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There are obvious benefits to endless aisle technology, click and collect and a single view of stock. However, there are other in-store considerations when trying to improve customer service.
How to increase speed of service in-store? How to increase customer and staff satisfaction? Online and offline considerations continue to blur, as ecommerce benefits from bricks and mortar, and vice versa.
Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh, is a regular commenter on the Econsultancy blog and kindly showed a few of the Econsultancy team around Schuh's Marble Arch store in London last week.
With in-store customer experience and flexible fulfillment increasingly on the agenda for retailers, here's a round-up of what I learned from Schuh.
In-store tech for improving customer service
Schuh Marble Arch uses scanner stations throughout the store.
Some are enabled for use by the customer, whom in busy periods can check the stock level of a particular shoe in a particular size.
Some of the stations are enabled for staff, who use them for the same purpose, but can also place orders for a customer, perhaps next day delivery of an item that isn’t in stock, or can use stations with a card machine to process payments away from the till.
The main use of these stations, however, is by staff requesting pairs of shoes from the stock room.
Here’s how the system works:
A store associate scans a display shoe and then requests the colour and size required by the customer. These requests are shown on large screens in the stock room downstairs and stickers are automatically printed for each request, bearing the store associate name and the SKU.
A picker takes this sticker and finds the right shoes, placing the sticker on the box. The picker then puts the box on a conveyor belt that takes the shoe up to a small room off the shop floor. The store associate pops into this room a minute after making the request and the box is sat on the conveyor belt.
The whole process can be as quick as 30 to 45 seconds.
So why does this improve customer service?
The store associates don’t have to run up and down stairs and through the stock room. They aren’t sweaty and breathless when returning to the customer.
Crucially, associates do not have to leave the shop floor for five minutes, hunting a single pair of shoes. The system ensures associates can stick with the customer for almost the entire sale, ‘selling the shoe’ before it arrives, finding out more about the customer and answering questions.
This sytem allows an associate to comfortably serve three customers at once and increases conversion for stores like Marble Arch. Typically a new store will convert (that's percentage of footfall who buy) around five percent of people in the door.
Marble Arch, when we were there, was converting at 19%, and I’m told on opening it was doing 15%.
@schuh fantastic service today in your Manchester Arndale store. I don't like shopping but the service here was 10/10. Thanks.— Gray Philpott-Roden (@grahamphilpott) April 22, 2014
One of the Schuh scanner stations includes a POS, which enables the sending of an e-receipt. In its Covent Garden store, Schuh also uses a payment system not dissimilar to Apple’s, allowing mobile and virtual POS throughout the store.
E-receipts are not provided by many retailers at the moment, but this may be one of the areas where store efficiency blends with customer expectation, as consumers expect proof of purchase to be easily accessible and storable.
Schuh has a 365 day returns policy, so the e-receipt gives sufficient longevity for the returns lifecycle.
In-store tech for improving staff satisfaction and company culture
This in-store system has a dashboard function that allows sales associates to view the store sales and conversion rate, and their personal shoe requests, sales and conversion stats as well as those of their colleagues.
Although associates are not working for commission (their salary is higher than average for this type of work) this system has helped to provide associates with motivation, sparking competition between associates and, crucially, stores.
This transparency is combined with a store culture that is friendly, personable and allows the associate to sell shoes without any stock phrases.
Schuh includes customer reviews on the store locator page for each individual store. The holy grail for store associates is to provide service good enough that customers want to leave a testimonial on the Schuh site or via social media.
The business benefits of a single view of stock
Schuh has had a single view of stock for a number of years.
This allows stock to be picked from anywhere when purchased online, with the store I visited getting three ‘lifts’ each week.
This obviously benefits sales, as the ecommerce operation can sell from all stock. This helps to get rid of niche or sales stock and also creates some space in store stock rooms at busier periods such as Christmas.
The reserve and collect functionality is beneficial for stores, too. The stock will be found in store and reserved, before confirmation is sent to the customer.
If only one pair is left in store, and this pair is slightly shop-worn (precluding the stock from being sold as ‘buy and collect’ or delivery), getting the customer into the store allows Schuh to sell that pair at full price (if the damage is so superficial, the customer doesn’t mind) or to offer a discount. This helps in selling stock.