Crossing the Channel: top tips for UK retailers looking to expand into Europe
The European economy is the largest in the world, with a GDP of around €14.3 trillion. As economic recovery accelerates, the commercial opportunities that Europe presents become more and more attractive to retailers looking to expand their operations. That said, as we approach the EU exit poll, most retailers thinking of any new move into Europe will await the outcome before making any major decisions.
Even if a free trade agreement is reached as expected, the short term uncertainty will likely put most off any immediate plans. I have a feeling that Europe is only really of such interest while it is part of a larger opportunity which is UK centric and of strategic importance. In reality, it costs much the same in terms of time and planning to open 60 stores as it does five; unless a retailer is underwriting these as start up costs with a view to building future business. Otherwise, it is unlikely to stack up commercially.
It is clear that setting up shop in any location is a very substantial undertaking, but with the right strategy and management, and providing it still meets their core business objectives, establishing new premises in Europe can be handled smoothly and cost-effectively. Based on our extensive experience with deployment projects in Europe and following on the knowledge gleaned through recent successes, we’ve put together our top tips for setting up shop in Europe.
Get input right from the start
Take the opportunity to consult an expert; the best of these project managers and service providers have experience with many international rollout programmes and can advise on strategy for store design and IT procurement, and for the rollout of the development project itself. Optimal store formats, customers’ natural flow around the shopping floor and other culturally-reliant business-critical factors can all differ from country to country. A wireless survey is always a good idea; mapping out connectivity to better understand how customers and staff alike will use devices on-premises.
Find a partner with excellent deployment capabilities and a proven track record
Unless you have extensive project and infrastructure development capacity within your company, the most cost-effective approach is generally to work with a reliable deployment partner who can deliver a comprehensive service, from procurement through delivery to installation and on-site training. These partners should have extensive Europe-wide logistics capacity, warehousing and engineering capabilities and a mobile and connected team of experienced engineers. Deployment partners should cover all aspects of project management; preparing a roll-out programme, risk register, change control and action log, collating or writing installation procedures, building instructions and site sign-off documentation, scheduling installations and liaising with customer sites and contacts.
The right partner should be able to handle a project of any size smoothly. Barron McCann were recently involved in the opening of a leading international retailer’s biggest store in Spain; a huge project which resulted in a beautifully-designed location employing 573 people, covering 133,000 sq.ft of retail space over five floors and fitted with 131 cash registers and 91 fitting rooms. With the right support, ambitions of all scales can be realized.
Consider a managed solution to reduce upfront spend
The big spend on IT systems, EPOS and other electronic equipment when opening a new store can be intimidating, especially with the added logistical demands of an installation outside the UK, but some service providers can offer fully managed IT and EPoS solutions which can substantially reduce your immediate costs. Using a vendor-independent consultant with extensive experience with a wide range of manufacturers and their distribution supply chains can help you source equipment at very competitive prices.
Europe is looking brighter than it has in a long time, and with a lot of retail real estate still undervalued following the economic troubles of the past years, the stage is perfectly set for ambitious retailers to cross the channel and establish their first European location. The free trade zone blurs economic boundaries between countries to simplify international trading, while the expertise and capabilities of service providers can remove the rest of the complexity and ensure that your new location lets you realize all of the opportunity you’ve committed to pursuing while making all of the hassle somebody else’s problem.
Rob Griffiths is Head of PIDS, Barron McCann (Project, Infrastructure and Deployment Services)
Re-defining the economics of CX in the new customer journey
There’s no shortage of customer service channels for the enterprise to select from today. Regardless of the many new metrics that have emerged – such as customer success, or empathy – cost reduction is still a primary driver in selection criteria.
There are many articles dedicated to how companies can turn customer service and customer experience (CX) from a cost to a revenue centre. The problem is, if you stop there and don’t look beyond cost reduction, you’re limiting the scope for CX to become an even bigger economic contributor in the enterprise.
There is every opportunity for customer service and CX to significantly influence the front end of business, particularly amongst direct-to-consumer subscription-based products and services, such as popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, as well as sports subscription services like DAZN.
In these products and services and others, there are new customer journeys that may drive business growth and revenue. They start earlier and may last a lifetime, so getting things right at the start of the journey is key so that customers have the best experience from day one.
Not only will this help in making customers less likely to reach out for issues-based support further down the line, but these customers will be much less likely to churn, and much more likely to take up new services as they are offered throughout the lifetime journey.
So, what does the new customer journey look like for these services?
Opportunity waiting for the likes of Netflix & Disney
While consumers may have previously regarded customer service as a way to mitigate the inconveniences in their lives, the customer journey is expanding in scope every day. Today there are many more touchpoints available that put CX in a position to drive revenue.
For one-off purchases, traditional CX deployments have not changed significantly in the past few years. However, if you look at the change in the CX relationships we’re seeing with subscription-based products and services, particularly media-based streaming services, it’s clear that these companies lead what quickly become very multifaceted relationships with their customers. These have serious potential to evolve over time for increased economic benefit.
For any sort of subscription-based business, customer lifetime value is paramount, and the requirement to actively manage a continued positive customer experience is critical.
Every interaction is an opportunity, and every data point is a chance to offer more value. Introductory offers can convert to longtime customers. Longtime customers may take up opportunities to upgrade to more premium products or services. They may also appreciate incentives to invite family and friends to become customers. Consumers who like a particular service, for example, may appreciate a recommendation for another similar or complimentary service.
It all starts with customer interaction, and the customer experience journey becomes an opportunity to strategically affect the user base and resulting revenue - which is a far cry from the limitations of call center cost reduction or churn metrics.
How do companies support the new customer journey?
More and more, customers look at the new customer journey as engaging with brands as part of their lifestyles. Many companies are making brand ambassadors available before the traditional customer journey even starts, which is a marked change from a purely transactional relationship associated with a one-off purchase.
These ambassadors, who are often independent users of products or services, are providing trusted pre-sales advice, and that same trusted advice can also function to nurture the customer journey in a subscription-based relationship. Call it ‘GigCX’ or ‘crowdsourced customer service’ or even ‘peer-to-peer customer service’ - it doesn’t matter.
The key is in providing impartial, trusted advice from real users. Think about it: who would you rather get advice from? Someone who has used a product or service extensively, or someone who has been trained to provide customer service surrounding that product or service?
For services such as streaming media, advice from trusted experts with real product know-how could be invaluable. This may not be limited to technical issues, such as what to do when you can’t access your favourite show, or how to access services across various devices. It could be parents helping other parents who are concerned about how to restrict adult content from child viewers, or simply customers who have similar taste in programming who can comment on the benefits of upgraded or premium products. The point is, these experts are easily available at any touchpoint in the customer lifetime journey, creating more chances to add value.
It’s also about tipping customers from ‘passive’ to ‘promoter’ in the NPS scale. It’s an opportunity to turn neutral customers who may be vulnerable to competitive offerings into loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and referring others, fuelling growth. It may ultimately help drive even further revenue by creating customers that are helping to sell the brand itself.
And, while chatbots and automation may play a key role, they are often not able to handle the more complex support needed in the new customer journey. Conversational AI is rarely as conversational as it claims to be, and in the new customer journey, most companies are finding that a mix of automation and people-centric service is an ideal way to nurture the many new touchpoints created.
It’s no longer about trying to replace human capital with automation: it’s about orchestrating a uniquely personalised CX, and proactively engaging during the customer lifecycle to enhance the experience, and to create more long-term value.
At the moment, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the power to affect the economics introduced by the new customer journey. We’ll no doubt see this evolve rapidly particularly amongst streaming companies as they use human-centric connections in CX to support the full potential of customer lifetime value.
About Roger Beadle
Roger Beadle is an entrepreneur and business leader who is reinventing how customer service is delivered via the gig economy. After establishing several businesses in the contact centre industry, Roger co-founded Limitless with Megan Neale in 2016. Limitless is a gig-economy platform that addresses some of the biggest challenges faced by the contact center industry: low pay, high attrition and access to new talent. Previously, Roger and Megan helped to build one of the largest privately-owned outsourced contact center business in Europe, before selling the business to the global conglomerate Hinduja Group. Roger is an outspoken proponent of digital ethics, worker’s rights and the ‘good-gig:’ which encapsulates gig work for incremental pay versus full time work, skilled gig work, no unpaid time/downtime and zero expenses.
Named a Rising Star at Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 program, Limitless is a gig customer service platform, combining crowdsourcing and AI to help global businesses address their biggest customer service challenges – rising costs, increasing attrition, variability in demand and the need for diversity. Brands like Microsoft, Unilever, Daily Mail Group and Postmates are using Limitless’ SmartCrowdTM technology to connect with their most engaged customers, and reward them for providing on-demand customer service that can flex in line with demand. Limitless is one of the world’s first global tech platforms to introduce localised platform terms to protect the rights of its gigging workers. Backed by AlbionVC, Downing Ventures and Unilever Ventures, Limitless is empowering people worldwide to earn money for providing brilliant customer service for the brands they love.