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Transforming retail

Author: Sven Van Hoorebeeck

More than ever, the Belgian retail market is highly competitive. Only a short while ago, reports announced 2018 would be the year that retailers in Belgium would give customers the most discounts, valued over €600 million. Retailers are offering 1+1 free, or even 1+2 free. Anything to draw customers to the store. And this in a market that has not even been invaded by large online retailers like Amazon. One thing is sure: competition has not yet reached its high in the Belgian retail market.

BrightWolves is helping one of Belgium’s biggest retailers to find more sustainable ways to increase customer loyalty. Clearly stunt discounts are effective, but only for a short period of time. They draw people to the store but do not build loyalty. Therefore, retail players are putting efforts in enhancing overall customer experience instead of merely relying on discounts. One way to achieve this is by blending the physical (instore) and online (mobile phone app) experience, and thus create one seamless omnichannel experience.

In the next paragraphs, we will walk you through the important steps in the process of making this happen, while highlighting some key learning points.

1. Prepare and prioritize - great ideas don't happen overnight

Obviously, resources are scarce and not every (wild) idea can be developed. Therefore, conduct an upfront ‘market study’. This helps to structure and prioritize ideas and creates a set of items that clearly add value for the customer. In this example, the retailer ended up with 10 initiatives.

Key learning points:

  1. “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” “Better a good copy than a bad original.” Explore what competitors and players in other countries or even other industries are doing.

  2. Exploit your internal strengths and assemble your key resources for idea generating sessions.

  3. Evaluate the initiatives with real customers and understand the value it could bring to them.

  4. Prioritize! Determine a shortlist of top ideas and focus on those. As the selection and prioritization of projects will boost effectiveness, the key to effectiveness is to say ‘no’ to other projects.

2. Start with the end in mind - don't go cowboy style

Next, it might be useful to distinguish between two categories of initiatives. On the one hand, initiatives that can, for the largest part, be realised with the technology, experience and skills that are at hand in house. On the other hand, those initiatives that require new, innovative technology the company has too little experience with.

For the first – and least complex – category of ideas, it is important to treat them as a whole instead of launching individual projects throughout the organisation and hoping that they end up all together as one seamless customer experience. The ideas features should first be assembled into one program and then taken from initiation to realisation.

For the other type of initiatives, requiring new technologies, start by setting up Proof of Concepts (POCs) to play around with the technology and the possibilities it offers. By doing this, additional features as well as shortcomings of the technology are discovered, providing a more realistic view on what can be realised with the technology. Also, this way, people become more acquainted with the technology, which is crucial to assess the project’s scope, time, budget, and constraints and improves the project’s success rate.