by Donna Fulmer, Listrak market research manager
Recently the Marketing Team at Listrak took a road trip to King of Prussia Mall, the nation’s second largest mall, which features a diverse mix of more than 400 stores, including an array of upscale department stores and luxury brands. Our mission was to make observations throughout the mall and to secretly shop eight well-known retailers whose stores we had already shopped online and whose email marketing lists we had already joined to see what type of omnichannel experience they are offering consumers.
Some of the findings were surprising.
Technology and Omnichannel Customer Service
One of the advantages that physical stores have over eCommerce sites is of course face-to-face interaction with sales associates. The stores we shopped ranged from luxury fashion brands to fast fashion brands and high end beauty and skincare products to sporting goods stores, and associates in all stores were friendly and professional. What they weren’t in many cases, however, was helpful or knowledgeable about technology or the omnichannel experience.
But first things first. There frankly was not a lot of technology to be found – at least at the stores we visited. At six of the eight stores, we did not see technology in the hands of associates at all. At two of the retailers, there were kiosks that allowed for the creation of registries or sign up for loyalty programs (also email acquisition tools – see below), and at one of those stores the associates also did a commendable job of acquiring loyalty members at check out.
At two other retailers, both luxury apparel and accessories brands, there were iPads available to associates, but in only a single case did an associate actually use it. In that case, it was to offer a great omnichannel experience, finding a product that the brand offers but did not have in-store and sending an email featuring the product detail page (no other retailers were able to do this for us when requested).
At the other luxury retailer, in fact, our secret shopper who had established a wish list onsite prior to the store visit, asked an associate who had iPad in-hand to call the list up and was instead recommended to access it herself on her phone app. That same associate, when pressed to help with the app, took our secret shopper’s phone with her behind a curtained area in the back of the store, where she also subsequently took the shopper’s credit card when she made her purchase. All the while, another iPad lay idle in the store as other associates helped customers empty-handed.
Knowing that email is the highest ROI producing digital channel for omnichannel retailers, we were eager to see – outside of the kiosks at two stores that essentially serve as email acquisition tools – how aggressive retailers are in collecting email addresses at point of sale. The fact is, they are not at all.
At first we looked for in-store signage. In the stores we researched, only one store – a fast fashion retailer – had POS signage inviting shoppers to text an email address to receive 20% off, which worked seamlessly. In fact, when one of our secret shoppers attempted to sign up with an address already in the system, she immediately received a return text noting that she is already a subscriber. Upon texting her work email address instead, she was promptly texted the message to present to receive her discount.
We then noted whether or not associates asked for an email address at check-out. Associates at the registers of six of eight of the stores did not ask for an email address, and in fact, when one of our secret shoppers tried to provide one at a well-known sporting goods store, he was told the retailer was unable to take it.
And finally, e-Receipts provide a great convenience for shoppers and a great email acquisition opportunity for retailers, and we wanted to know how many retailers are actually taking advantage of them. Not one of the eight retailers we studied, however, readily offered one, even if able to provide it, and our requests to be sent e-receipts were met with an interesting array of responses:
– An associate at a high end beauty/skincare retailer told us he could, but he would just print it out instead
– An associate at a well-known sporting goods retailer told us the brand could not provide e-receipts
– An associate at another sports performance equipment brand told us they used to offer e-receipts but no longer do
– A popular homegoods retailer reported a receipt could not be provided, however, it wasn’t needed anyway if the shopper has an account established (and thus, was not given)
Prior to taking our field trip, our secret shoppers had been browsing and shopping the retailers’ sites and studying their emails, and we were interested in seeing how the in-store experience matched the online brand experience. In this area, we were pleased to find, that with very few exceptions, the retailers offered a consistent experience between on-line and physical store and email. That being said, some of the e-receipts we received following our visits were text only, which is a missed opportunity for those retailers to present brand consistent communications that continue the conversation and begin setting the stage for the next purchase.
It’s worth noting that most of these same retailers we visited have beautiful, robust websites, offer helpful apps, are active in social media and make many other omnichannel efforts, which is certainly a great start. Where it seems, however, that they sadly still all fall down a bit is in synchronizing those efforts to provide the consumer with a truly omnichannel experience.
If you’ve had a noteworthy omnichannel experience, please share it!