Editorial Roundtable: Delivering On Your Omnichannel Promise

Editorial Roundtable: Delivering On Your Omnichannel Promise
Customer Retention

eBay, Away, Parachute, quip, peach, and Salesfloor on ways to deliver a seamless experience across all channels

Bogar Alonso
  • 27 december 2016

PSFK’s Editorial Roundtable series takes its inspiration from the traditional roundtable: bringing together industry insiders to share their insights on emerging and compelling trends in an idea-friendly manner. PSFK guides the discussion and our roundtable helps guide the future.

Last year, PSFK described the 10 pillars propping up the new shopper experience. But we live in a retail reality so rich that it bears multi-stage analysis and review. This year then as we promote our Future of Retail 2017 report, PSFK is reflecting on a different concern: how do you actually go about making the new shopper experience happen? That is, what nuts and bolts are necessary in the creation of a fully functioning machine that can respond to today’s retail landscape? The things that happen behind the scenes, behind the fitting rooms, behind the window displays.

Beyond understanding what customers want—convenience, personalization, and seamless, omnichannel access—how can you create an organization that wields employee development, optimized operations, and the latest technologies to deliver on those wants? In other words, what does it take to create a customer-first company?

Our Future of Retail 2017 experts include:

Steph Korey | Co-Founder of Away – the luggage company who tailors its collection of products for the modern traveler.

Mohan Patt | Vice President of Product, Shopping Experience at eBay – the multinational online marketplace remains one of the most recognized names in the dot-com space.

Janet Kraus | Co-Founder & CEO of peach – an intimate apparel company using machine learning and in-person and virtual appointments for optimal bra fit.

Simon Enever | Founder & CEO of quip – an oral care company that has simplified oral health for many a happy mouth.

Ariel Kaye | Founder & CEO of Parachute – a company rethinking the quality, comfort and design of your bedding—at a sliver of the price.

Oscar Sachs | Co-founder & CEO of Salesfloor – a tech platform redefining the role of ‘salespeople’ for the industry’s largest retailers.

(Below is the second part of a four-part editorial series).

customer-first company 2

Customers no longer just want their latest purchase now, they want it personalized, available online, available online and for pickup in-store, in-store and available for home delivery by tomorrow morning. Shopping is no longer binary, it’s omnichannel, full-scale, all-encompassing. Are customers expecting too much? How can brands ensure they have enough and adequate resources to deliver on an omnichannel promise? If they turn to third parties to meet operational demands, how can they manage quality assurance across the full extent of the supply chain?

Janet Kraus | Co-Founder & CEO of peach

“Quite the opposite—customers still expect too little. In our industry, we see the dreadful experiences women put up with just to get an undergarment that’s not even designed with them in mind. Our approach to being able to deliver an omnichannel, personalized experience is through marrying technology with human touch. The keystone is the stylist, who, as an independent entrepreneur, has the passion and motivation to deliver an extremely personalized retail experience to customers in her community. We build the technology that is designed to support her as well as train her. Experiences like texting someone about needing to restock your favorite underwear, getting fit for a bra at 10:00 pm over a video call, or dropping off a bra that didn’t fit at your kid’s school are made possible with this combination.

By putting the stylist at the center of the customer experience we are able to focus on streamlining our operations to support her.”

Steph Korey | Co-Founder of Away

“Customers have every right to expect an integrated experience across all channels. We consider our online store just one of our stores, in addition to our stores in New York, London, and Los Angeles. We work with the best logistics providers for fulfillment to web customers and for sending stock to our stores, and then we work with in-house painting artists to do personalization regardless of the channel the customer is shopping in. It’s definitely quite an undertaking, but very worthwhile.”

Oscar Sachs | Co-founder & CEO of Salesfloor

“Customers aren’t expecting too much and, in fact, I would argue that customers are really only expecting the bare minimum as it relates to retailers’ omnichannel strategies. The number of omnichannel retailers has grown exponentially and customers have so many options of not only where they shop, but how they shop. With competition so high, retailers need to provide customers with a seamless experience across all channels. But many retailers consider omnichannel to just mean they have an e-commerce site or advanced supply chain initiatives.

They need to instead think of omnichannel as getting as close as possible to the same customer experience across physical and digital shopping experiences. We help retailers do this by integrating their sales associates onto their online sites. Additionally, many retailers don’t understand the impact of omnichannel strategies financially. Rather than fixating on the profitability or cannibalization of channels, retailers need to focus on converting customers on whatever channel the customer wants.”

salesfloor omnichannel promise

Join us in NYC on Jan 17 for our Future of Retail 2017 launch event. The event is geared for any retailers, brands, agencies, technology companies and service providers looking to translate the trends included in our flagship report in actionable business practices.

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Simon Enever | Founder & CEO of quip

“I wouldn’t say the customer is expecting too much in general as we have always been programmed to expect and push for more, which promotes innovation and progress. With that said, it is true that the expectations of customers have been heightened to such a level by certain companies with (seemingly) infinite resources, that for many smaller or earlier stage companies it can be almost impossible to keep up with those expectations. But consumers aren’t going to understand that some brands have several series of funding and hundreds of employees and others do not (how would you even express that?) so their expectations are that all companies are setup evenly and so all should hold to the same, increasingly hard to keep up with, expectations. It is certainly a big, big challenge to match the offerings of peers of ours with similar online presences, services and subscriber levels, but a vastly different level of human and capital resources behind them.

The only path to keeping up in early stages is to outsource certainly, but this is also counterintuitive to trying to keep the perfect experience. Same day delivery services like Uber Rush and Postmates can be great if consumers are willing to pay the cost of that speed (which many are) and can offer a personalized experience. There is an increasing amount of ‘nontraditional’ ‘retail’ store experiences opening like b8ta that can offer the benefits of in-person shopping and a more tailored experience, without the huge setup costs and times of a big box store. And certainly, 3PLs can help take off the load on the fulfillment side, but often at a cost, both financial and (sometimes) quality. 

In the end, no one cares about the quality of your user experience like yourself as a business owner. So, whatever the intentions of outsourced solutions, they may never deliver the experience you want. If the resources are available, the initial cost of bringing as much as possible back in-house is likely worth the effort. In 2015 we outsourced our fulfillment. One way we controlled the experience and kept an eye on things was by having one of our own full-time employees operating at the fulfillment center, acting as our eyes on the ground, reporting back and ensuring quality. This consistent oversight certainly helped, but in the end, we took things back in-house because if done right, the cost and quality efficiencies are certainly there to be seen.”

Mohan Patt | Vice President of Product, Shopping Experience at eBay

“Shopping on a mobile device is all about making a personal connection. Customers expect a personalized mobile experience that is intuitive, engaging and efficient. Shopping sessions may be shorter on mobile devices but can occur more frequently if you can get the right level of engagement with your customers.

Shopping is also about inspiration—customers expect mobile applications to know what inspires them, what engages them and to surface content and products that are easy for them to purchase on demand, at any time. Retailers should provide a progressive search and browse experience that learns the way a customer shops overtime and adapts to their interests and needs. This coupled insights into what items are trending and popular in a customer’s circles should provide customers with a fulfilling search and browse experience.”

ebay bot omnichannel promise

Ariel Kaye | Founder & CEO of Parachute

“This on-demand culture has given people access to knowledge and information. The customer wants to be involved in every step of the buying process—from thinking about the item to purchasing, tracking and unboxing it. There has to be absolute transparency and honesty—that’s what consumers want more than anything.

With resource constraints, especially at an early stage, you have to decide which aspects of your business are the most important to your specific consumer. You can’t do everything. Because customers come to Parachute for the best bedding designs and quality, our shipping may not be as expedited as a large manufacturer. However, we provide a lenient shipping and returns policy: free domestic shipping and a 60-night trial on bedding.

We’re transparent with our customers and let them know what to expect, then we always meet or exceed those expectations. As we grow and scale, we will be able to offer additional benefits to our customers that aren’t available today (like free and fast worldwide shipping).

When using third parties to meet operational demands, first and foremost, establish clear service-level agreements and metrics. It’s also important to make them feel as invested in your brand as you are—this is a partnership. Communication is key, so schedule frequent touch bases over the phone and visit them in person. Develop a relationship with them by offering a discount code so they can enjoy the products themselves. Treat them as if they are another member of the team—and hold them to those standards.”

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Built on a robust study of trends and patterns in the market, the Future of Retail 2017 report offers transformational strategies for a customer-first business. The directional playbook from PSFK‘s research team helps business leaders drive success with insights into empowering employees, optimizing operations and leveraging technology. 

Note: If you would like to participate in a coming PSFK Editorial Roundtable, please contact us here.

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