Who owns the in-store experience?
Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
Who owns the customer experience? The discussion usually focuses on the conflict between merchandising, which “knows” the customer best through product and merchandising, and marketing, which owns customer data and communicates with the customer.
But who owns the in-store experience? The most natural answer would be “store operations,” but there are few companies where the store operations team is actually responsible for “a customer experience.” The conflict is right there in the name — they’re there to keep stores operational, not to deliver fantastic customer service.
Some people will immediately take issue with that, but you just have to look at the workload of store associates to understand. Selling may be one of their jobs, but they have many, many jobs — from stocking shelves to, yes, cleaning bathrooms, to receiving shipments, to now also picking orders for store ship or in-store pickup, to customer service functions like returns and exchanges or taking payments for store credit cards… All of these things are important, but they’re not focused on engaging customers early in their shopping journeys.
Part of the reason very little training of store associates is focused on how to help customers is because there is no one at the executive level who is focused on building those engaging customer experiences in the store.
And if overburdened “store operations” can’t be responsive to in-store shopper needs, what should we do about it?
One immediate answer is to take another look at the role that stores play overall in the customer experience — from a strategy perspective. What is the brand strategy? How do stores support that strategy? How is that strategy expressed as part of the customer experience?
In the past few months benchmarking retailers’ strategic approach to stores, RSR has learned that many retailers do not have a good answer to any of these questions. Part of the reason —because there is no one driving that discussion internally. Unless the corporation is already so aligned that everyone is focused on the customer, that gap must be addressed for stores to be successful in the future.
- Who Owns The Customer Experience? The Retail Store Edition – RSR Research
- Omnichannel Store Health Assessment: Only The Strong Survive (study) – RSR Research
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Who owns the in-store customer experience? Do you see conflicts or challenges in store operations driving in-store engagement versus other teams?