Throughout my career I’ve worked with businesses and retailers to find solutions to serve their customers better, market their offering more effectively, minimize waste, and ultimately increase their bottom line. I love my job. I’m a curious person, keen to get behind what makes people tick and businesses work. I am also a shopper who values good, personalized service and who is willing to pay a bit more for a better retail experience.
The trend that we’ve seen over the last few years and something which has only gained more prominence and necessity over the last 10 months, has been the ability for shoppers to engage with a brand how they want — whether it be online, via an app or in the store. This desire for shoppers to fully control how they interact with a retailer means that transactions can start anywhere and finish anywhere, using multiple touchpoints and platforms. A 2022 study published by Retail TouchPoints surveyed global retailers and found that 71% of retailers have focused on rethinking or redesigning their front of house (checkout, BOPIS pickup area, etc.) in the prior year. A customer may research an item on an app and then purchase in store or perhaps a shopper spots something they like in the aisles and then, once home, they explore its features further online.
So what does a start anywhere, finish anywhere interaction look like? What do customers really expect from retailers and how can retailers make the most of technology and data to meet or exceed customer expectations and create truly integrated experiences?
A customer enters a store to collect an item that they have previously purchased on the store’s website. In store, they enter their collection code at the pick-up area and then decide to browse the aisles while they wait for their item to be retrieved. While browsing they spot something else that they’d like to purchase. They pick up the item and head towards the till point. The line at the manned cash register is long and the customer decides that they don’t have the time to wait. Instead of waiting in a lengthy queue, the customer makes use of a self-service pay point, using contactless payment via their phone. As they leave the store they pick up the click and collect item, which had been purchased previously online with a different transaction, which has now been retrieved for them.
Start anywhere, finish anywhere is becoming an essential requirement for shoppers. There is an expectation for a truly holistic shopping experience with shoppers assuming that they will be able to access brands and products in whichever way is most convenient to them: in store, through an app, online, or even an in-the-moment combination of a variety of options. Shoppers also want to choose how long they interact with a brand in order to research, locate or buy a product.
For some, queuing to buy an item may not be an issue while paying for postage or waiting days for delivery makes them balk. For others, waiting in line could prove a deal breaker. Some customers may want home delivery for their products, while others prefer to pick up a purchase from a store branch, petrol station or convenience store. This desire for flexible buying and receiving options extends beyond traditional retail goods – the recent UK launch of McDonalds ‘click and serve’ service demonstrates the start anywhere, finish anywhere principles employed in a quick serve restaurant environment. The multitude of ways to order and receive a Big Mac shows a clear appreciation of customer desires and the value in offering flexible purchasing options. This adaptable, omnichannel and omnioption approach is something that should be considered by all retailers.
At Scala we understand the needs and expectations of the customer and work with retailers to provide innovative omnichannel solutions. Making the most of proven, stable technology, we work with our partners to create opportunities that not only meet the wants of the customer and exceed their expectations but that also create efficiencies within the business to reduce labour and material waste. Integrated omnichannel solutions can give retailers essential insight into shopper behavior and floor operations while data gained from a connected offering can support product discovery and create a personalized customer experience. With Scala, retailers can forge relationships with their customers that truly can start anywhere. With considered design and flexible solutions, we work with retailers to ensure that although a customer can finish their transaction with a retailer when and how they want, that their ongoing relationship with the retailer itself doesn’t finish anytime soon.
Harry Horn is an ever-curious expert, keen to explore opportunities, share ideas and make technology benefit both business and individuals. In his decade at Scala, and now, as part of the STRATACACHE family of tech companies, Harry has seen the rise of online retail and the transformation of bricks and mortar retail spaces. An aficionado of integrated technology, Harry has a wealth of experience in applying dynamic digital solutions to transform business — from digital signs at scale to practical uses of AI, VR and AR in store. An advocate for giving customers the best experience as well as creating business efficiencies, Harry is a master of retail marketing, driven by a passion for customer insight and new technology.