practice lead at BRP, says retailers need to ensure that shipping and return information is “clear, concise, and conveniently displayed.”

Then companies need to provide notifications at the five major stages in the delivery process—order confirmation, item dispatched, in transit, out for delivery, and delivery, the report maintains. Doing so will keep customers engaged and informed.

As for simplifying the return process, Neville states that doing so “increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.” In the report, he points out that including an adhesive, preprinted, prepaid shipping label with every package is essential, though it can also be helpful to let customers generate their own shipping labels through other channels if needed.

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Coming to a city near you: Ikea, new and (maybe) improved

Retail Dive – The furniture retailer is opening 30 small-store concepts in urban areas and refocusing e-commerce and delivery efforts. Will that lure millennials? The Swedish retailer recently announced it will open around 30 urban store concepts over the next two years. These stores will differ from the big-box warehouses many have come to associate with the company. Instead, they will have a more experiential concept, creating mock ups of rooms within the store to showcase products.

As Ikea refocuses its business plan, the discussion forum on RetailWire asked its BrainTrust panel of retail experts the following questions:

  • Do you see Ikea’s shift to smaller, city-center stores and heightened focus on online delivery as smart moves?
  • What should the company retain from the traditional IKEA business model?

Here are comments from Ken Morris, principal at BRP, retail consulting firm.

“Retail is an extremely competitive industry that has arrived at a state where retailers need to evolve or die. Ikea is evolving by experimenting with new formats and shopping and delivery options for consumers. I wouldn’t classify this as radical transformation as they are tweaking their proven concepts by adding urban locations, assembly, delivery and e-commerce.
As they tweak their retail formats, they should retain the traditional iconic core products and services that customers know and love: Frakta Shopping bag, Poäng chair, Swedish meatballs and lingonberry jam while adding accessibility, delivery and relief from the annoying assembly nightmare that sometimes exists.”

Read Full Article: Coming to a city near you: Ikea, new and (maybe) improved

Satisfying Return Policies Can Lead to Loyalty

eMarketer – Return policies used to be viewed as a necessary evil. Behind the scenes, logistics can create a lot of headaches for retailers, but consumers expect a seamless process. Flexible returns have also become a differentiating factor that can make or break customer loyalty.

More online buyers means there are also likely to be more returns and exchanges. Plus, “bracketing,” the practice of buying multiple versions of an item to determine the one a shopper likes best and returning the rest, is becoming a common practice.

According to a September survey of digital buyers who had returned an item in the past six months by Narvar, 41% of digital buyers say they use bracketing some of the time; luxury shoppers do this at an even higher rate (51%).

According to the study, 96% said they would give a retailer repeat business based on a good returns experience. The biggest turn-offs are having to pay for return shipping (69%), restocking fees (67%) and difficulty finding the return policy (33%).

Retailers can be slow to meet consumers’ needs, creating a contentious relationship. In a BRP (retail consulting firm) study, 68% of US shoppers said they would be more inclined to shop on a merchant’s site that offered automated returns capability, i.e., being provided with return labels or having refunds triggered when a shipper scans the returned package. But only 8% of retailers said they offer this feature.

Read full article: Satisfying Return Policies Can Lead to Loyalty

Brand collaborations lead to double exposure for retailers

Luxury Daily – To capture consumer attention, a growing number of retailers and department stores have partnered with luxury brands to create more engaging campaigns. From ecommerce fashion retailer MyTheresa to department store chain Barneys New York, collaborating with high-end labels allows these retailers to leverage brand enthusiasm into larger audiences. However, such campaigns can also dilute retailers’ own carefully-crafted brands.

“While sharing the limelight with another brand does take away some of the focus on a department stores brand; if done well, it can enhance the store’s brand reputation by being associated with a luxury brand that consumers love,” said David Naumann, vice president of marketing at Boston Retail Partners, retail consulting firm.

Italian fashion label Versace is introducing its sunglasses collection to Barneys, and a new short gave shoppers a glimpse at the eyewear. Clad in Versace prints, a model posed with different pairs of Versace sunglasses outside of New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, bringing the house’s Italian sensibility to the streets of New York.

“Partnering with brands on marketing and advertising campaigns has two key benefits for departments stores – leveraging brand passion and reduced costs,” Mr. Naumann said.

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Why catalogs still have a hold on holiday marketing

Retail Dive – Many retailers have turned into fourth-quarter catalogers to cash in on the season’s sentimentality, while shoppers are crossing “irrelevant email marketing” off their lists this year.

Catalogs might be aimed at inspiration, but the hope is that the visual inspiration leads to a purchase, whether it be through the catalog, online or through a visit to the store. In that way, catalogs aren’t too different from the showroom format that retailers like Bonobos rely on, according to Ken Morris, a principal at Boston Retail Partners. It’s a trend he calls “catalog rooming” — where a customer uses a retailer’s holiday catalog to discover products and then heads into the store to see it in person and try it on, either finishing the purchase there or coming home to buy it online. 

It’s also a way to bring customers who might not have shopped in a while back into the fold, as retailers generally send out their holiday catalogs to a broader array of shoppers than they do the rest of the year. As long as they’re making $0.20 on every dollar they spend on a customer, the catalog will keep coming, Morris says — and the holidays provide more potential than the rest of the year for a big profit.

“Some of them, they’re in the red for nine months of the year and then the final three months of the year they go into the black and start to make a profit and hopefully that covers the loss,” Morris said, noting that depending on how sophisticated the retailer is, catalogs might also be tailored, placing a customer in one of a certain number of categories with different material in each. “It’s to the demographic that I fit into because they know what I buy — they know what’s in my closet, they know what’s in your closet.”

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Food halls are everywhere now. It’s because we crave “authenticity.”

Vox -The food court’s younger, hipper cousin is a curated version of the mall staple. First came the food trucks. Then came the food halls.

Traipse hungrily through any modern metropolis in the US and you’re bound to stumble upon one, a cafeteria-style public market with carefully curated fare and local flair. It is under these exact conditions that I recently found myself at R. House, a whimsically named food hall situated in an abandoned automotive showroom in Baltimore.

“Retail is theater,” said Ken Morris, a principal at BRP, retail consulting firm. “Despite what everyone thinks, the retail store isn’t dead. It’s just morphing into something else. The food hall trend just fits right into the theater aspect of retail.”

Read Full Article: Food halls are everywhere now. It’s because we crave “authenticity.”

Shopping experiences must be personalized across channels: BRP

Luxury Daily – As the lines between physical and digital stores continues to blur, retailers need to personalize shopping experiences beyond in-store and continue to create consistent brand experiences online.

A new report from Boston Retail Partners, retail consulting firm, finds that 51 percent of consumers want a personalized experience across all digital channels within a brand. Currently, less than a fifth of retailers use customer-identifying technology in their stores, pointing to the potential for more customized engagement.

“To engage with the customer and personalize their experience, retailers need to quickly and easily identify the customer,” Jeffrey Neville, senior vice president and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners. “Identifying the customer as they enter the store – via their smartphone, beacon or other technology – affords the retailer the opportunity to personalize the customer’s shopping experience.”

Three-quarters of consumers use digital tools prior to their in-store visit, and 46 percent use mobile devices while shopping at bricks-and-mortar stores. Almost a quarter of retailers surveyed named improving mobile shopping experiences as their top priority.

Creating a consistent brand experience across channels is the top digital priority for retailers, and was named as a focus by 57 percent of respondents. Thirty-eight percent of retailers also cited wanting to improve customer loyalty, personalization and user experience.

However, retailers cannot improve personalization efforts without first identifying individual shoppers. Seventy-nine percent of respondents plan to introduce technology to better identify customers within the next three years, while 76 percent plan to integrate geolocation to improve how promotions are sent to customers.

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Outdoor retailers put down roots in used goods

Retail Dive – As with many trends, used goods and refurbishment programs lend themselves to certain retailers more than others. Outdoors retailers are one space where they’re growing, but electronics retailers are also well-known for having robust refurbishment and repair programs, mainly because so many of those products are both expensive to make and difficult to recycle, not to mention that they’re often made from valuable resources that must be mined and manufactured first.

While some retailers may have better margins than others when it comes to refurbishing goods and selling them to someone new, the financials are not often the biggest benefit retailers can derive from keeping products in circulation. According to David Naumann, vice president of marketing at Boston Retail Partners, retail consulting firm, the appeal for outdoor retailers, in particular, comes from a customer base that’s less interested in saving money and more interested in saving the environment.

“People are more often spending their retail dollars with companies that make them feel good about spending their money,” Naumann told Retail Dive in an interview. “Especially in the outdoors space: these people enjoy the outdoors and they want to protect the outdoors so those people are probably inclined to be more socially or environmentally conscious and look more positively on the retailers that are also embracing those environmental responsibilities.”

Read full article: Outdoor retailers put down roots in used goods

Most in-store shoppers anonymous until checkout: Report

Fibre2Fashion – Customer identification is the first step necessary to personalise the shopping experience, yet most in-store shoppers are anonymous until they check out, according to a recent report. It further adds that merely 13 per cent of retailers identify customers when they walk in the store and another 10 per cent identify customers pre-checkout.

Retailers fare better online, as 30 per cent identify customers when they enter the website and another 30 per cent identify customers pre-checkout, as per the 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey by BRP, an innovative retail consulting firm.

“While most online retailers are able to identify customers early in the browsing process in order to create a more personalised experience, identifying customers in the store continues to be a challenge for most brick-and-mortar retailers,” said Ryan Grogman, senior vice president, BRP, retail consulting firm. “Those online experiences have heightened customer expectations for personalisation and they now expect the same level of service while shopping in a store. This is tremendous opportunity for retailers to improve the customer experience – turning anonymous shoppers into loyal customers.”

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Retail’s Superpower: Leveraging Digital to Reinvent the Enterprise

Incisiv – Recent research from Incisiv and Windstream/BRP show that retailers are actively investing in digital initiatives across the enterprise, yet they still face challenges across many areas. We sat down with two key executives to understand where retailers should prioritize and focus to ensure success.

Dave Weinand, Chief Customer Officer, Incisiv:

The increasing influence of digital is driving retailers to experiment with new store experiences and formats to deliver on customer expectations. In your opinion, what are the most compelling new in-store applications and/or formats you are seeing in the market?

Jeffrey Neville, Senior Vice President and Practice Lead, BRP Retail Consulting Firm:

One of the more compelling store formats is the “new retail” concept, called Hema, run by China’s e-commerce giant, Alibaba. The Hema stores simultaneously act as marketplaces, commerce platforms, fulfillment centers and innovation hubs where they allow customers to experience new brands and products. The 25 Hema stores are a unique and entertaining experience that act as a destination.

The in-store shopping experience is centered around the Hema mobile app and shoppers must use the app to fully optimize the services. These include:

Scan barcodes on products for information on sourcing, branding, pricing and nutritional value.
Pay for products by scanning them at a self-checkout counter and pay using the app, which is integrated with the Alibaba mobile payment service, Alipay.
Request products delivered to their home free of charge within 30 minutes. Hema associates collect the products, bag them and place them on an in-house transportation network that spans the store’s ceiling.

The mandatory use of the Hema app allows the store to leverage big data to optimize the store’s offerings.

Ken Feyder, Senior Director, IT Business Solutions, Tapestry (Coach):

With so many applications available on the marketplace, it is difficult for me to pinpoint a particular app or concept that I would rate dramatically more innovative than others. That being said, I think we are experiencing a significant shift in customer behavior. We’re seeing this globally and I’ll use as a example a scenario we experienced with the world’s foremost luxury shoppers – Chinese consumers.

About 6 or 7 years ago, I remember seeing a Chinese tourists’ group schedule for visiting Paris. It allocated more time to visiting Galleries Lafayette Department Store for shopping than it did for visiting The Louvre! Over the last decade, this notable group of customers has shaped the retail experience of many brands. The retail-centric behavior of Chinese shoppers continued to drive a more focused response from many retailers. That, in turn, created a market place for countless point-solutions related to improving a particular aspect of the shopping experience.

However, I have recently observed a shift in this group’s behavior. When traveling to tourist destinations like Paris, New York, or London, today’s Chinese tourists are less inclined to adhere to a shopping-centric itineraries in lieu of cultural experiences. Less time is being spent on shopping. To me it signifies the beginning of the evolution where a retail experience becomes a logical bi-product of tourism, as opposed to its former position “at the center” of travel. Hence, digital technology that focuses strictly on retail (i.e. improvements in payment, seamless omni-channel, ease of returns etc.) while remaining important, will only deliver marginal results. In my opinion, better focus on digital technology that is NOT dedicated to purely commerce (such as partnerships with Chinese travel service CTrip, or integrations with hospitality technology providers etc.) would ultimately deliver better results as it relates to delivering a more logical and cohesive retail experience many brands desire.

Read full article: Retail’s Superpower: Leveraging Digital to Reinvent the Enterprise