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Making the instore experience smarter, slicker and more engaging

Thursday May 3 2012

Retailers know that transforming the physical store is key to capturing consumer hearts and wallets. But when it comes to creating an engaging instore experience, customer flow management (CFM) can deliver capabilities that go far beyond tackling the priority of minimising queuing wait times. David Anahory explores how retailers are using CFM to create true brand differentiation, boost operational efficiencies and generate additional sales opportunities

Retailers know that transforming the physical store is key to capturing consumer hearts and wallets. But when it comes to creating an engaging instore experience, customer flow management (CFM) can deliver capabilities that go far beyond tackling the priority of minimising queuing wait times. David Anahory explores how retailers are using CFM to create true brand differentiation, boost operational efficiencies and generate additional sales opportunities

 

The recent downturn and the emergence of mobile commerce have changed the UK retail environment forever. But rather than digital replacing the High Street, David Anahory of customer flow management (CFM) systems provider Qmatic says a new reality has emerged – one where shoppers are looking to the traditional bricks and mortar store for an experience that’s very different to shopping online.

 

“That’s because alongside valuing being able to touch, feel and engage with products ‘in the flesh,’ today’s consumers expect an inspirational new in-store brand experience that incorporates the human touch,” he said. “Which explains why, as the UK economy continues on its path of recovery and growth, switched-on retail organisations are putting the focus on differentiation and service - and using customer flow management (CFM) to achieve brand differentiation through service.”

 

Winning hearts and minds

 

Today’s shoppers look to stores to deliver prompt service and fast access to knowledgeable sales staff, yet all too often these expectations are not met. But today’s shoppers won’t hesitate to use social media to report in-store service failures in an instant – all of which has implications in terms of future customer retention, organisational reputation, and lost revenue potential.

 

Anahory continued: “But CFM now makes it possible for retailers to initiate new ways of managing the customer in-store journey, and the payback is clear. As a recent Qmatic survey of retail executives revealed, 76% of retailers expect to see increased sales as a result of being able to link customers to the most appropriate skilled sales or service person. It’s why almost half the respondents were planning to use digital media to direct customers to the correct person or department, while around a third are looking to digital kiosks to assist customer choice.”

 

Improved customer perceptions

 

For today’s consumers, speed and convenience are paramount. And UK shoppers are increasingly less inclined to queue. It’s why retailers now view the way they manage the in-store waiting experience as a key operational and PR tool.

 

But when it comes to rethinking each and every customer touch point, Anahory added that CFM has a key role to play in cutting wait times, keeping shoppers informed and giving them the ability to feedback on their experience before leaving the store. “Indeed, 46% of retail correspondents in the Qmatic survey stated that actively managing queuing and waiting would increase their hourly transactions,” he added.

 

“Long queues are an instant turn-off that results in purchase abandonment and negative brand perceptions. But with an effective CFM system in place, retailers can rationalise service points to minimise customer wait times, free up valuable floor space, and take service delivery to a new level; redirecting shoppers to alternative service locations, offering timed appointment slots, or providing real-time information on wait times.”

 

Over two thirds (76%) of retail respondents in the Qmatic survey also confirmed improving their ability to link customers to the correct person or department would result in increased sales, while 41% stated a more efficient and streamlined store operation would be an important outcome.

 

Getting connected to customers

 

Increasingly retailers are using CFM technologies to generate ‘active’ waiting time for customers by utilising the inline wait time to entertain or inform customers of new products, offers and promotions via integrated flat-screens, according to Anahory. Others are undertaking in-queue surveys to gain insights into customer views on future services or promotions, store layouts or their personal service experience instore.

 

“But that’s not all,” he said. “Today’s sophisticated CFM solutions include information kiosks that let shoppers personalise their choices, view potential purchases in their home environment, make product selections or ‘create a look’ using suggested product recommendations.”

 

Optimising every sales opportunity

 

The physical store experience is still valued by consumers, and maximising each and every opportunity to reinforce brand values and boost purchases while maximising the performance of each department within a store is now a retail priority.

 

The customer flow systems expert said that staying relevant to today’s shoppers depends on creating an enticing instore experience where service is high on the agenda, and CFM is proving to be a highly strategic enabler when it comes to transforming the physical store. It can help to create a dynamic operation that boosts organisational reputation and generates additional revenue.

 

“Effective queue management makes it possible for retailers to organise staff and resources quickly and efficiently, while providing a managed flow of service to as many customers as possible. Because, for today’s retailers, improved customer satisfaction translates directly to increased sales, longer active shopping stays in store and greater volumes of repeat visits,” Anahory concluded.