Shopping centres need to focus on providing a fantastic experience in order to stave off the challenge of omnichannel retail.
The rapid evolution of omnichannel retailing, which has enabled consumers to purchase the latest must-haves at the touch of a button, has sharpened the focus for retailers and shopping centre landlords on enhancing the in-store environment.
To provide experiences that cannot be matched online, retailers are experimenting with everything from digital walls to virtual changing rooms. But what about service?
Traditionally seen as a central, but functional, part of the retail model, customer service has arguably become even more important as new channels have evolved.
“Customer service has become even more important as new channels have evolved”
David Atkins, Hammerson
In the era when shoppers are accustomed to having information at their fingertips, old fashioned customer service desks offering pamphlet mall guides and opening times simply don’t cut it.
For shopping centre landlords, it’s important to understand the customer journey and how customer service can enhance the overall experience.
At the most basic level, this is about getting the hygiene factors right, challenging the level of service offered to shoppers and measuring the quality and consistency of training. As landlords, we must ensure that our customer service supports our retailers and their promotional activity.
Digital screens and tablets have replaced traditional information points, allowing customers to access the information most relevant to them.
And, as the experience becomes more personal, we are collaborating with our retail tenants and using our new mobile app, Plus, to tailor specific information and promotions to customers.
This provides a more convenient experience for shoppers that want to connect directly with their favourite brands and, at the same time, retailers can understand more about customers’ preferences and habits.
What is the future of customer service? Ultimately, the goal is to create desirability across our shopping destinations; to encourage customers to visit more frequently and stay longer.
To achieve this we need to ensure that the service provided is both personal and efficient. This will mean investing in the technologies to enable convenient shopping experiences, but I also believe it will involve an even greater focus on the human element.
We are already testing personal shopper services at Victoria Quarter in Leeds, providing customers with expert advice on all their fashion needs in a relaxed and luxurious environment.
Looking further ahead, concierge services will no doubt become an essential part of the experience, with customer service advisers able to book restaurants or collect cinema tickets for shoppers while they browse the shops.
When they are ready to eat, ‘hands-free’ shopping assistants will be on call to transport their purchases to their car or home so they can continue their evening unencumbered.
These initiatives, which aim to deliver a truly personal experience, will ultimately rely on greater partnerships between landlords and retailers.
- David Atkins is chief executive of Hammerson and President of BCSC