Miami-based Retail Systems Research release a new report today about what it calls The Customer-centric Store, which takes a deep look into what’s bugging retailers and what they want or need to do better.
The research, done in the past quarter, suggests that the sluggish economy isn’t even a top 3 business challenge for stores. Instead, retailers are focused on improving customer service without increasing payroll costs (56% of respondents ranked this as a top-3 challenge), and creating more consistent in-store execution (50%). Survey respondents are turning to tools to help employees provide a better in-store experience, with 90% indicating this as a priority vs. 67% in a similar study conducted a year ago.
“With online competing against the store experience – and winning, according to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index – retailers have to find ways to improve the in-store experience if they want to stay competitive,” says Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner at RSR Research and the report’s author. “The challenge is to do that in ways that don’t increase costs.”
RSR’s new publication, The Customer-centric Store: Benchmark 2008, sponsored by Reflexis, Teradata, and SAP, finds that retailers are turning to technology tools to help improve the store experience, with particular focus on ways to provide more information to employees and customers as part of the in-store shopping experience. Unfortunately, past investments in store technology infrastructure prevent retailers from moving quickly on employee-facing and customer-facing technology investments, the number one internal barrier sited by respondents.
The report makes some key recommendations on what retailers need to be thinking about:
Make investments in modern POS hardware and software, use creative financing to reduce the pain of capital expenditures and go wireless to get management back on the selling floor. Continue looking ahead to new technologies to improve the customer experience in the store, and finally, work to improve the over?all caliber of the in?store workforce. Adding self?service technologies will also help the customer feel empowered, and reduce the stress on already taxed in?store employees.
There are specific references to our little industry in the report, and depending on how you look at things you will be pleased or asking colleagues to remove any sharp objects from your desk.
Customer-facing touchpoints are valued more than digital signage, and are near the top of the list in terms of planned usage by retailers, while digital signage is down near the bottom of the list.
That said, digital signage is a very broad term, and I would argue there have been far more bad executions in retail than good ones, so I am not surprised it gets a big shrug in the context of this report. If most of what you’ve had done or seen done in retail has left you disappointed or seriously underwhelmed, why would you get excited about the general notion of digital signage?
The stuff that makes the most sense in a lot of retail IS the customer-facing, engaging stuff at eye-level, not screens suspended above normal sightlines. Digital signage, as a whole, definitely has a strong role in retail, but not as a continuation of the way it’s mostly been done to date.
The really nice thing about this report is it is, unlike a lot of the stuff released lately that costs a few house payments, free to download here.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.