TECHNOLOGY IS A TOOL: HELP IT HELP YOU
It is my contention that an unintended consequence of technological advancements for retailing is that customers are starved for personalized, face-to-face service. In addition to technology changing the way businesses and employees operate, new technologies have transformed the customer experience, everything from the quality of customer care to overall sense of reliability, ease and confidence when interacting with a company. To accommodate ecommerce business, retailers use large, ready-to-go warehouse inventories and rapid logistics to serve customers. In fact, a 2020 study found that eCommerce sales using features like voice search are predicted to reach $40 billion in 2022, and nearly 85 percent of shoppers trust the recommendations of their voice assistants. Yet, recently the trade group Reverse Logistics Association reported that more than 30 percent of online purchases are returned. Drop-off returns are a costly solution as a trade-off from what used to be consultive sales in retail locations. Some companies even tell customers to keep the potential return at no cost.
We are at a crossroads in modern consumerism, as shoppers demand both the speed and efficiencies of AI-style technologies and the care and consideration of humans. In a CGS survey, 70 percent of respondents said they are “less likely to use a brand if customer representatives are unavailable.” Establishing a balance between automation and personalized human contact is critical to retain and grow your customer base.
Technology and the Modern Consumer
The pace of new technological developments is staggering. While these advancements are meant to enhance the customer experience and drive down operating costs for businesses, ironically many people long for face-to-face and other forms of human interactions they used to receive.
Due to the intricacies of completing online transactions, understanding terms, internet navigation abilities, and other stressful concerns, customers need support while conducting transactions. Plus, consumers struggle with trust in the transaction and familiarity with each company’s policies about orders and returns. How companies establish worry-free convenience and time-savings tasks effect customer activity and company profit.
Unfortunately, many companies fail at the balancing act. Customers often find themselves missing the customized, personalized attention once gotten in a store, successful retailers are finding there is a satisfying balance of newly adapted technology and face-to-face interaction.
Carrie West, a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Oracle, wrote in Oracle Customer Experience Blog, “Whether through a digital service assistant or a live ‘superagent,’ delivering a personalized and seamless customer service experience can mean the difference between customer retention and customer churn.”
I couldn’t agree more with her. Since 2007 our franchised mail, shipping and business services retail chain, Postal Connections®, has been practicing operating values captured in our branding statement Blending Hi-Tech with Hi-Touch Services™.
Precedents of Adopting New Technologies
It comes as no surprise that Apple, the world’s leading technology company, found this balance years ago.
iPads, which offer in-depth information and product comparisons, replaced information cards next to showcase products when Apple redesigned its physical stores in 2011. However, customers can page an in-store expert for more assistance using the iPads. They also enabled cross-channel returns and allow buyers to reserve items online for purchase in the stores.
As an example of blending tech with face-to-face service, Postal Connections began adding iSOLD It® on eBay service at locations across the country. We assist customers who come to resell unused or unwanted items online but do not want to do it themselves. Our service offers time-saving, 3rd party online security and expert sales assistance free until items are sold. This service is innovative, yet personable by leveraging customized software. We call it “the easy way to sell on eBay.”
Impact of Modern Technology for Retail Business
Brick and mortar retailers must pay close attention to how current technology might improve customer benefits while satisfying the company’s need for efficiency and modernization. Many online retailers need local presence as showrooms and a “last-mile” superagent for personalized service. Here are some of the top benefits of welcoming new technology into your business.
Does technology offer you a competitive edge? If your business can offer something no one else has, consumers are more likely to find value and pride in your company. You may even find an increase in revenue streams. According to a 2020 study by Oracle, it was found that companies that employ emerging technological innovations grow their annual net income 80 percent more than their counterparts who forego new technologies.
Technology can protect your data. Cyberattacks can be devastating to companies and consumers. People frequently tell our Postal Connections franchisees that they use our services to avoid navigating on the Web and exposure to cyber hackers. Of course, effective security measures should be a high priority for online and local retailers. According to a 2020 study from Cybercrime Magazine, a company falls victim to a cyberattack every 11 seconds.
Understanding analytics helps to personalize the customer experience. Businesses gather consumer information from a variety of technology-driven sources, including traditional retail, social media and e-commerce. A 2018 study on business analytics found that organizations that are data-driven are 23 times more likely to convert leads and six times more likely to retain them.
Fred Morache is the COO of Postal Connections. Fred began his career in the 20th century in marketing and franchise development with McDonald’s. His work with Fortune 500 companies, like Taco Bell, Coldwell Banker and Mail Boxes Etc. (now The UPS Store®) included marketing and franchise strategies that led to enormous worldwide growth. For more information about IFA franchisor member Postal Connections, visit franchise.org/franchiseopportunities/postal-connectionsisoldit.