Imagine the relationship you have with your loved ones. Think about how well they really know you. They know what you want and how to make you happy. Loved ones should delight you and treat you consistently no matter where or when you see them. Such is – or should be – the relationship between a retailer and its customers.
Relationships between the greatest brands and their customers are intimate ones and should be without restrictions and boundaries. Retailers cannot think first of their customers as a transaction, but rather must first think of their relationship with them. Transactions occur within a sales channel – relationships do not. Customer relationships cannot be conditioned by a channel. Often times these different channels have different rules, rules which primarily serve the retailer and not the customer.
So, if we want our customers to LOVE us, there can be “No Channel.”
To be a great brand, loved by our customers, we must behave consistently regardless of circumstance, location, time or medium. We must not allow a channel to be an obstacle in the relationship.
Recently, I was in the store of a major retailer, trying to return something I bought on their website.
I was told by the store associate that they could not allow me to return the product at the store because I bought it online. “I know that you bought it from us,” she said, “but that SKU is for online and not for this store.”
To my surprise, I saw another customer returning the identical product at another counter. So I asked the store associate, “How can you guys take the same product back at another counter?” I was told, “Oh, that customer bought it in the store.” After a few minutes of negotiation, the associate allowed me to return the product but refunded the “store price,” which was less than what I paid online.
The store associate had acknowledged “I know that you bought it from us.” The fundamental question is, “Who is the sales associate referring to as the ‘us’ in this example?” I, as the customer, did indeed buy it from “them,” the brand, the one who has the relationship with me. Yet, the interaction was not based on the relationship, but rather viewed through a channel-specific lens.
How many of you have had a similar experience? Or worse, how many of your brands would have behaved in the same way in a similar circumstance? By creating a holistic data and API ecosystem for consistency, accuracy and accessibility across the enterprises, these friction points can be minimized. We’re working hard at Foot Locker, Inc. to eliminate this type of behavior, but we know we have quite a ways to go ourselves. Innovation through technology – creating common data platforms and consistent access patterns for that data in near real time — is part of the solution.
Our customers are smart! Many have done their homework before they arrive at the store. They’ve started conversations with peers online; they’ve shared images and received advice, found competitors that offer the same or similar products, etc. So when they do finally arrive in the store, they are looking for us to inspire them and are ready to engage with us to validate their choice in our brand.
And so, as brands, we must delight our customers and behave consistently no matter when, where or how we interact with them – regardless of circumstance or channel: online, in our stores, through our apps, on mobile devices, etc. We must deliver up to their expectations and show them how much we value and appreciate their relationship with us, because we have learned what they want and how to make them happy.
Now, it is true that one measurement of our relationship with our customers is in terms of transactions. But this is certainly not the only measurement of the strength of our relationship with the customer. As in any good relationship, we must listen, react, and continue to engage in conversation whenever and wherever it may take place. This is not one-sided, but rather a dialogue to strengthen our relationship.
From our customers’ point of view, they are in love with our brand. So, let’s not allow a single or even multi-channel approach to get in the middle of our relationship! We have to think about a holistic customer experience with no boundaries or restrictions, and this means “No Channel.”