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Brought to you by Retail Insider and K3 Retail

Since technology has traditionally been used to drive efficiency gains in businesses it is not surprising that it has been given the task of personalising the online experience customers receive – whether that is through tailored landing pages or the delivery of more bespoke search results.

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May as well be.

But great care has to be taken because relying on technology to deliver a tailored experience can potentially have the opposite effect. As efficient as technology solutions can be they can take customers down a route to a far too automated engagement.

This is why shoe retailer Schuh continues to commit its IT budget to rolling-out its online video chat solution. It recognises that this is the most cost efficient way of adding the greatest value to the broadest spread of customers. It also rather effectively provides a face-to-face experience that is somewhat similar to the one it successfully delivers in its stores.

Just as care needs to be taken online it is a similar story on the shop floor. Starbucks has received many plaudits for its order and pay ahead mobile phone solution that speeds up the customer journey by stripping out the interaction between them and the servers.

While this has to date been regarded as a good thing it is questionable what value it will add when all other coffee bars provide an equally frictionless shopper journey. It is noteworthy that in the spiritual home of technology – Silicon Valley and the San Francisco area – one of the coffee bars of choice for the hip technorati is Philz Coffee. It has grown to 29 outlets in the Bay Area and counts Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as one of its many fans from the technology world.

Its point of differentiation – and what these time-starved coffee drinkers in the area crave – is the extremely personal service if offers by not adopting any technology in its outlets. There is an acceptance of waits in line of 15 minutes as it is all part of the personal experience which involves conversation. And it has a policy of not asking people for their names, unlike Starbucks, because this suggests (quite rightly) that they do not know you, which by its very nature is very impersonal.

So while massive benefits can clearly be achieved by using technology to personalise service – both online and in-store – it should not be forgotten that such tech-driven solutions can have the most impact when tempered by some old-school service policies. This is when retailers can deliver true multi-channel service.

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider

K3 Retail deliver multi-channel solutions that enable retailers to create joined up shopping experiences for their customers whether they choose to buy on-line, direct, in-store or via mobile. It has over 20 years’ experience delivering award winning solutions, to more than 175 internationally recognised retail brands.