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Thursday, August 15, 2013

It is ALL About the Customer!

My favorite subject is the customer. I have spent many years in the retail IT business, but most of what I talk about is my observations about retail from a consumer point of view. What makes me qualified to blog and consult isn't my 30 years in retail IT; it is my passion to look beyond the hype questioning fact from speculation.

My belief is you do not need tons of supporting statistics which I also question as much as you need a realistic and common sense approach to what is going on in retail and looking pragmatically at where things can be improved. For example, I state the ability to win and retain customers is actually a very simple concept based on human behavior. Customers all want to feel special and get a great deal. Think about what great customer service is after all? Making you feel good! Feeling like you got a great deal is icing on the cake and is generally derived from thinking you have some inside track.

Things like mobile payments are now being seriously questioned as valuable. It has always been something I thought was a solution looking for a problem. What problem are mobile payments solving? In many ways I like the fact that I have this plastic card with a mag stripe (now with my picture on it). I think that it works great, holding and controlling this piece of plastic works well for me especially since I am able to do debit and credit. What would I benefit from having a phone with NFC (near field communication) I could wave over a device instead of swiping a card? It seems to do the same thing except by using my phone you now take away my plastic card. I am sure this can be hotly debated but that is how I see it. Price checking in a store maybe a good idea with all the talk of show rooming, but I believe most people do their research online first if they are after a particular product solution. I know I rely on those reviews and ratings on the internet and that has worked very well for me. Is show rooming really the problem or is it the lack of service you get typically in a store that makes the perceived extra cost of buying not worth it? I do my price checking on the web at home! RFID for retail has been another great way retailers were going to solve the shrinkage (theft) problem and also improve the management of their inventory while at the same time removing out of stock situations. I am still waiting. Some retailers are using RFID for clothing, but I am not sure there is a mass run by the apparel industry to put RFID tags on all garments coming from manufacturing.

There are many more examples of these creative solutions trying to find a problem. This is not wrong or right and actually is a very good thing. In the final analysis the market will sort this out with their wallets. It has always been that way and always will. It is looking at this innovation and really thinking about how it solves or enhances how a customer feels special and thinks they just got in on a great deal is what is important. Will mobile payments on the phone do that? There are in fact many solutions out there that will help to significantly improve that customer feeling. Believe it or not, cloud based technology that provides solutions for hiring great people, training those people and even giving them tools to cooperatively schedule their time on a mobile phone are great examples of innovations that work. You see your people are still your greatest asset!

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