In the modern retail environment, businesses must take advantage of every opportunity they have to connect more deeply with consumers – though, based on industry data, many aren’t taking the opportunities in front of them.
In its “Customer Experience Excellence Report 2019”, research firm KPMG found that Australian consumers found little, if any, differentiation between the experience offered across most brands – something the report didn’t necessarily see in other regions.
In fact, the report found that consumers recognise personalisation as the most important pillar of customer experience, followed closely by brand integrity. This gives Australian retailers the opportunity to do more to differentiate themselves from the competition, and afford customers a unique and memorable shopping experience.
At a recent Salesforce event in Sydney, a panel of executives from Super Retail Group, New Zealand’s The Warehouse Group and RedBalloon’s parent company, Big Red Group, explained how their businesses learn what their customers want, and how they are going to give it to them.
Meeting passion head-on
For Super Retail Group, much of the customer experience at its retail offerings revolves around interacting with experts in their field, and seeking answers for a customer’s own passion projects – whether heading to SuperCheap Auto to find parts for a car they are rebuilding to seeking advice on fishing rods from BCF.
“Our mantra is to help the individual to catch the fish: It’s not just about selling them the rod, it’s about getting the outcome,” says Super Retail Group’s general manager of omni-retail, Brian Townsend.
“If you delight them on the small things, then that gives you permission to step forward and extend that relationship – whether they’re spending two dollars or two thousand dollars, it doesn’t matter.”
This trust between consumer and store associate extends to “member nights”, where the brands invite their most loyal customers in-store to see upcoming products and meet and talk to like-minded people.
“That’s all part of that community and that passion,” Townsend says.
“Obviously, there’s new product all the time, but actually driving that physical interaction is really important.”
Rewarding loyalty through data
The Warehouse Group is a portfolio of retail brands, from a general merchandise business, to stationery, from sports and outdoor to electronics, with more than 250 stores across New Zealand.
Despite having such a large physical footprint, the group touts its online capabilities as a key advantage it holds – being the number one department store for online trading in New Zealand. But, this hasn’t changed the way the group approaches its messaging to customers.
“We don’t think in terms of online and offline,” chief digital officer Michelle Anderson says.
“We want our customers to be able to shop when, where and how they want to shop.”
While disconnected in terms of product offering, the group’s four brands – The Warehouse, Warehouse Stationery, Noel Leeming and Torpedo7 – share customer data and purchasing trends to allow more intelligent and relevant communication with customers who purchase across the scope of the business. Customers who do this are worth three times as much as those who don’t, the group says.
“It’s really about showing your customers that you know them, no matter where or when they turn up,” Anderson says.
“Let’s take mums for example: Mums are a really important segment to our brand, and lots of the purchases you make as a new parent are purely transactional. By reminding them that it’s time to purchase new nappies, and putting the right offers in front of them, growing with the child through the life stages, we can take that transactional experience and turn it into a really positive brand experience.”
Breaking new ground
Big Red Group, owner of experience retailers such as RedBalloon and Adrenaline, forms connections with customers in a different way. Firstly, it is online only, and secondly, it doesn’t sell physical items.
There is no way for someone to come into a store and talk through what they need with a knowledgeable store associate, or touch and feel something they are considering purchasing.
This approach brings with it an entirely different set of expectations from customers – ones that Big Red Group is in the process of learning from now.
“If you’re buying a gift from Red Balloon, you want to get that feedback that you gave that gift to somebody, that they used it, and that they enjoyed it,” chief information officer Brett Raven says.
“The same goes for suppliers. We have to make sure that suppliers feel like they’ve had a good experience when they engage with the company, and [through that] we can get feedback in the future from the supplier as far as how the customer’s experience was.
“It’s a whole chain of events that we’re still working on, and it is still a challenge for us.”
However, the digital-only approach also lends itself well to other forms of commerce, with Raven particularly excited about integrating voice-commerce into the business in the future: after all, you don’t need to go into a store and feel a hot-air balloon ride before buying a spot in the basket.
“I think now is the time to do it – getting the brand established in a new category is really important,” Raven explains.