In a recent article I mentioned that the Australian dollar was decreasing in value and that’s good news for Aussie retailers. The increasing cost of overseas goods makes Australian products better value for money. However, if you are used to buying from overseas online stores or shopping abroad on your travels, the customer service you might have become accustomed to may outperform the Aussie retail industry.
Increasing competition from Asia and Europe are causing Australian retailers to wake up to the fact that better customer service does exist. SAP’s first-ever ‘Australian Digital Experience Report’ found that 47% (1,410 respondents) thought Australia’s biggest brands fell short compared to Asian and European equivalents. Market analysis below shows the trends that are capturing shoppers by storm elsewhere in the world, what are they and whether Aussie retailers have even noticed?
Retailers love to collect information so that they can improve our in-store and online shopping experiences. Gone are the practices of yesteryear such as; mass email campaigns and one-size-fits-all promo codes. The latest news in cutting edge technology incorporates beacons and loyalty apps that improve a customer's retail experience. Retailers are now getting into your mobile phone, using technology to reward you for returning to their website or notify you of deals as you walk through a store. Netflix and Amazon are the kings of this game, offering recommended products, similar products to previous purchases and discounts on items left in your basket.
I conducted a quick search online but couldn’t find any Australian retailer currently using beacon technology. However, Mr Lancaster, founder of SDL (Global Customer Experience brand), spoke at a conference in Sydney to 150 consumer and retailer professionals about the importance of investing in customer behaviour and customer journeys with a brand. So there may be hope for Aussie retailers yet.
Amazon USA is leading the charge when it comes to delivery, because we as customers want our products yesterday. Amazon is testing a new Amazon Prime Air service, which will deliver your items by drone within 1-2 days.
Instacart is another prime example of how retailers integrate services to improve our customer engagement. No longer do customers in the US need to wait for a 2-hour window on a particular day to receive their groceries. Order them through Instacart and you'll receive them within one hour for just USD$5.99 extra. Talk about adding value to a customer experience! You actually save money because you don’t need to spend money on fuel travelling to a store.
Again this is another area where Australian retailers are failing their customers. But fear not, as companies like the German start-up ‘ShopWings’ are replicating these great services found elsewhere in the world, including Australia. Kogan Pantry, Hello Fresh, My Food Bag, Grocery Run and Grocery Butler are similar services and offer to save you money, whilst adding value to your shopping experience.
An AIMIA research study on ‘How Australian retailers are transforming the e-commerce marketplace’ conducted in 2014, revealed that less than 30% of Australian retailers using online channels and digital tools consider them as best practice, which is significantly lower than Asia and European retailers.
Shopping can be Fun
Aspects that I have really enjoyed from overseas retailers are their mechanisms in place to create a fun shopping environment. The likes of Selfridges, Le Bon Marche and Galleries Lafayette use a combination of fashion parades, art shows, customer focused days and celebrities to engage with customers. To date, what Australian retailers do really well in general is focus on price-based promotions (Click Frenzy) with the occasional event here and there, but nothing in proportion to overseas competition.
Smart changing rooms are one of the most revolutionary ways I have seen for a retailer to generate profits. A simple tablet installed in each dressing room allows customers to order different colours, sizes and items so they don’t need to leave, maximising a retailer’s chance of providing more items they’ll potentially purchase.
Personally, I despise the David Jones website. In my time I’ve found it easier to search for David Jones products through Google’s search bar than on its actual website, how sad.
Of course the answer isn’t solely technology that's required to solve these issues. It’s the retailer or the enabler who is responsible. The falling value of the Australian dollar may be great for Australian retailers, but for those of us used to receiving the finer things in life from overseas retailers, it could be quite the opposite. How long until we see these big changes coming into effect here at home?
The AIMIA report revealed some light at the end of the tunnel. Australian retailers rated customer satisfaction, increasing sales, enhancing customer loyalty and brand/product awareness as some of their primary goals over the next 12 months. A good example of this is probably Woolworth’s new policy of offering kids free fruit when parents bring them to the supermarket. Well at least it’s a start, right?