Digital Solutions Offer Added Benefits for Customers and Retailers
Increasing digitization and increasing expansion of Smartphones and tablets result in new demands by customers on retailer services. Retailers have to meet these demands to maintain an edge over their competitors. Yet even the salesperson in the store can utilize digital solutions to modernize and improve customer service.
Almost half of all customers today attach great importance to the availability of digital services at the POS and also use them regularly according to the latest study on “Digitizing the Point of Sale“ by the German e-Commerce Center Köln (Cologne). This initially pertains to very fundamental services in the cross-channel environment such as online availability enquiries about a specific product or access to free WiFi services in the store, as in part provided by consumer electronics retailer Media Markt for instance. In both cases, 70 percent of interviewed consumers stressed both of these points as being especially important.
Many customers are already very comfortable and proficient in a multi-channel environment and thus stress the importance of the new services retailers are able to offer in this area. The chance to order the desired product online or to pick up a product that was ordered online at an actual store is interesting for 60 percent of customers interviewed in the ECC study. “For the consumer, availability traditionally plays an important role in their purchase – regardless of whether that’s at an actual store or online. It is not surprising that services that are geared towards this are especially popular with consumers. Retailers that offer this option prevent customers from defecting to the competition,“ explains Sabrina Mertens, Director of CC Köln.
Customers emphasize practical use of services
It is also important for retailers to know that most customers only attach importance to services that also offer a true added benefit from their point of view. Most of them can do without digital gimmicks such as mirrors that are mostly intended for fashion retail and that take pictures to publish on Facebook. The platform from which you can access services also plays an important role: most customers prefer to use their own Smartphone instead of the devices available at the store. This is why retailers should offer their customers free WiFi services as a basic service.
Fear of showrooming is still widespread
Customers, who use their own Smartphone at the store however, still make many retailers cringe. The reason for this is so-called “showrooming“ – when customers go to a brick and mortar retail store to check out products and get advice, but then later on purchase the product online after realizing with a quick check via Smartphone where they can buy the item at a lower price.
But how are retailers supposed to offer the desired service and at the same time prevent customers from buying at the competitor? “Price comparison is the main reason why people do ‘showrooming‘. The easiest way to counteract this problem is dynamic pricing with the help of electronic shelf labels (ESLs),“ explains Niclas Qvist, Head of Marketing at Pricer, in a feature article on showrooming.
“With ESLs controlled from a central unit, a retailer is able to update prices from a computer in an unlimited number of stores. This enables retailers to respond within seconds and adjust their prices to competitor pricing and ensure that the purchase is made at their store and not the competitor‘s“.
In this case, it is also important for the retailer to put a certain faith in the customer. Of course, this doesn’t eliminate the showrooming problem, but retailers can minimize the impact with dynamic and transparent pricing.
Digital services at the POS don’t just offer various advantages to the customer. There are also solutions that assist the salesperson at the store in his/her work. Ideally, this results in advantages for both sides: the salesperson is better informed and able to offer the customer different new services; the customer on the other hand is satisfied and happy with the service and therefore with his/her shopping experience.
Retailers can replace the typical stationary, wired POS devices with mobile digital solutions such as tablets for instance. After all, these devices combine a number of useful features for staff members – ranging from information search on specific products to using them as a mobile checkout. In doing so, it gives sales staff more time to take care of customer needs during their entire time spent at the store. The customer of course sees this as a definite plus when it comes to service.
Even though most retailers still have traditional checkouts for customers, who want to pay cash, it is clear that mobile POS technologies can provide significant savings and increases in productivity. With the respective equipped tablet, staff is able to:
• Directly checkout the purchased items • Retrieve prices and inventory • Have an article in the warehouse brought into the showroom • Find a sold-out article at another warehouse and reserve it for the customer • Order next-day delivery • Locate and offer the customer other matching articles and accessories
In doing so, the range of services can be directly and quickly called up. The customer feels well informed and there is less risk of not making the sale in the end, because the customer decides differently.
However, many retailers still hesitate to make the respective investments. “The fascinating opportunities for retail are so far not being utilized enough,“ believes Thilo Freund, Managing Director for MICROS Retail Deutschland GmbH. “The dreaded showrooming aspect in particular can be effectively counteracted with the help of mobile solutions. With very manageable investments, every company has the chance to impress its customers with an innovative customer experience and new services and thus win them over."
Services compensate for disadvantages compared with online retail
These days, brick and mortar retailers are not just competing with each other, but also with an increasing online retail sector. Compared with the easy and quick purchase from your sofa at home, it is especially important for retailers to make the brick and mortar purchase experience faster and simpler. Thanks to digital services at the POS, they can face this challenge and at the same time satisfy the customer’s need for information as well as integrate all relevant distribution channels.
However, it’s not enough to merely focus on digital services, since most customers still also want competent personal advice in the store. And indeed, three out of five surveyed consumers in the ECC Köln study believe that ”the greatest digital services are useless, when the service in the store is bad.“
The integration of digital services – particularly with the objective of interconnecting the different channels as much as possible – offers retailers the chance to better compete against e-Commerce and continue to increase customer satisfaction.
Author: Daniel Stöter; EuroShop First publication at iXtenso.com