Now it's getting personal, or the relevance of digital service
Moving through the world of digital shopping: from the touchpoints of recent times and the tablet as second choice to truly relevant service. A slightly different customer journey …
Saturday. I walk through the city center. Don't need anything. But suddenly there is this cool sportswear shop. I go in. First stop: a flatscreen, which – coffee in left hand – I tap all over with my right hand. Nothing happens. Oh, not a touchscreen. But something can be scanned here. Seems interesting – so let's look for something to scan. The sweater over there, let's get it. I take the barcode, hold it in front of the scanner and wham – there it is. Pants and shoes that match the sweater. Not half bad, good-looking stuff! The merchandise shown must be somewhere in the store. After five minutes of searching, my attention span is close to overstrained. When my cell phone pipes up, my interest completely evaporates. I drop the sweater on a pile and set off in search of more coffee – somewhere outside the sportswear shop.
Next stop: A fashion shop. Apparently, I am now sensitized to digital displays and special functions, because I already see the next tablet and rush to it. It's still sleeping, must first be kissed awake. Good morning! I'm supposed to log on and register. A cheap attempt at data capture – I'll have none of it. I move on. At the other end of the store there is yet another tablet, and a customer seems to have actually logged on. Okay, the imitation urge works wonders. Pling! Registration e-mail is on my phone – let's see what happens ...
At home I deal with the welcome email and all the services that have been waiting for me. Among other things, I can now order or reserve goods online and pick them up in a shop of my choice. Nothing new, but still nice. After all, I do need a sweater – I stubbornly dropped the one at the sportswear shop back on its stack. No sooner said than done. Into the shopping cart it goes, straight to checkout and to the chosen store around the corner. I've even paid already. Pickup in about three days – cool.
Next weekend. I dive back into the crowd. Appear full of anticipation in the fashion store to pick up the ordered sweater. Time required to find a salesperson: five minutes. Time to find my order: ten minutes. I unpack the sweater, try it on and see how I look in it – awful. So back it goes. Unfortunately, I leave the shop with a package under my arm. Because I bought the goods in the online shop, I have to send them back there as well. What a great pleasure. The only consolation is that the post office is open, so I don't have wait before surrendering – or surrendering to – my online purchase.
Then it's on to the next store. And I have to admit that I almost want to find "something." And I find something immediately: a huge tablet so big that it could just as well be a screen for public viewing. I ask the next free salesperson what to do with it. He tells me what he learned by heart: that you can look at the latest trends, that you can put them in your shopping basket, that you can buy them later in peace. He's 100% informative and nice, but he can't get me excited about his service. Maybe I should have told him the story from the sportswear shop and what happens if something doesn't happen right away: usually no sales. After his colleague at the exit can't say anything about the items on her freshly decorated display table, I'm offended again. It must somehow be my fault. To avoid attracting further negative attention, I choose the invisible online variant from home and fill out my first customer profile in a shop for curated shopping. What can go wrong, now that I don't expect anything to work anyway? Entering and ordering price levels, brands and style – it's really easy.
After a few days of no longer dealing with shopping and looks, the desire to consume suddenly returns - along with my curated shopping order package. Jacket too small, pants not my style, shoes too expensive, T-shirt average. Great female disappointment.
Right in the middle of my frustration, an e-mail preview rushes into the locked screen of my smartphone: "After-work beer..." and so on. Whether I want to go shopping after work is the key question. Now I've had enough. I spontaneously decide that we all consume too much anyway, that we all have more than enough, that all the plastic just ends up in the ocean and that we should decide against consumption forever. Appropriate reaction – clear stance. That's it.
As if it were hazardous waste, I'm taking the curated shopping package to the post office on Friday at 5:50 PM. My girlfriend accompanies me as we have plans to get together afterwards. On the way to the well-deserved dinner, we actually pass – and really by chance! – the "After-work" event from the screen that made me a savior of the world a few days ago. My girlfriend finds the atmosphere exciting and wants to go in. So long, Greenpeace.
At least there's sparkling wine, I say to myself, and I walk around in the store full of people and music. There are snacks, too, and apparently something will be shown later, oh yes, "new collection" it was said in the e-mail. So I dutifully browse through the beautiful new clothes and think of the oceans. "Excuse me, how long have you had these shoes?" Someone is talking about shoes while I'm thinking about the oceans. I think. My girlfriend gets me out of my savior of the world mode, and I understand: I'm being asked about my shoes right now. A friendly saleswoman who wants to know something about my shoes. "Shoes, yes, half a year or so?" – We're accepting returns of f these shoes right now because the sole is coming loose. Do you have that problem, too? I lift my hooves and notice that someone who has never seen the inside of my closet knows more about my clothes than I do. The sole comes off. We laugh and I learn that this is not a problem because I'm probably wearing a 38 and this size is still available if I want to exchange the shoe. "Yes, that's true! 38 is right! Can you see that?" Yes, she can, and in no time new shoes have already been ordered from the tablet, which I will soon be able to pick up. Aversions against click & collect, caused by personal experiences, are alleviated, because I don't have to buy the goods immediately and can simply choose others without having to take them right away.
When I pick up the shoes the following weekend, I actually decide on another piece from the new collection. Unfortunately the right size isn't there anymore, and because I want to wear it at an event in Hamburg next week, the disappointment is big. "No problem, we'll send it to Hamburg and you simply pick it up there, I'll let my colleagues up there know." The saleswoman gives me her business cell phone number.
When the goods arrive in Hamburg, she notifies me via WhatsApp so that I can plan better. And: She had her colleague put a jacket aside, which was also new and would look pretty good on me. Later I'll send her a photo of me at the event in a new look including the jacket and thank her very warmly.
Since then, my girlfriend and I have been going to the store together from time to time to get inspiration from the busy saleswoman who always creates great looks for us. I use Instagram to see new outfits and trends posted by our star saleswoman. I recently asked her if I should "like" the outfits so she would know what I like. "Nonsense, I know that already," she answered.
Every one of us has had these or experiences similar ones, and certainly my perception is only one of many. Nevertheless I ask myself after my self-experiment, what the saleswoman, who sends me goods to Hamburg, could have sold me with the barcode scanner in the sportswear shop. What would she have told me about the great campaign on the huge display or the display at the exit? If online retailing has become the medium of our choice and in most cases the easiest way, there must be a reason why we still enter the shop doors again and again: we want to get excited and not just function as part of the process chain.
Everything around us seems more diverse, larger, faster and more complex than anything before. Services, offers, assortments, campaigns can hardly be registered anymore. You are no longer just a customer in one place, one store, one brand or one channel. The track we set as customers makes countless hooks, turns circles, disappears into the sand, starts again somewhere else and has an irregular number of tracks. And why is that? Because we are allowed to make new decisions every day: today self-sufficient savior of the world, tomorrow fashion victim. So if I can decide again and again which path to take, I don't stay on the one that is stony, but look for the one that is simple, fun and solves my problem.
It's becoming clear to me that the digital rush we find ourselves in (still) distracts us from its actual benefit. Through digitalization, on the one hand, we gain time because we are relieved of something and, on the other hand, we can take advantage of new options through data or innovative logistics solutions. Machines already combine both to create any number of different problem solutions. Amazon & Co. demonstrate that "quick & dirty" can be very successful – but only when it comes to meeting crystal clear needs smoothly and quickly. Machine empathy doesn't work for anything else.
No matter whether stationary or digital – standardized solutions are okay, but they are not everything. Relevant service results when the potential gained from digitalized processes is utilized again for relationships. And this is the big opportunity, because good service is nothing more than a relationship between people – created with a lot of creativity and empathy.
Note: One size does not fit all!
is a corporate developer with Team Retail Excellence. She supports retailers in not losing sight of the essentials during the different phases of digital transformation. Her biggest source of motivation is the moment when teams discover fun and new energy in change processes. The "analogue" within the "digital" currently interests her most.