Keep your customers close
Balancing convenience with a high quality experience is the perennial retail challenge. For supermarkets in particular, the focus has shifted to self-serve in recent years – from mobile apps that enable scanning to self-serve checkouts – offering customers a quicker, frictionless option. But does the same experience work in a fashion environment? Or should the checkout experience within this environment be all about the social engagement of store associate and customer? From brand engagement to incremental sales, Alex MacPherson, Solution Consultant Manager, Manhattan Associates explains, however they checkout, when it comes to fashion retail it is all about minimising customer ‘alone-time’ in store.
The temptation to embrace kiosks and self-scanning to add convenience to the retail experience is clear. With time-poor customers, adding a slick, frictionless, in-store sales process to good offers and competitive pricing is clearly attractive. But not in all markets. There is also a very significant opportunity to create an environment which inspires a more social interaction between the store associate and the customer rather than making the focus of a store visit purely one of convenience.
From up and cross-selling to building brand engagement and reinforcing advocacy, high quality interactions between store associates and customers are invaluable within a fashion retail environment. Using a clienteling approach, a store associate armed with excellent customer information – from purchase history to online browsing – can engage effectively with customers on the shop floor.
Combining good skills with great information, a store associate can embark upon a relevant, helpful conversation and create a positive experience. Items can be placed in changing rooms, new sizes fetched and other choices suggested. Add in mobile payment and the store associate can keep close to the customer throughout the entire journey. From browsing to trying on to purchase, the entire process is seamless and ‘alone time’ avoided.
But where does the traditional point of sale (POS) fit into this model? When all transactions can be completed on the shop floor, is there even a role for the POS in the store of the future? In fact, with the rise in click and collect and the ever connected consumer, you could argue that there isn’t a place for the traditional POS and instead even more of a need for a mobile point of sale (mPOS)? Yet with some retailers considering the self-serve option for click and collect customers instead, are they missing a trick?
Every customer represents an opportunity for up and cross-selling – and not just on the shop floor. The POS should be a place where customers do not simply pay for stock available today in-store but –through integration and interoperability between the POS system and an Enterprise Order Management solution – have the chance to look at the brand’s entire inventory; to browse and buy products online or available in another store, to be delivered to the customer’s preferred location – all within a single transaction. And certainly for click and collect customers, an engaging conversation with a store associate about complementary products on the move with the use of mPOS, as opposed to a boring few minutes alone waiting for goods to be retrieved at a traditional POS, or using self-serve, is a very different customer experience.
The fact is that self-serve is an arm’s length approach to retail that may work well in some areas; but in high-end fashion the goal is to keep customers close and take them successfully through the purchase process anywhere within the store. Creating an in-store visit that is both engaging and convenient, is the check-out experience of the future.
Alex MacPherson is Solution Consultant Manager at Manhattan Associates
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Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.