Making the most of your ‘bricks & clicks’ in retail

People are shopping differently these days.

Most shoppers are now what’s known as ‘omni-channel shoppers’. That’s to say: they make their buying decisions and purchases across a combination of retail touchpoints. It truly is a rich mix: buying in-store, like the good old days; buying in-store but having your purchase delivered; buying online; buying online but choosing to ‘click & collect’; buying through a retail or social mobile app; buying – gasp – through a third-party retailer (the classic example: seeing a book in Waterstones but buying it on Amazon).

Traditional retailers have a competitive edge.

The last decade or more has seen retailers busily upping their online game, but omni-channel shoppers actually present an opportunity for traditional retailers. Why? Because they’ve still got brick-and-mortar shops, which is something their online-only competitors don’t have. That means a whole extra channel at their disposal. An extra opportunity to harness value from their customers – and even an opportunity to enhance the delivery and experience of their other channels.

For traditional retailers, it’s all about getting your ‘bricks & clicks’ aligned. That’s industry speak for making sure the way your customers are shopping in store is seamlessly integrated with the way they’re shopping online. Getting that sorted is the holy grail of retail – and, indeed, of customer retention. Multi-channel shoppers want it all. Their expectations are changing all the time. Of course, they still make some in-store purchases, but their needs now extend to a wider variety of services: they want to be able to click & collect or, conversely, order in-store and have their purchase delivered; they want to be able to return an online purchase quickly and easily; they want to know how an item looks and feels in real life; they want to try clothes on, test-drive gadgets, or pick their own fresh fruit and vegetables. A successful omni-channel strategy is one that allows customers to smoothly hop between channels as and when they please.

Just take a look at Debenhams (and the rest).

Debenhams CEO, Sergio Bucher, who joined from Amazon in October 2016, recognises that people are shopping differently these days and is doing something about it: Debenhams Redesigned. Plans revealed in April imply a move towards shopping at Debenhams being turned into more of a leisure experience – think nail bars, blow-dry bars and in-store refreshments in what’s being hailed ‘social shopping’. The plans account for the fact that if you want to be a destination for today’s omni-channel shoppers, you simply must be offering them more than they can get elsewhere or online.

Similarly, House of Fraser has announced plans to implement a ‘lifestyle-led experience’ in stores, which mainly involves the addition of bars and restaurants to existing sites, but also includes a general revamp of stores – the idea being that if you can attract people to spend time in your store, shopping will follow. Meanwhile, there’s Marks & Spencer, who have just announced plans to trial an online food delivery service in Autumn 2017 in a bid to take on its competitors and, ultimately, take advantage of the multi-channel options available to them. And in case you thought brick-and-mortar shopping was on the way out – think again! Later this month, in a prime example that it’s very much alive and kicking, H&M is due to open a new store at London’s Westfield Stratford. It’ll be the biggest in the UK & IE and a global flagship and will continue to bolster the brand’s offering with extensive homeware and beauty ranges.

But: you need the right people.

Strategic retail shake-ups which take advantage of several channels present a huge and obvious opportunity for companies, like Debenhams, to re-think their approach to talent selection and people development. What profile of person would be capable and motivated to perform brilliantly in the new kind of shopping environment its CEO Sergio Bucher is proposing? He’s also suggested switching back office staff to the shop-floor in an effort to improve customer service; so, what profile of person would be capable and motivated of doing that in order to help achieve a wider business goal? If Debenhams wants to move seamlessly from what it has been to what it will be – namely a whole new kind of ‘social shopping’ environment – it needs to be asking the all-important question: what does great look like for them now?

At Chemistry, we’re experts in defining What Great Looks Like (WGLL™) for retailers. We’ve previously helped brands like House of Fraser and Boots Opticians identify what it is that makes employees great in the context of their individual retail environments, then roll it out into a fully-fledged, highly efficient hiring process – the crucial point being that the qualities that make someone great is fundamentally different from brand to brand, and from strategy to strategy, and it’s these qualities that retailers should be screening for from the very start of a hiring process.

Now’s the time.

Continuing to recruit in the same-old biased, inaccurate, unreliable way, which only achieves successful hires around 25% of the time, makes no sense at all. As brands increasingly look to offer differentiated in-store experiences, the people required to deliver those experiences will be ever more niche, depending on the brand, the experiences being offered, and the wider business goals being aimed for.

Chemistry has proven that it can increase successful hires in retail all the way up to 85%, with an approach that usually requires a radical shift for retailers. If retailers really want to make the most of a ‘bricks & clicks’ business strategy, however, and as multi-channel shoppers drive the pace and direction of change in the retail landscape, now’s the time for them to step up, be radical and change their approach to people.

May, 12, 2017