The way consumers interact with brands has rapidly shifted in the mobile-everything digital age, with social interactions and on-the-fly online product research becoming normal behavior for in-store visitors. For the retail vertical, using unified communications (UC) to match consumer behavior can open up all kinds of engagement opportunities, cross-platform growth, and improved sales processes.
Retail is facing immense competition from digital and online channels, forcing retailers to rethink their strategies to exceed customer expectations with a personalized, differentiating experience. The idea is to have mobile, online, and in-store experiences complement rather than compete with one another.
That means implementing a number of forward-thinking capabilities, like running a call center with advanced ring groups and routing procedures, having an easily customizable auto-attendant that relates holiday hours and current in-store promotions, and making sure that all staff on the sales floor can be reached via mobile.
There’s also the customer service angle. If a store associate can pull up a customer’s buying history and information and has the ability to access inventory and available discounts and promotions while talking to the customer, it allows for a more personalized approach that can be a real differentiator for the retailer.
“There are numerous retailers that have adopted a multi-channel approach in recent years,” explained Matt Swan, a retail strategist at Affiliate Window. “We are now beginning to see this evolving even further with advertisers keen to achieve a completely integrated retail strategy. Multi-channel retailing is now moving towards omni-channel – placing the customer at the heart of the strategy with each of the channel touch points working in unison to provide customers with the ability to purchase what they want, when they want it.
In order to facilitate this brave new world, communications functions need to keep up. By using a UC strategy to integrate mobile with backend systems and allowing cross-channel consolidation, systems are able to speak to each other and deliver valuable information in the form of email (as in the Apple Store receipt example), text, voice, or video.
Yet, according to a recent survey from Retail Week, desktop computers still are the most used communications device in the retail industry, followed by desk phones and laptops.
It’s a wide-open market for savvy channel partners willing to undertake customer education efforts: Almost 70 percent of retailers said that they are unaware of how they can profit from the latest communications technology, and, 41.2 percent admitted to having never heard of UC technology. Only 13.4 percent of respondents are using UC within their operation.
The benefits however are clear and translating into purchase drivers. About 39.3 percent of those surveyed who are considering deploying UC, said that their main requirement is to enhance customer service. The need to trim overhead (19.6 percent) and boost staff productivity (17.9 percent) are ancillary benefits.
About 41 percent of survey respondents suggested that social media and other multi-media channels would be the biggest trend to face the retail sector over the following 12 months, while 33 percent are eyeing mobility and fixed mobile convergence trends.
The payoff for implementing UC to support new retail approaches can be significant. Deliver smoother, streamlined services to customers can significantly cut overhead for retailers, and boost customer loyalty. Getting out in front of this before such capabilities become commonplace offers an opportunity to impress customers and encourage their return to the store.
Star2Star proudly supports the retail vertical with a full suite of cloud-based UC options that are both feature-rich and cost-effective. To find out how Star2Star helped one of the nation's largest retailers: