The digital transformation of the African retail industry
Retail, like most industries, is undergoing a transformation. The shopping experience is no longer a linear one, where a person simply enters a store, makes a purchase and leaves, never to return (unless there is, of course, a complaint). It is cyclic. With multiple digital touchpoints, retailers can offer customers a 360-degree journey which, ultimately, ensures that once they embark on a journey with them, they return – time and time again.
Retailers face the challenge of catering to an increasingly demanding market. With so much choice available to customers, retailers need to have “something special” to retain customer interest and stay ahead of their competition. Digitising the customer journey enables retailers to not only cater to these demands, but also to really get to know their customer so that they can continue to do so.
Technology is everywhere. It is wholly entrenched into the way we live, work and play, and has completely changed how we expect products and services delivered to us. Products can be bought online, or instore, and delivered to your home within hours via Artificially Intelligent (AI) drones, all without your ever having to come into contact with another human being if that’s what you prefer.
Payments, too, have evolved, with multiple options available to pay regardless of whether you do your shopping online or instore.
However, the technology is not what is important. What is important is how it is used to enhance the customers’ experience and provide them with a journey that keeps them coming back.
The 360-degree journey
There are five stages of the customer journey which - the goal is - ends right back at the beginning. Within each stage, retailers can leverage digital technology to enliven their customers’ experience and provide a seamless progression to the next stage.
The customer journey begins with awareness. Possibly one of the biggest challenges that retailers face, after retaining existing customers, is attracting them and making them aware of their brand, product and service in the first place.
Promotions are not a new concept, however the way that retailers promote their products and brands has evolved. Retailers can target their market directly through the likes of applications and location-based services, tapping into the insights that back end data analytics provides.
For example, a retailer may issue a new promotion and send information through to a person’s smart phone, via an application or targeted advertising on social media. The retailer could also use proximity marketing to send messages to a potential customer’s smart device, making them aware of the nearby promotion. Both of these campaigns can be directed specifically at those people who are more likely to become customers, based on data which advises of shopping habits and other criteria.
Whether customers opt to shop instore, or online, they are looking for more information on the products or services that interest them. Retailers can leverage multiple interactive digital platforms such as digital signage instore or online shopping platforms to supply customers with all the relevant information around a specific promotion or product.
Enticements such as specials aimed specifically at customers of a certain gender or age group, or within a certain area, help to make customers feel special. Few things frustrate a customer more than wanting to buy something but having limited information on the product, or how to buy. Retailers who ensure that their customers have this information at their fingertips, will make the choice and buying process much simpler, encouraging customers to continue shopping with their brand.
Having made an informed decision about the products and service available to them, customers are ready to buy. Online purchasing typically offers simple payment options, however retailers need to extend this simplicity to instore. People have little patience for queues, and retailers are exploring ways to reduce waiting time without having to increase payment terminals. Easy payment options such as self-checkout points, queue-busting, quick terminals and mobile payments on the floor are available to answer this need.
Most instore customers simply take their purchases with them when they leave, however delivery is required for larger items as well as online purchases. Other than being as fast as possible, delivery needs to be accurate, and customers need to be kept informed of the progress.
The Internet of Things offers many solutions to ensure that goods are properly tracked and managed en-route to customers, while providing real-time visibility to customers, accompanied by regular automated updates. Customers need to know where their parcel is and when it is expected to arrive, while being kept in the loop on any potential delays.
The way in which after sales services are provided determine whether a customer returns to your store, completing the 360-degree journey, or whether they opt to do business elsewhere in future.
Application based loyalty programs, regular and – more importantly – targeted updates on new products and services, and aftersales support are all key components that keep customers coming back for more.
Retail is no longer just about making sales. To remain competitive, retailers need to evolve alongside their customers. They need to embrace an agile, digital economy that allows them to offer customers unique experiences and which enables that cyclic, 360-degree journey.
By Lindy Lee, Head of Retail at T-Systems South Africa
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.