Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Multi Channel Retailing - Putting the Customer First - Part 1 - Why it matters

The business of retailing has undergone a transformation beyond all recognition since the widespread availability and adoption of broadband internet. This transformation has been largely dominated and truly exploited by a handful of retailers who trail blazed their way on to the computer screens of the UK. Companies such as Amazon, Play.com and Tesco have all exploited this phenomenon in providing compelling offerings in the early days of this online retail explosion. But now this early adoption is moving to one of relative maturity and so, what should retailers be doing to ensure that they are not drowned out by the noise?

Across the globe, retailers are discovering that winning in the multi-channel arena is fundamentally all about putting the customer first and it is those that truly embrace this philosophy are those that will survive and maintain, if not further grow their own position. Creating a compelling multi-channel proposition is the current obsession of the industry and making it easier for customers to seamlessly slip across the various channels available today is a key part of the evolving retail landscape. Traditional high street or out of town units, e-commerce, mail/phone order and the evolving m-commerce (mobile commerce) all have their place in the retailing artillery but presenting these as a truly coherent offering is proving a far harder conundrum than the end consumer will ever realise. Central to this, is a realisation that creating the right architecture is not just about how the IT solutions are constructed, but also about how the business architecture is positioned, managed and driven. By getting both of these right, the customer can be correctly positioned at the very centre of these enterprise architectures so that they are the focal point of what all leading retailers aspire to creating…… “Great Customer Service”.

Charteris Multichannel Retail Survey 2008 Results

For retailers, addressing the challenges facing them isn't as straightforward as it may seem. Both leveraging existing assets and embedding customer centricity in decision making are easier said than done.

This point is clearly highlighted by a recent study Charteris did on Multi-Channel Retailing in the UK. We spoke to 32 multi-channel UK retailers covering all the main retail sectors, with total sales exceeding £41bn. Retailers scored themselves in 6 areas…

  1. Strategy
  2. People
  3. Processes
  4. Information
  5. Metrics
  6. Technology

What we found is that retailers currently face a lot of challenges, with only metrics scoring acceptably in the survey.

The lowest scores across were in these six areas.

Charteris MCR Survey Lowest Scores

  1. Responding to customer needs
  2. Improving customer experience
  3. Leveraging Existing Systems
  4. Integrating Existing Systems
  5. Shifting from a product focus to a customer-centric culture
  6. Shifting to a cross-channel culture

We can aggregate these to highlight three key problem areas that we feel retailers should be focusing on

  1. Changing culture
  2. Doing more with existing assets
  3. Linking assets together

Charteris Aggregated MCR Survey Lowest Scores

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, September 29, 2008

Facing up to the Credit Crunch

Probably the most critical issue/trend facing Retailers right now is the Credit Crunch.

Credit Crunch

As you must know, the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007 has had a massive global financial impact. From a retail consumer perspective it seems however, that the recession effect still has some way to go. ONS figures for last month showed a rise of 1.2% in sales, although retailers are not convinced and the rise is being attributed to a number of reasons from massive price reductions to the high street being a “lagging indicator” to general volatility shown by the May surge and July drop.

Either way, the immediate impact is uncertainty. Lenders are uncertain about future sources and costs of funding, while consumers are unsure about how much further house prices will continue to decline, and whether or not widespread job losses and mortgage rate rises are really going to happen.

All expectation is that this is a recession that will deepen and the trend towards careful spending is going to put increasing pressure on retail margins. As it stands, the policy of reductions that retailers have employed to boost sales is seriously hitting profits. The John Lewis Partnership recently underlined this by announcing a 27% fall in first-half profits attributed mostly to price cuts and increased marketing spend.

Finally apart from the direct impact to profits discussed, the credit crunch is also severely impacting investors and share prices, and nervousness in the financial markets is making it harder to raise investment capital for new initiatives.

The effect of the global credit crunch on business and consumer spending thus means that retailers must look to innovate and create competitive advantage without the luxury of profit growth and flexible budgets. In short it means they need low cost / high benefit customer propositions that involve linking up existing assets to improve customer propositions rather than involving large spend on new systems, staff or channels.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Addressing Channel Convergence

Multiple channels to market are fast becoming the norm and the lines between these channels are blurring – particularly in terms of consumer expectation. It is becoming less and less acceptable to have differential pricing, branding or experience across different channels. We’re finding that forward thinking retailers are rapidly moving towards a seamless cross-channel experience with the goal of improving conversion rates.

The general perception of course is that the major driver behind channel convergence is cost saving. This is because managing channels separately results in cost inefficiencies arising from running separate order-management and customer service operations, multiple warehouses and fulfilment systems, and buyers and merchandisers duplicating effort across different channels.

However, while emerging integration technologies have been a key enabler, multi-channel growth is actually being driven by consumers. According to Shop.org, 34% of consumers today use at least three channels when shopping. Research has also found consumers spend up to 10 times more, generating 25 to 50% more profit and demonstrating greater loyalty than their single-channel counterparts. The core driver behind channel convergence then is customer demand.

So where do you start?

Well, one good place to start is to get your people culturally ready to help you make the most of all the channels your business takes to market. This is because, whilst establishing clear and consistent products and services is essential, the experience is what makes the difference.

Recent McKinsey research shows that only 15% of loyalty is gained from perceived product quality and promotional strategies, leaving 85% to the actual purchasing and post-sales experiences of customers.

For example, the person who answers the phone at your call centre could be as knowledgeable about your products and services as your store staff. Returns processes, checkout processes, and customer journeys through your store, could be synchronised with and as easy as they are on the web; simply by mobilising a service oriented workforce.

In short I’m talking about building loyalty and thus competitive advantage, through cross-channel customer-facing cultures that ensure your staff are making the shopping experience as enjoyable as possible.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Leveraging existing multi channel assets

Retailers under Pressure

John Lewis this week announced a 27% fall in first half year profits, largely attributed to price cuts and increased marketing spend. With the uncertainty the credit crunch has created, retailers will increasingly have to innovate to create the seamless Multi Channel experience that we all crave. Without the luxury of profit growth and flexible budgets, retailers need low cost / high benefit customer propositions.

Use what you have

Leveraging existing assets is one way retailers can do this. I wonder how many retailers take stock of all their multi channel assets, and attempt to link them together to create value add services for their customers.

One Example

The 3 main channels a retailer uses are the store, web and a call centre. Once a customer has saved their address and credit card details on the web, the checkout process is normally fairly seamless. So why not use this data in the call centre and store so customers only have to enter a password and a PIN number. Thus creating a seamless checkout process through all channels and creating customer value add propositions in the process.

Creating customer centric services are essential as exemplified by recent McKinsey research. They found that only 15% of loyalty is gained from perceived product quality and promotional strategies, leaving 85% to the actual purchasing and post-sales experiences of customers.

6 Key Consumer and Retail Industry Trends For 2008 / 2009

Let’s start with a quick look at some of the key trends in consumer behaviour and the retail industry. I’ll pick out 3 each.

3 Deepening Trends in Consumer Behaviour:

  1. Customers are becoming more demanding – the Web 2.0 revolution has provided a forum for sharing opinions to the point where consumers really do call the shots. They expect choice and convenience or will go elsewhere.
  2. Social Media online is exploding – and is becoming a key vehicle for both strategic marketing and customer engagement.
  3. Premium products and services still sell well and Green is becoming iconic – many of the less price sensitive consumers are still highly style and status conscious, and consumers are going to increasingly great lengths to boycott brands that have poor eco-credentials

Ok, so that’s 3 consumer trends. How about the Retail Industry in general?

3 Deepening Trends in the Retail Industry:

  1. The credit crunch is getting worse – and negatively impacting retailer profits
  2. The e-channel is still growing fast – online spending in July for example reached £4.8 billion, up 80% on last year to a new all-time high. Retailers are expecting a major shift to online this Christmas.
  3. The leaders are merging channels – and providing seamless brand and customer experiences across them all. Consumers in return are becoming rapidly less tolerant of pricing, availability or service differentials online and offline.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Charteris' ARC Conference Presentation on Leveraging multi-channel Assets

We attended the ARC Retail Conference this morning and gave a breakfast briefing on Cross-Channel Retailing - see slides below.

The slides cover the 3 critical challenges that retailers are facing right now and how they could start addressing them by developing low cost, high benefit, customer propositions through leveraging the channel assets they already have. Here's the slides. The presentation is extremely visual so it should be easy to scan through quickly.

If you want to know more just drop us an email on info@charteris.com or contact as us as below and we'll be more than happy to have a chat.