How are traditional retail stores adapting to stay relevant in the age of e-commerce? Recent years have seen many challenges, with stores forced to close during the peak of the pandemic as online shopping increased, accelerating changes in shopper behavior. It has been obvious as stores reopen that retail success now depends on merging online and in-person experiences to combine the best of both. At last week’s Salesforce World Tour in London, leading UK home tech retailer Currys discussed their digital journey to create a better all-round experience for their customers.
More than eight million shoppers a week visit Currys, either online or in one of the 300 stores across the country. In the past, there has been no way to connect those online and in-store experiences. However, Currys knows that 40-50% of their customers buy from both channels. Four out of five shoppers in the store have researched their purchase online, while others visit the store to see the product before buying it online. So Currys has launched an app that allows colleagues in the store to view a customer’s profile and online activity while helping them with their purchase. The goal is to have a single view of the customer that Currys can use to guide them through the customer lifecycle. Gillian Geraghty, director of omnichannel and e-commerce at Currys, explains:
Everyone talks about omnichannel in stores and online, but it’s really about end-to-end, from customer navigation to aftermarket part. And then our customers shop with us for warranty service, their care plans, their credit. So it’s much broader than just the product they buy. We may have relationships with customers for years, just because of the product they purchased…
It’s not just a one-time purchase, it’s a lifetime relationship you’re trying to build.
Using the colleague center, once the customer has confirmed their email address or phone number, the colleague can look up details such as whether they have signed up for the Currys Perks membership scheme, their purchase history and recent web activity , like an abandoned basket. or products they have seen. Directly from the app, the colleague can take an order, add warranty protection, set up a payment plan, and arrange delivery.
the human element
Technology is an important part of making this work, including Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Service Cloud, as well as integration with other systems using MuleSoft, but the human element is just as important. Currys has invested more than £25 million ($31 million) in staff development and sees expert advice and guidance as an essential part of his proposition. That advice is also delivered online.
One app that has proven invaluable during the pandemic lockdown is ShopLive, which allows store colleagues to give advice to customers online via a one-way video call where they can show off products, answer questions, and even complete a purchase using the buddy center app. Now used by 35,000 shoppers a week, it is the largest video commerce channel in the UK retail industry. The service is available 24/7 and colleagues answer the call at the store or from home if it’s after hours. Geraghty says:
From the website, if you want to speak to one of our colleagues for help with expert advice, we put you in touch with the right person in store…
If they are not in the store, then they will have the center at home to be able to do it. We have it 24/7. And it was great, because that was the goal during the pandemic. We could still have all these colleagues, who would have been in the store, working and still serving customers from their homes.
Currys also uses the online channel to track purchases with relevant offers, such as online subscriptions. Again, if the customer has any questions, they can open the LiveShop video call or chat through a message channel. There’s also an augmented reality app that colleagues can launch to show what a device will look like in the customer space. The important thing is to make sure that the offers are relevant to the customer and not too intrusive. Geraghty says:
It’s making sure we’re talking about the right deals for you, whether we’re doing a sale or whether it’s technology you want, or you’re more into bigger appliances, refrigerators, washers, what we’re offering. to you is relevant to you in that space, rather than telling you about laptops that may not be…
I think you have to be careful when you start to get into customization, because you don’t want to be nosy. There’s this delicate balance of not being creepy. We want to get to know you, we want to understand you, and we want to support you, without, ‘I actually feel uncomfortable because you know me too well.’
Building a long-term relationship
Building the relationship the right way is important because Currys wants to establish a long-term relationship with clients. In addition to selling new products, the company has a large repair operation that completes more than 1.9 million repairs a year. It also offers exchange and recycling of redundant equipment. Geraghty comments:
That’s also part of the big part of Curry’s proposition around services — the service element, whether it’s sharing, so you can do that by helping customers, and all the sustainability stuff, whether it’s recycle, repair All those things that we do, that do more than just sell the technology.
A united digital infrastructure is key to making this ongoing relationship work. She adds:
What’s important with the journey that we’re on, the transformation, is that it’s that ecosystem. That’s what helps us run the business, makes life so much easier and smoother. But that helps with that whole customization piece, understanding and putting it all together. Whether you’re in-store, online, or after-sales, we’re now working on one platform.
It’s also important to make sure the customer experience lives up to expectations. Again, this often means joint processes running both online and in store. Currys offers a same-day online checkout, in-store pickup service, with pickup within 30 minutes if the store has the item in stock, or within 24 hours if you need to get to the store from a drop-off center. distribution. Many purchases are emergencies, because the customer needs to replace an item that is broken, so the ambition is to reduce the response time from 30 to 15 minutes and perhaps add home delivery. Geraghty says:
The next one is, how can you do the same day in 15 minutes? Customers want it pretty fast: 30% of our orders are rush purchases. So how can we do the same day to your house if you require it?
The company also tracks performance on each element of the process, such as the delivery interval from the distribution center to the store or the time it takes to get the item from the truck to the shelf. Other elements ensure that the in-store experience lives up to the promise. She continues:
We track the wait time from when a customer arrives at the store until they pick it up. And then the other element that we want to get to as part of our omni is. So how do you make sure that if the customer wants to be served as well (if they want to get paid, they have a new laptop and say I actually want Microsoft or I need some new cables or whatever with that) how can you serve them as well as collect? …
But I think the waiting time is very important. Because if you’re going to offer it in 30 minutes, you don’t want to wait 15 minutes once you get to the store. We want to serve you within two minutes of your arrival on the production floor.
A lot of ambition on the part of Currys to continue improving the customer experience. My memories of shopping at electronics stores have not always been happy ones. But what Currys is attempting now shows the big difference he can make through thoughtful adoption of modern connected digital technologies. It’s intriguing to see how much you’re already blending online and in-person experiences, for example using the ShopLive app to bring colleagues into the digital realm, while the Colleague Center brings all the convenience of digital to the in-store experience. .
After previous mergers with Dixons, PC World and Carphone Warehouse, the company last year standardized on the Currys brand to continue its 140-year history on the street, plus a quarter-century online. The biggest transformation for traditional retailers is moving from one-stop shopping to ongoing customer engagement, though in a sense it’s a return to the kind of relationship local specialty stores used to have with their local community of repeat shoppers, now executed on a digital scale. all over the world. a nationwide shopping population. Currys is still only halfway along this journey, but he is showing what can be achieved with the right investment in both technology and people.