Delivering a return on convenience: how retailers can build a new network to win customers and keep them

Great customer experience is the lifeblood of every business. Not only does it ensure that customers keep coming back, it is also a key driver of reputation and can be make or break for an organisation – particularly in today’s challenging business climate. 

Delivering excellent customer experience, then, has quickly become a key priority for many organisations. Indeed, recent research shows that more than two-thirds of companies now compete solely on the basis of customer experience, a figure that has almost doubled in less than a decade. But it’s easier said than done. Customer expectations are changing, quickly, so meeting – or even surpassing – them is a difficult task. Technology-led disruptors like Uber are revolutionising what today’s always-on consumer sees as normal, and it’s leaving businesses in all sectors fighting to keep up.

It’s a struggle that’s felt intensely in the retail industry where, on top of the ongoing challenges posed by innovative online-only and well-integrated multichannel operators, retailers must constantly try to keep pace with a consumer whose habits and tastes are moving at lightning pace. One big problem that we see in this area is the need to provide faster delivery and greater convenience when it comes to returns. This is particularly true for fashion retailers, as the latest trends change and depreciate quickly. A fast turnaround with these returns is essential – as retailers need to get items back and displayed on the shelf in the shortest time possible.

However, it’s a problem that also poses significant opportunity for those retailers that can get ahead of the game and transform aspects of their business model right now.

A technology-driven change

How can retail businesses respond to changing customer expectations and improve service levels? It’s about thinking outside the box and using technology in a smart way. They could start by leveraging the power of local networks. Examples of this include where the returns policy can be driven by the gig economy, in a Deliveroo-style model.

The customer makes a one-click purchase that is collected within minutes from a bricks-and-mortar store by an eco-friendly rider and delivered to the customer’s home or office within the hour. The driver then waits for the customer to try on the purchase, decide if they want to keep it. If not, the rider can immediately complete the return, processing the refund payment on the spot, and take the item back to the retailer who puts it on the shelf for repurchase straight away.

These faster, localised last-mile delivery networks and collaboration across the high street brands could provide a more convenient, fun and also ethical way to shop. Who needs packaging when you can deliver in person on a bike? Additionally, the regular availability and ease of use for one-click purchasing is causing a strain on traditional bricks-and-mortar stores. Customers want speed and convenience to make their already-busy, time-stretched lives easier. Importantly, in order to compete, the technology must give the purchaser an easy life. Busy consumers want to tick things off their list as soon as possible. The retailers that can support this will reign supreme.

Delivering excellence in hospitality

It’s not just traditional retail businesses that are experiencing disruption – it’s happening in hospitality, too. Of course, it’s difficult to return a meal, but the food and drink market has been almost entirely reshaped due to the rise in the availability of home delivery services.

Some merchants have implemented their own click-and-collect and delivery services to compete with delivery giants like UberEats and JustEat. Others have embraced them and are also looking to increase in-restaurant upselling by focussing on introducing new technologies at the table using either server or consumer-controlled devices and apps – a menu with AR functionality is the perfect example of this, and a great way to upsell a fancy cocktail by adding a novelty the customer will enjoy.

However they play it, food and drink businesses are having to rapidly adapt to the changing market conditions – and with robust technology by their side, they will greatly improve their chances of being successful. It’s something that casual dining chain Nando’s has been at the forefront of for a number of years. As Richard Atkinson, the company’s Technology Director, highlights: “Customers are increasingly factoring ‘ease of payment’ into their choice of where to eat, especially as a growing number prefer to leave their cash and cards at home and trust that they can pay with their mobile.”

A delightful future

Ultimately, the future profitability and reputation of all retail businesses and food and drink operators lies in their ability to consistently surprise and delight their customers. Competition in these sectors is rife, and it is the businesses with a keen focus on the end-to-end customer experience that will end up driving up customer loyalty – an extremely valuable commodity. Although it’s a huge challenge, it doesn’t need to be a headache. By partnering with Ingenico Enterprise Retail, retailers have access to proven payment platforms and a range of expertise, tools and technology, built on many years of experience within the retail and hospitality industry. Ingenico helps brands deliver and reward customer loyalty so they can remain relevant and competitive with their customer base – both now and in the years to come.

To learn more about how Ingenico’s services help retailers sell more, visit: www.ingenico.co.uk   

Nick Adams, Head of Business Development / Enterprise Retail at Ingenico Group

At Ingenico Enterprise Retail, Nick and his team are responsible for creating exceptional multi-channel commerce experiences for retail and hospitality businesses across Europe. A strategic thinker, he can generate and execute ideas on his feet and brings a range of specialisms to his role, including mobile/digital commerce and payment services.

Nick has proven skills in sales and marketing leadership and technology operations executive-level experience & success across a diversity of markets and geographies.