As consumers return to physical stores, features such as appointment setting and personalization will be the keys to remapping the customer experience. Krista Bourne, SVP Consumer Sales and Operations for Verizon, and Fokke De Jong, CEO and Founder of Suitsupply shared insights on how their businesses are reinventing the shopper journey during a session at NRF 2021 — Chapter One.
Despite their differences, Verizon and Suitsupply’s priorities are similar: meet customers wherever they want to shop; invest in creating digital solutions to stay connected with them; and create a frictionless experience across all channels.
Leaning on omnichannel capabilities from the start of the pandemic was key for both retailers. For Verizon, the pandemic validated its existing omni-approach, which puts personalization and digital at its core. But COVID also revealed other opportunities to add to its roadmap, including appointment setting, curbside fulfillment and contactless payments. “Customers have responded really well to appointment setting,” Bourne said during the session. “At Verizon this year we’ve already handled 1.4 million customer appointments, which was not something that was in our strategic plan initially.”
Rather than thinking about “rebuilding” customer relationships, Verizon focused on servicing its customers differently. “Customers still have the same needs today that they had before the pandemic in our space, we just need to find new ways to service them,” Bourne said. “Although things are changing, customers are not looking for things to get more complex. So in this day and age, they want things to be easy and intuitive. Nine out of 10 transactions happening in our corporate fleet are touchless now. Touchless is here to stay. We call it next-gen retail and we think that we’re just scratching the surface, so that customers can have a shopping experience that feels safe and clean, whether they’re in this environment or whatever the future may hold.”
While the pandemic accelerated the convergence of digital and physical stores, it’s about more than having product available in all different channels, said Suitsupply’s De Jong. It’s also about providing that personal approach and service across all channels and at the customers’ fingertips — an approach and tool he calls “radically personal.”
As consumers’ transition back to more “normal” life and a move toward more “elevated casual” apparel, De Jong believes they’ll need style advice even more than before. “So we are putting the style advice, the comfort and the connection of our people and of our style advisors, [available] virtually, so people can access it,” he said. “[Style advisors] can also start preparing their fitting room for when they go into the store, having everything there ready for them so their store experience also becomes efficient and more fun and engaging.”
During lockdown, Suitsupply also took the time to enhance its store experience while everything was closed, building out a new rooftop space where customers could come and mingle with friends in the future. “The whole experiential part of retail, if you combine it with efficiency, it’s becoming more and more important,” De Jong added.
Both De Jong and Bourne emphasized the importance of leveraging customer insights and data in intelligent ways that allow the retail experience to make the most of everyone’s time while creating value. They also underscored the importance of staff training, with all the new skills that are required of team members in terms of digital literacy and multitasking. “All industries need to double down on workforce talent development,” said Bourne.
The retailers agreed that the customer journey and shopper expectations have been forever transformed, with emerging pillars of personalization and touchless commerce. “There’s an expectation of being met with a level of readiness that’s reflective of the money they’re spending with you. We have an opportunity to leverage that and personalize these moments here,” said Bourne.