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Window Shopping

Window Shopping Adidas Google JT

There’s a buzz in retailing around saving the retail high street in the UK, led by retail guru Mary Portas. As Mary explained, this was not simple nostalgia, “You're not going to have the same amount of shops on the small High Street. It's not going to happen. But what you can do is you need to put some activity back on the High Street.”  This activity includes encouraging online providers to offer pop-up shops and bring new experiences and theatre into town centres.”

Fashion retailers understand the importance of retaining a physical presence. Brands such as Nike, Adidas and Burberry have looked at how innovative personalisation technology can merge the online and in-store experience. For example, customers using the Adidas ‘virtual trainer’ wall, available at flagship stores and online, can choose their size and style of shoe, rotate and examine the product, then buy it online or in store. This effective personalisation and customisation relies on high quality data and communication, which extends deep into supply chain and customer data management.

However, integrating an online and in store retail culture is much more difficult. Getting a refund at an above competent shop is easy, as it’s almost always a smaller cost to the business than losing the customer. Replicating that good customer service online, so the experience is always the same, is much harder. This is not necessarily about adhering to systems and processes, but allowing staff to focus on addressing what the customer is asking for.  Andrew McMillan, who spent many years at mainstream retailer John Lewis, is very revealing on this point; “People and their managers are working so hard to be sure things are done right that they hardly have time to decide if they are doing the right things.” Listening to customers and solving their problems, requires both direction and freedom to work together to create that ethos across the business functions, roles, and departments, and this is just as true in a small business as in a larger retail organisation.

Every retailer wants to create a seamless branded experience, and make both online and physical channels compelling customer destinations. Mary Portas has campaigned to save the shopping streets in UK towns by making them an exciting place to go and rewarding customer centric businesses. One challenge for a high street retailer is to make the shop window bigger, through online integration, so you can interact with the staff and retail offer on your smartphones, tablet device, soon even when in your car. An ‘always-on’ online channel has two functions. One, it can be a great channel in its own right. Two, for a truly great retailer, the online channel can draw customers to actually meet, face to face, the people that can offer a great customer experience. The same thinking could also save the car dealership.

Image: Adidas trainer wall
Image credit: Adidas and Google (Hugh Dickerson, Google UK)



Written by Ben Waller

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