The latest figures on physical store closures from Local Data Company and PricewaterhouseCoopers is a distressing sign that times are getting worse for the high street; up to 30 chain outlets a day shut in the UK in 2012. But an increase in retailers adopting a multi-channel model, investment in new technology and clever customer engagement strategies have the sector biting back, argued Richard Piatkowski, Head of Retail at Aspect UK.
"It's no surprise that more and more of us are shopping online, and the high street is struggling to compete with their Internet-based counterparts, but this is more than just convenience and cheaper prices," said Piatkowski. "Retailers are getting ever more adept in driving the customer service department hard, doing more with less and keeping it customer-centric. It is more important than ever that retailers stay relevant and in the hearts and heads of their customers."
Aspect's recent independent study into the customer engagement strategies of UK retailers found that over two thirds (69 per cent) of larger retailers with an annual revenue of £100m consider themselves to be a multi-channel retailer, with a further 21 per cent planning to become multi-channel by 2014. It found that eight in 10 retailers (79 per cent) have an online store, and even telephone supersedes in-store with 65 per cent versus 58 per cent respectively.
Piatkowski said: "Essentially, retailers are facing three key challenges as online trading proliferates. The rising demand from customers to be present on a multitude of channels, whilst creating a seamless experience across the board; recouping lost sales from browsers and basket abandonment and reducing customer effort through contact avoidance and proactively pushing information to customers before they ask for it. But signs are that they are meeting these challenges head on; as well as a fifth who are not already multi-channel planning to be so in 18 months, as 24/7 retailing and basket recuperation via automated engagement amongst other strategies are seeing an increase in this period."
He concluded: "The importance of loyalty and the impetus to make customer service a higher business objective priority, often over increasing revenue from new customers, has seen the retail sector turn new customer engagement technology and clever strategies to target this generation of consumer. Smart retailers understand that placing customer service at the heart of their operations is the key to success."
To read more, download the full report, Retail Therapy: The customer service landscape from: http://go.aspect.com/Retail