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Date [ 2014-09-26, 06:06 ]

Helping companies take customer engagement to a new level.

(Singapore=Koreanpress) Benjamin Kim = Spring News, Singapore, has highlighted how customers can always keep in touch with retailers.      

A customer riding the train to work uses her smartphone to research a spa therapy she would like to try. She discovers a spa outlet that offers this therapy, reads its website and visits the outlet that evening to test its services. Based on her experience, she makes the decision to purchase a therapy package.

Another customer visits an IT shop to try out a new tablet computer and has a positive experience – although he is not quite ready to buy it just yet. Back home, he decides he wants the tablet after all, so he orders it online from the IT shop’s website and arranges
for it to be delivered to his door.

Welcome to OMNI-CHANNEL retailing – a new concept that is driving a revolution in retailing. “Omni-channel retailing is about using digital technology to boost productivity,” explained Yew Ming Hock, an Associate Consultant at the Singapore Productivity Centre (SPC). “Connected customers want to be able to buy anytime and anywhere. So this trend involves taking a look at all customer touch points and using IT to create an enhanced and seamless customer experience.”

The SPC is a one-stop productivity competency centre that provides local retail and F&B businesses with a range of services designed to boost productivity. It also provides consultancy in omni-channel retailing and regularly conducts workshops to help retailers transform their businesses.

Delivering convenience and accessibility

According to Yew, the customer experience is made up of several steps: discovery, consideration, evaluation, purchase and usage. For each of these steps, there are different touch points where companies have the opportunity to connect with customers.

“The key for companies is to keep customers engaged throughout the entire process,” he said. “Connected customers want to use multiple sources of product information when shopping, from in-store displays to retailer websites, online review sites, online marketplaces and social media. By engaging across these different channels, consumers can research and shop at their convenience. So it’s the job of the omni-channel retailer to ensure that seamless and consistent messaging about their products is reinforced at every step.”

For example, a prospective customer may use online forums or blogs to evaluate a product and compare it with other similar products of different brands. For certain products, such as IT gadgets and cars, there are websites that aggregate information on different brands – including details about prices, features and performance – and provide comparisons. In some cases, this online evaluation can replace a physical evaluation, thereby removing the need for customers to go to a specific store to look at the product offering in person. Ultimately, this results in a more convenient and rewarding customer experience.

“Using digital touch points to replace physical touch points can also help companies achieve higher productivity, as the former typically involve lower costs,” added Yew.

Making it work for SMEs

With more shoppers going online – particularly during the discovery and evaluation phases of the shopping experience – new channels have opened up opportunities for companies to proactively influence the customer experience leading up to a purchase. For example, companies can harness YouTube’s reach and accessibility to showcase their products or services in a short video.

A local SME that has embraced digital technology to enhance the customer experience is jewellery boutique La Putri. While in-store purchases are still at the heart of its business, the company recently launched a new website with an e-commerce store and connects with customers through a Facebook page and electronic direct mailers. In this way, La Putri is providing more avenues through which customers can learn about and purchase its jewellery.

For SMEs, one of the advantages of omni-channel retailing is that it helps to level the playing field, enabling them to compete with bigger companies. While SMEs may not have the resources to go head-to-head with large multinational retailers in terms of physical presence, they can use technology to achieve a level of digital engagement that puts them on a similar footing as their larger competitors. It is also important to note that while digital technology has opened up a new world of possibilities for engagement, it has also introduced new challenges and risks. “Given the reach of social media, just one unhappy customer complaining online can do a lot of damage to a company’s reputation,” warned Yew.

Nonetheless, with the benefits of a convenient, customised and engaging customer experience generally outweighing the risks, omni-channel retailing is a trend that is here to stay.


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