DIY retail: The self-service CX debate



Oh, that elusive "seamless" customer experience.

So many retailers are on the hunt for this.

Often, they look to modern self-service solutions for help.

But the totally automated experience is likely to seldom please every shopper.

And while self-service can be part of the solution, many retailers have learned that customers do not always want or prefer the do-it-yourself model.


Reinvesting self-service savings


Self-service technology can substantially lower front-line staffing costs.

Shoppers identify Amazon as coming from self-service roots, and consequently do not expect much personal attention at the Amazon Go grocery stores.

But those costs can be reinvested in the business, either in more technology to improve service or product selection, or by further boosting efficiency by training former cashiers and having them function as associates in other service-dominant areas.

Moving some of the customer experience toward automation can help increase the number of customer touchpoints -- thereby increasing revenue of accessories and other items.

Adding an Amazon Go option of fast shopping using an app and sensors might also provide exceptional experience.


Different needs for different occasions


From the customers’ view, a seamless experience can differ, and depends upon a number of factors.

One factor is shoppers’ goals. Those can change daily.

Not all customers always want to check out the same way, every time.

Someone who is in a rush one day might need assistance during another visit.

Grabbing a snack at a convenience store may be deemed “frictionless” if selection was good and service speedy.

But when selecting shoes at a department store, a high level of personal attention may be desired to ensure a “frictionless” experience.

Sometimes more associate help, rather than less, can provide a smoother transaction.

However, traditional brick and mortars need to provide customer service in the most valuable ways, which might not be at the cash register, but on the floor and in the aisles instead.


Best of both worlds

Providing cashiers as well as self-service not only lets customer choose how they pay, but also frees up some associates — who might otherwise be manning a till — to assist customers needing help.

The best experience is the one that seems personally tailored on an as-needed basis, rather than one that is designed to fit everyone, all the time.



Omnichannel: The “new” brick & mortar concept



The face of Main Street stores has changed significantly during the last 20 years.

Bookstores have been replaced by nail salons, clothing shops are now restaurants and flower shops have made way for pet groomers.

Those are the types of services you can't buy online, and they're finding brick-and-mortar success.

They are taking back Main Street, breathing life back into the vacant store fronts.

And adding to this new look for downtown are traditional retailers that are using omnichannel to open successful businesses.


VIP Click and Collect


Take Nordstrom.

The venerable, high-fashion store has debuted "Nordstrom Local."

Nordstrom Local doesn't need a huge footprint, and doesn't carry much inventory.

But it’s a way for shoppers to buy online, pick up in store but also enjoy other amenities that are afforded the VIP shopper.

Today's fashionistas often order online, motivated by styles presented on social networking sites such as Instagram.

A customer places her order online, then heads to Nordstrom Local to pick up her merchandise instead of taking advantage of free shipping.

Why? To enjoy a manicure while sipping a smoothie and getting the inside scoop on the season's hottest collection from the friendly, professional associate.

Sure, curbside pickup is a popular option for those on-the-go, but those pedicure stations also have their place.

Those are the competitive differences that will make Nordstrom's top-of-mind for their next purchases.

It's Click & Collect, taken to new heights. It's that type of something extra that drive customers into the store.

This is the next level of omnichannel, in which the channel used for purchase is irrelevant.


Compare that to Amazon 4-Star


These days, fewer clothing stores have a presence on Main Street, with the exception of pricey boutiques that offer unique products unlikely to be found on Amazon.

Conversely, Amazon 4-Star carries a curated selection of product that caters to a local area.

This is almost the exact opposite of Nordstrom's model, yet it is also very similar.

Both retailers are trying to cultivate a customer base that enjoys shopping online, but is missing human interaction.

While Amazon attempts to capture "discovery" shoppers, Nordstrom targets the efficient-with-benefits shopper.

And both are offering their clientele an experience tailored to their interests, which align with the shoppers in that demographic.


A personalized approach


Retailers today need to entice shoppers out of their homes and into the stores.

Just a few years ago, brick and mortar were written off as a dying breed, suitable only for "showrooming."

Slowly but surely, brick and mortar shops are finding secure footing back on Main Street.

Not all the old names will make it back, and some are gone for good, because they just couldn't reinvent themselves or their customer experience fast enough.

But physical locations are a vital part of the omnichannel, offering a more personalized approach than any pure ecommerce retailer ever could.

Just ask Amazon.