The choice to be relevant is likely one of the most crucial decisions a retailer is making today. Are they doing it with enough speed and purpose to do justice to their brand?
No question that the challenge to compete and remain relevant in today’s digitally driven world is profound and well documented. In the course of doing home renovations, I have recently tested the boundaries of unified commerce shopping journeys. One side-by-side experience stood out and made me wonder, are retailers concerned enough about the impact of customer experience on their brand?
Who & What
Retailer one: Digitally native retailer with the faucet-rappeling contractor on TV
I purchased a shower enclosure from retailer one that was delivered by their service in 3 pieces on a pallet. The cost of the unit was ~ $1000.
Retailer two: Brick & Mortar retailer with a strong online presence who’s famous for its meatballs
I purchased a wood countertop from retailer two that was delivered by their delivery service in one long box. The cost of the unit was ~$150.
In the end, neither item worked out, and that was where I realized that the impact of experience and brand is becoming more real and more critical — fast.
When catchy theme songs make you want to belt out a tune
I called the first retailer and explained that the shower wouldn’t work for me. No worries, can we help you find something else? When we couldn’t find anything after a pretty liberal commitment of time on the phone by them, they organized the return. They said, “I see you’re a loyal customer so though normally we’d have to hold back $120 until we confirm the return shipping cost (they pass through the discounted rate they get), I am going to override that and only charge you $20.”
Ok, so now I am no longer in a bad mood about the shower not working, I am in a good mood about feeling appreciated. And I didn’t even have to ask for a discount; they offered based on my value to them.
When looking at the return email, I have a question and I email them. They got back to me within a couple of hours with an answer and the person responding let me know "I am your return caseworker and I will follow this through and make sure all goes smoothly from here.”
So now I feel appreciated and looked after. Things are really good.
Pickup happens on schedule two days later, they call 30 mins out, arrive, scan the items, and off they go.
BOOM! I get a nearly immediate notification that the return is processed and I see a credit on my credit card within 24 hours.
And, wait for it, I also get a call back the next business day from my return caseworker confirming all is set, my refund is processed and to have a great day!
So overall, I am appreciated, taken care of, and valued. Wow!
When the meatballs just aren’t enough
I called the second retailer and explained that the countertop was not a match and wouldn’t work for me. After quite a bit of haggling, they agree to split the $39 return shipping cost with me, and they processed a return “order” that was to trigger a pickup by their delivery service. The service was scheduled for 4 days later, and they'd call the day before with a time.
So, I am glad to have the return underway, but I don’t have any warm and fuzzies.
Four days later comes and goes, no call, no pickup. Call again, spend quite a long time on hold, but do get through. Customer service is very nice, explains their vendor did not do what they were supposed to. Tries hard to get a hold of the vendor and schedules another pickup — the same drill, in 3 days, they’ll call the day before.
Now I feel like their problems are my problems, but at least we’re moving forward.
Three days comes and goes, no call, no pickup. Call back, get our first agent again (what are the chances!) and though she’s very nice, she says that she doesn’t know “what will happen next.” It has to return to a store, but the store it came from is closing so it has to go back to another store…they’ll call back.
Did I hear from them? No.
Did I get a refund? No, not from them.
How do I feel? Now I know their problems are my problems. No meatballs are good enough to overcome that.
Owl or Ostrich
The moral is pretty simple: you don’t have to be digitally native to offer a seamless experience across stores, customer service, last mile and the rest, but of course, it does help. Just like great eyesight and a 360-degree view of the world helps the owl, newer business processes and technology without legacy overhang makes it easier to be nimble and on target. If you’re not digitally native, does that mean you aren’t a great retailer? Of course not. But ignoring the need to be digitally relevant is a choice, and retailers choosing this path should remember that their customer gets a choice too. They shouldn’t be shocked when they pull their heads out of the sand to find their customer is getting relevant frictionless customer engagement somewhere else.
Interested in taking control of your customer experience through retail-as-a-service? OneView Digital Store is the headless, API-first transaction engine that empowers retailers to build it once, deploy anywhere to enable seamless customer experiences across every touchpoint.
We’d love to hear from you about what is most important to you in the digitally native world.