Touchpoints: ‘Taking it to the customer’
The relationship is shifting from distinctive channels to a continuously changing number of touchpoints. These touchpoints cut across digital and physical channels. They are used by the customer as they please, often with little predictability.
The touchpoints are used by the customer in two fundamental ways. For inspiration and communication with the retailer, and to buy from the retailer. The customer flits across these touchpoints as and when they please.
With such freedom and choice, it is now time for retailers to be proactive, and to ‘take it to the customer.’
Get the fundamentals right
Before attacking the complexities of channel and touchpoint integration, it must first be the priority to ensure that all your touchpoints are independently, as efficient, as reliable and as engaging as possible. That they are working.
Address the fundamentals with a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to anything other than best practice. Ensure that digital channels load quickly, present themselves in a logical and intuitive way, allow the customer to navigate where they need to go, but with relevant stimulation to lead them to what they really want.
Ensure physical shops are convenient in location, and open at convenient times. That the environments are clean and attractive, allowing the customer to find easily what they came in for, and discover seamlessly what they will leave with.
The choice of touchpoints is myriad, but the one that the customer is currently using is always the most important to them. Make sure that no touchpoints disappoint. Remember to never allow the customer to fail, by failing the customer yourself.
Integrating the customer experience
The next stage of evolution is to begin the process of integrating touchpoints, as marketing tools and as places to buy. In both cases the application of appropriate technologies is the key.
For marketing, integrated customer profiles need to be constructed, bringing together sales data and personal insights from across touchpoints, which can then be easily and continuously available and applied across those same touchpoints to create the best possible relationship with each individual customer.
Appropriate dialogues, suggestions and rewards can be communicated as subtly or as bluntly as is required, through the interactive visual and audio of digital channels, and through intimate conversations with physical shop colleagues.
For selling, inventory transparency and supply chain functionality should evolve with efficiency at every step. Prioritise the data and physical product connections between key touchpoints, ensuring that inventory requests, sales, and availability are accurately coordinated in real-time.
Enriching the experience
Enriching the touchpoint experience is not just about entertainment. Firstly, it comes with the achievement of efficiency & reliability. Channel and touchpoint transparency, and the integration of functions, will allow the business to move from a reactive distribution chain, to being a proactive retailer.
Experience is about developing and evolving transparency and integration, not just of products, but for touchpoints and customers themselves. Full integration of your own touchpoints with those of your support businesses facilitates one of the most important customer experience facets – ‘accurate expectation management.’ In an informed availability scenario, the delivery can only exceed expectations.
Further enrichment of inventory data will enable retailers to anticipate the location of products, rather than simply monitoring the status quo. This will minimize reactive deliveries, reduce costs and carbon footprints. Placing the product where the demand will be is a major step to making touchpoints attractive, and their experiences rewarding.
In a digital-first world, last-mile logistics also promise to deliver innovative and cost-effective solutions for both customers and retailers, working with precise timeframes and location hubs. Owned and third party eBike and peddle bike options will support local shops and communities, where collections by customers, and neighbourhood community groups, will also be encouraged and facilitated. A sense of shop ownership will be engendered. It will become the ‘local touchpoint’ for the brand.
Physical shops will evolve to integrate deliveries-in and deliveries-out, turning stockroom space into delivery hubs, or converting to ‘Dark Stores’ and micro-distribution centres.
Colleagues across the business will no longer bear the brunt of the ‘demarcation of channels,’ or location ownership. Customer service specialists can satisfy physical customers face to face, and digital customers through zoom and specialist demonstration portals. Local shop workers can become the local delivery workforce following customer demand in the store, and into homes, with the same service ethics and brand personality that they demonstrate over the shop counter.
Enriching touchpoints is about freeing up the static resources of channel focused businesses, to deliver a new flexibility and fluidity of people, places and products.
Expanding into new ‘touchpoints’ of opportunity
The new directions of retail expansion come from exploiting the efficiency and fluidity of your internal business, opening-up and developing new ways to the market. New ways to touch the customer.
New touchpoints for selling, from online editorials and social media to rich content platforms and streaming media can also be supported and supplied by the same fluidity and efficiencies in operations that fulfil existing physical shops with products.
Brands which naturally support a wholesale network of partners, are further exploiting the Direct to customer (DTC) opportunities, supplying merchandise as well as communicating brand values and vision directly to the customer. They will begin to ‘bundle’ and ‘package’ individual products into attractive customer facing propositions. Brands becoming merchandisers.
High street retailers, with decades of isolation from competitors, will forge new alliances to fill each-others physical and digital spaces, to sell their own products side-by-side through each other’s shops.
The imaginative and innovative retailers will absolutely ‘take it to the customer’ by partnering with event organisers, leisure and travel operators, sports teams and venues, TV programmes and film producers, media platforms and influencer sites. They will sell and deliver instantly and directly to the customer in the physical and digital space via a single footstep, or a single touch of a screen. The brand and product relationship will be seamless.
Your ‘touchpoint & location’ project…
If you want to start the ‘touchpoint & location strategy project’ ball rolling, please get in touch. I would be happy to share with you some typical project templates, schedules, costs, and case studies.
Please get in touch to discuss further your particular needs.
‘6 Astute Strategies for 2022′ is an extract from the book ‘Meaning in the Retail Madness: How to be an Essential Retailer.’ by Tim Radley.
If you would like to read more about the new ways that retailers are re-organising their structures, re-aligning their processes and empowering their workforces, then you can find all of this and more in ‘Meaning in the Retail Madness.’
Available worldwide across all amazon platforms and popular online booksellers from Waterstones, Blackwell’s & Foyles to Barnes & Noble and The Book Depository.