The global pandemic has had a critical effect on the retail industry and the consumer experience. From ever-changing consumer demands and expectations influencing and inspiring new behaviors to retailers having to pivot to new business models and strategies, 2020 was a year like no other. Retailers learned to expect the unexpected as they reimagined service models and aligned operations to ensure safe and convenient shopping.
Recently, Editor Ian Jindal of Internet Retailing hosted a webcast with the PEPCO Group CFO Nick Wharton and Oracle Account Executive Emily Henderson. PEPCO Group is the parent company for the well-known European discount retailers PEPCO, Poundland, and Dealz. The group explored how PEPCO, Poundland, and Dealz business models weathered the storm, together with global consumer shopping habits. Two themes emerged as the keys to a successful future—understanding what the consumer wants and responding to changing expectations.
Consumer expectations are always evolving, and it's the retailer's responsibility to keep up with these consumer trends, demands, and behaviors. However, retailers will never fully understand what their customers want if they aren't using data and analytics to assess. And in this next phase of the industry, retailers cannot predict or adhere to customer needs without embracing new KPIs like Net Promoter Score.
"Across the brands, we have introduced a Net Promoter Score measure, so we receive specific customer feedback by store, of the shoppers' store experience and whatever they'd recommend. And it isn't just individual customer data. We are using big data to drive into understanding our average customer's shopping behavior," said Nick Wharton, PEPCO Group. Wharton shared that his corporation is not only asking for feedback, but they're also adhering to demands. For example, Poundland, through the acquisition of Fulton Foods, is currently rolling out a fully chilled food and frozen food offer to 400 stores, a direct response to their customers saying, "I want to buy frozen food from you." Understanding what customers want is imperative, but putting their wants into practice will keep your customers coming back.
Besides listening to what customers want, retailers need to utilize consumer data to inform business decisions, such as increased inventory and sales. "It's no longer about how many items are in the basket; it's about what combination of items is in the basket. What do our customers buy alongside each other and equally interestingly, what do they never buy alongside each other?" said Wharton.
Utilizing data and analytics to understand consumers and their behaviors and expectations is invaluable to retailers. However, retailers must use this data to inform better decision making, drive change, and ultimately increase sales.
Customers don't just want quality products; they want an overall quality experience.
Understanding what customers want is key to enhancing the customer experience while being agile and flexible to pivot to their needs will be even more critical.
"I think it's really listening to what your consumers are telling you, how their behavior is changing, and being able to respond to that. The more agile you are as a business, including your people and your processes, the better you will perform," said Emily Henderson, Oracle. Retailers can take this opportunity to pivot to new and updated systems, solutions, and strategies to provide customers with a best-in-class experience.
Today, retailers need to continue to explore alternative pick-up and delivery methods, as customers are looking for retailers to be more innovative with the customer experience. The Oracle survey found that home delivery is still highly preferred by 66% of consumers globally, and 71% of consumers say that the speed of service, check-out experience, and delivery options was the most important to stay loyal to a retailer.
Can you afford to risk the loyalty of your customers? Out-of-stock items, limited product availability, and extended shipping times are at the top of the list to lose customers. The consumer study found that 33% of consumers globally reported the delay of goods equates to a horrible shopping experience. As consumer patience wears thin during this unprecedented time, don't test their loyalty and lose them to another brand.
And now, more than ever, consumers want a safer shopping experience. According to the same Oracle consumer research study, consumers desire heightened safety precautions for in-store shopping:
82% of respondents noting visible cleaning efforts were important
79% of respondents responding it was essential to see staff and other customers wearing masks.
Although global events have created significant shifts in consumer expectations and behaviors, retailers can still thrive and provide consumers with a fulfilling experience. Leading UK retailer Poundland Group is implementing Oracle Retail Merchandising Cloud Services and Oracle Retail Merchandise Financial Planning to create a single, consolidated foundational infrastructure across their brands. This foundation creates operational efficiencies while allowing space for innovation in the customer experience.
Ultimately, as the customer journeys evolve, retailers will have to reshape and enhance the entire shopping experience and embrace new strategies and solutions to keep customers satisfied. Convenience, safety, and certainty will remain the top priorities for consumer decision-making.