With the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games due to start this Friday, over 50 UK retailers have been competing in the final event of our retail omni-lympics – the personalisation half-pipe - which judges their ability to cater to all customers in an engaging way.

With the 2014Winter Paralympic Games due to start this Friday (7 March), over 50 UK retailers have been competing in the final event of our retail omni-lympics – the personalisation half-pipe - which judges their ability to cater to all customers in an engaging way.

Here are the key capabilities retailers were judged on and the reasons for their importance:

  • Single view of the customer – difficult to achieve but the building block of personalisation.  Judges looked for those that had made a good start in this key area.
  • Live chat – enriches the online experience, making it easier for customers to make informed purchase decisions.  Points were awarded for most helpful agents and shortest wait times.
  • Clienteling software – enables store staff to give every customer a VIP experience. 
  • Call centre – a standard offer so judges looked for retailers with the longest opening hours and quick response times.
  • Customer focused in-store staff – a challenging category, judges looked for pro-activity, good manners and upselling ability.
  • Consistent service across channels – a team event, this requires each department to work in harmony to offer a uniform experience.

Event highlights

LK Bennett was a real standout performer in this challenging event.  The high-end retailer offered an excellent service across channels and the call centre particularly impressed by offering to ring ahead to a store to reserve an item. 

Mint Velvet demonstrated an appreciation of multichannel retail by asking customers at checkout how they would like to receive messages (text, email etc.)

Sweaty Betty offered a consistent service across channels and plays to the strength of each, for example, by offering yoga in store to entice customers.

Bumpy landings?

It wasn’t all plain sailing as a number of retailers still provided a very disjointed view of the customer with various channels operating in isolation.  In general terms, call centres appeared to have the most information on individual customers but no-one offered a single view.

In addition, with the retail industry awash with new technology and innovation, it is surprising that many retailers are still missing opportunities.  For example, one of our researchers browsed the wedding section of a store but was not offered any assistance or asked any questions by staff about the wedding date, or how to keep in touch. 

Customers seeking help and prepared to share this type of information across channels can be added to the database to receive relevant messages, to entice them into the store or to shop online and enable the retailer to capitalise on a lucrative life event.

Perhaps most frustratingly, many retailers have separate call centres for in-store and online enquiries demonstrating a siloed approach. This does not foster a single customer view which is both time consuming for the consumer and the call agent.

So while some retailers have made an encouraging start on the omnichannel retail journey, there is plenty to do in all areas to meet the demands of changing customer behaviour. 

Next week, the winners will take to the podium as we summarise the inaugural omni-lympics and assess the current retail landscape.

Mark Williams, European Sales Director, eCommera