Retail is changing for sure.
These days customers have choices like never before, they are far more educated. They can pick from a wide range of options as to when to shop, where to shop and how to shop. They have the freedom and flexibility to compare similar products and pricing on demand to get the very best deal.
Consumers can simply use a mobile app to browse various product categories and pay online. However, many customers still prefer the traditional “touch and feel” shopping at brick and mortar stores. Keeping that in mind, retailers are integrating both their virtual and physical inventory to provide a unique experience. Put simply online retailers are moving offline and offline moving online.
To provide customers more freedom when it comes to shopping, differentiated self-service is emerging as a new trend. It is not a drastically different concept than self-service, rather an improved one. The typical self-service shopping portrays an image where customers stroll and fill a grocery basket, and a store employee follows them around. Such assistance is more crucial for high-end products like clothing rather than day-to-day items.
Not just for shopping, providing an option for self-service for product delivery can eliminate a lot of logistic hassle, and of course cost for retailers. In this post, we will be to get some key insights into differentiated self-service – both virtual and in-store along with opportunities for improving the last mile delivery by providing more control to customers.
Differentiated Self-service: How has it Evolved
As the name suggests, offering self-service to customers should have some unique elements to differentiate it from the traditional one. It needs to be an experience that goes beyond in-store or online shopping. For example, interaction with large screens, kiosks, and physical products in digital spaces, where consumers can use their mobile phones as a remote control.
As online and store retailing should be more in sync, both need to provide a similar experience so that consumers perceive them equally rather than the last resort. Differentiated self-service can provide a right blend of virtual and physical shopping environment by offering the advanced tools and information to consumers.
The said approach is a huge leap forward from the days of dominant consumer retail channels. For example, even a decade back retail giants such as Sears, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and Circuit City were dominating in consumer electronics and some other channels. Now, DIY home improvement centres also sell a diverse range of appliances both in-store and online, and the competition has got intense. Keeping up with the change, Wal-Mart has opted for differentiation by including a wide assortment of items at reasonable prices in thousands of convenient locations.
In e-commerce, companies like Amazon have been doing cross-channel selling starting from books to barbecue grills. Besides its huge inventory of products, Amazon and other e-commerce players have gained an edge as they offer the convenience of home delivery. Even though brick-and-mortar retailing is still alive and kicking, e-commerce has differentiated itself for easy shopping, comfort and low price. Now, by incorporating omnichannel retailing, both types of retail businesses are now opting for cross-channel retailing. Other than sustaining in the market, retailers are keen to offer self-service to reduce payroll and logistics costs.
Both for consumers and retailers the perception about self-service is changing. Particularly, for consumers, mobile devices like smartphones or tablets have got them access to all the needed information through self-service, and they are increasingly feeling why they should go to a store at all.
Here it is important to mention that when it comes to in-store experience, letting customers do all the work themselves may not work well for long. The reason being in this way stores will not be able to differentiate themselves from the virtual shopping. Shoppers these days carry their mobile devices or laptop and can comfortably create a better self-service experience than the kiosks at a store. This is why retailers with brick-and-mortar stores need to optimize the usage of technology and professional customer services to provide the best possible experience for customers.
Differentiated Self-service in retailing is more than just finding products
That’s true. There are various differentiators such as pricing, assortment, convenience and delivery that give complete customer experience. Retail giants Wal-Mart and Amazon realized it long back and focused on each factor to attract and retain customers. Traditional bricks and mortar retailers don’t stand a chance to win the race if they only compete on price or product range.
Companies like Apple are redefining retailing by carefully focusing on the following differentiators to create value when it comes to consumer experience:
- Building open space stores where consumers can check out products in a relaxed way
• Simplifying a simple, clean and innovative merchandising design
• Hiring staff with a different profile & training them on how to interact & engage consumers
• Updating the products in store with various unique contents & making them available on the virtual platform so that consumers can access them.
The purpose of focusing on the differentiators is to create a unique experience for consumers, intangible values that are hard to copy. Companies that are used to hard selling may find it difficult to fathom, but this is the way forward if they wish to prosper. Understanding consumers buying habits will go a long way for them rather than treating them as mere selling targets.
Integrating Self-service Delivery for Differentiated Last Mile Experience
An increasing number of omnichannel and e-commerce companies are differentiating by integrating innovative technologies, adding services and creating more opportunities for consumers to explore. Some of the ways retailers are doing that are below:
- Using self check-in and check-out technology to find consumers in specific areas
• Differentiating through engaging & improving consumers with new levels of personalization.
• Implementing the self-service options more for smaller items as customers will find them more convenient
• Integrating CRMs at stores to follow up, personalize service & create opportunities for repeat purchase
So, from big box retailing where low pricing and volumes have always been the differentiators, businesses are trying to have insights into consumer psyche to get their attention. Also, differentiated self-service hands over customers more control to make an informed buying decision.
Now, in the cases of e-commerce purchases, even though consumers resort to self-service using their mobile devices for browsing, choosing a product and checking out, they don’t have control over the last mile delivery. Customers need to wait for home delivery and even need to coordinate with the courier personnel.
By installing technologies like parcel lockers, retailers and logistics companies can make customers’ life easier. Once customers choose a parcel locker terminal while checking out, and the item gets delivered there, they can pick it anytime using a secure passcode. This self-service streamlines the last mile delivery saves substantial logistics costs for retailers and ensures maximum customer convenience.
If you are a retail business owner and have tried some options for improving customer interaction to maximize business, this is something you may be interested to know. Instead of mass merchandising and using an old-fashioned delivery method, looking for innovative ways like parcel lockers can give you better control and attract more customers. If you would like to explore secure self service smart lockers or electronic delivery lockers with enterprise grade backend, contact American Locker to see how your business can benefit.