Unified communications is influencing changes in many industries; banking, manufacturing, healthcare, retail and more. It's a catalyst for digital transformation across many industries. In this blog, I look at three pillars of traditional retail and how they're impacted by unified communications.
When it comes to the retail space, we've already seen the transition from click and mortar to just a click. The amount of products and services purchased online has gone through the roof. People went from just being able to visit a website to having the opportunity to fill out an email contact form. The next generation want to click to chat, where people have the ability to chat with someone who could help provide a better understanding of a product or service.
With WebRTC technologies, a single click now results in a face-to-face conversation with someone who can bring up slides and answer questions, resulting in a dramatically shortened time to sell. (Of course, reduced time to sell means increased margins.) From the outside in, technologies like video conferencing and WebRTC are enabling organizations to interact face-to-face with their customers while they are in a buying cycle.
In traditional retail, there are three primary impact areas: the customer experience, the employee experience, and the corporate experience. All three of these areas are drastically improved thanks to the new tools that are available. New methods now exist to access people and information in real-time, which drives the retail experience forward for everyone.
When a customer is standing in a line with six people ahead of them, they perceive the wait to be longer if they are only staring at posters. If, however, they can look up and see monitors that are providing information and constantly changing to different views, the perceived wait time goes down by 40%. To the customer, it feels as if they weren't standing in the line for as long. Even though in actuality it took the same amount of time, they prefer shopping in the place where they were engaged and it felt quicker.
Mobile concierge is another way to connect and engage with the customer. Let's say that I've opted into the Gap application on my phone, for example. Whenever I walk into a retail location with wifi enabled, I can be provided with customized information. If I always buy red shirts, the app might show me a coupon for 30% off a red shirt.
Employees can take advantage of the same video display that provides the customer with engaging information while waiting in line. It can be used as a video endpoint to get some best practices about setting up a new display or moving merchandise around. It can even be used to have a video session with designers.
If somebody calls in sick, the store manager can simply go to an application and have it auto-call 20 people and ask if they would like to work the available shift. If someone presses ‘yes', the store manager will be alerted right on their mobile device. They don't have to sit in the back room for hours, calling until they find someone that can fill the shift. These kinds of tools allow employees to be more efficient with their time.
From a corporate perspective, everybody can interact with store employees in real-time. They can work with managers in an integrated way using video. If a product is recalled, alerts can be sent directly to mobile devices. Regional directors can be notified if items haven't been pulled from shelves. From there, they can push a button right inside the alert to connect directly with the relevant store manager. That way, they can investigate the issue immediately.
From Low Prices to High Levels of Customer Service
We live in a time where we're spoiled by our immediate access to information. When I heard a song lyric on the radio that I couldn't understand, I had to either take a guess or use the wisdom of crowds. It's easy for us to lose patience if we don't have immediate access to the information we want. In the retail space, customers already have high expectations of the user experience. If people don't get a quick response about what they are looking for, they will move on. There are many choices available, and organizations can use collaborative technologies to provide the environments that customers prefer.
When it comes to pricing, companies like Walmart and Amazon were the leaders. Now, there are many other companies that compete at low price levels. Because people are so accustomed to a high-level user experience, the next differentiator for online retail is service. Think back to the gas stations where people with bow ties put air in your tires and washed your windows. Likewise, there were retailers like Nordstrom, which would charge ten percent more but provided a higher level of customer service with personal dressers.
The trend we're seeing now is a high level of customer service as part of the basic package. If retailers want people to be happy from a customer service perspective, they need to reach their customers the way they want to be reached.