As mobile terminals, all kinds of screens and customer self-service points invade our stores, there is a question mark surrounding the role of sales staff in these digitalised spaces. It is more important than ever for them to overhaul their approach.
More demanding customers
In this technological revolution affecting all domains of business activity, one thing is certain: in tomorrow's stores, the sales advisers of "yesterday" are likely to be redundant. The advent of digital technology and, in particular, e-commerce has disrupted retail outlets, and they must now adapt to become increasingly digital – a process of digitalising the physical. In the same way, store staff must also reinvent themselves to respond to "new" consumer needs and behaviours. More connected than ever, more demanding and better informed, consumers can now access a whole sales universe from their mouse: virtually unlimited purchasing possibilities in just a few clicks. To encourage consumers to move through brick-and-mortar stores, these must offer an experience that stands out (original, unique, fun, etc.) and that is likely to meet precise expectations. And creating this added value falls to sales staff, among others.
Advisers above all else
What is an assistant's primary role? It is to advise and guide customers through their in-store purchase pathway. But these so-called "neo-consumers" make their task a more complex one. And this is why store staff must diversify their role, particularly by becoming product experts who have acquired a broader knowledge of their sector and more suitable sales techniques. As well as adaptability and an ability to guide the customer, they must also offer a personalised – even quasi-personal – approach that gives prominence to the human factor. If customers take the trouble to move around the store, it is also because they are looking for this type of personal advice and contact. It is no coincidence that certain brands have already pulled back from their experiences of fully automated sales outlets (for example, Nespresso) and that others are now opting for significant numbers of in-store staff. Just enter an Apple Store to see how well this works...
The connected sales adviser: a friend of digitalisation
"Phygital" is now a reality. But what is key, among other things, is to make a success of this human/tech partnership. Customer self-service points, for example, are not the enemy of sales staff. Quite the opposite – they are another stimulus for communication with customers and an extra opportunity to help them through the buying experience. In addition, it is imperative that the store digitalisation process involves sales staff, especially by providing them with innovative ways to manage customer relations (such as tools to check stock, compare products, exploit customer preferences and accept mobile payments). Major retailers clearly need to invest in staff training in order to develop an understanding of how these tools are helpful and to increase their use. Digitalisation can also help sales outlets turn themselves into spaces designed to promote new customer services, emulating the sessions Apple offers its customers to help them learn how to use its devices. Here too, the sales adviser's role regains its full meaning.
Vectors of the brand's communication
The trend towards the personalisation of stores is one of the developments noted in certain sectors. Whereas major companies have long counted on a pattern of homogeneous sales outlets and sales advisers in order to avoid confusion on the customer journey, some are venturing into concept stores that rely on an authentic character – foregoing interchangeable, cloned sales staff in the process. Recapturing this identity is therefore a unique opportunity for sales advisers, as long as they grasp their role: to pin the brand's colours to the mast for the customer to see. This implies that sales staff should be offered specific, regular training to "imprint" upon them the brand's image and message. This again mirrors what Apple is doing in its stores: they have become cells for buyer-seller interaction and the sales staff embody and carry forward the brand.
Big data: six questions to ask yourself before getting started
Big data is a new class of assets that companies must embrace, develop, protect and make work for them during their transformation into a digital enterprise. We have put together some points to help guide your strategy.
Is there a course in big data?
Most universities around the world have come to understand the importance of big data. More and more, they are using analysis, both in research and to improve the lives of students on campus and help guide them; however, there is little in terms of training on this topic. Nevertheless, some establishments have recently started to offer their own diplomas and programmes to train the next generation of data scientists.
Do I need to provide training for my staff?
Yes. However, it's difficult to send your IT teams back to the school room in order to train or bring them up to speed. Nevertheless, various training courses have been organised around the country by specialist service providers. A two-day training course already teaches its students about the specific issues surrounding big data and the potential technical solutions.
Do I need to hire a data scientist?
Not necessarily. Some figures: last year, there were 4.4 million jobs in this sector, of which only 40% were filled. Not everyone has the budget for a data scientist. You can instead call on an independent consultant to pave the way and get your company up and running with big data.
What main techniques are required?
Techniques such as machine learning and data mining are essential for those working with big data. They help you tackle tasks that are difficult or even impossible to complete using more classic algorithms. The art of Data Visualisation enables you to communicate discoveries from data analysis.
What keyword should I take away?
Hadoop! In the same way as Microsoft Office is known for productivity and Apache is synonymous with the internet, apps are the key in the world of Big Data. Hadoop should be the cornerstone of your strategy. Without such expertise, it is impossible to master big data. This open-source software framework is designed for distributed data storage. It is highly scalable and resistant to failures. Its role is to process and analyse new and old data silos to extract significant knowledge from them that can be used in a company's strategy. Your experts will have to become familiar with its components: ‘Spark’, ‘Hive’, ‘Pig’, ‘MapReduce’ and ‘HBase’.
Is big data relevant for SMEs?
Certainly, in particular for marketing: big data enables companies to sort data in order to gain a clear profile of its customers. Segmentation can be used to optimise campaigns. Analysis also allows you to really observe how customers behave. SMEs don't have the same budget as a large group, and so they must primarily focus on data which is both crucial and can be exploited to reap the greatest reward: creating a stronger link with their customers.
Get on board with corporate responsibility
Customers are demanding quality products, and also companies that share their values. In the US, the B Corp example could redefine the commercial strategy of all new start-ups.
In 1970, the economist Milton Friedman wrote in the columns of the New York Times Magazine, ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits’. In a complete departure from the practices of the age, this innovative speech was not necessarily convincing. For 40 years, business has consisted of optimising the return on shareholder investment, with boards of directors putting profit above all else. To do this, they carried out redundancies and restructuring, paying little attention to the environment.
Nevertheless, as Steve Denning emphasised in 2011, maximising profits for investors, intended as an economic remedy, ended up becoming a disease. According to the editorial writer, we have reached “the limits of the model”. The figures prove it: capital ROI is now 25% of what it was in 1965.
More responsible growth
In 2016, everything has changed. There is a shift towards a corporate conscience, greater transparency and authenticity, values personified by a movement that now brings together such emblematic companies as Ben and Jerry's and Warby Parker, B Corps certification. This highly successful label is awarded by a not-for-profit organisation, B Corp, already present in 50 countries and adopted by more than 2,000 companies. One of them is the Belgian company Ecover.
Jay Coen Gilbert, the founder of B Corp, took the opportunity offered by the 2016 Net Impact Conference to explain the model he endorses:
"The tectonic plates of business are shifting beneath our feet. Sometimes they move so slowly that it’s hard to feel it, but now they are shaking the earth and transforming the landscape right before our eyes. We are seeing the change from one form of capitalism to another." For him, corporate responsibility no longer only concerns large enterprises, but all trade in goods and services around a common project: "The creation of jobs with dignity and purpose, concern for the environment and the need to create pathways out of poverty and reduce inequality.
"There are populist movements around the world in response to the realisation that the economic system is not working, but these are not enough. Hope is not enough to bring about profound social change. History has proved to us that this comes from the creation of viable and visible alternatives. And in our view, one way that’s happening is through companies themselves.” Whatever their size.
Trend spotting. A manual.
Would you like to know what people will want next? If so, all you have to do is look at successful innovations and the expectations they generate, according to David Mattin, trendwatcher at www.trendwatching.com and co-author of the book Trend-Driven Innovation.
Any professional is long accustomed to the hyper-accelerated pace of innovation that sees new products and services arrive and disappear at light speed. With that comes the sense that consumer behaviours and mindsets change faster, more unpredictably — chaotically, even — than ever. Put together, it's an avalanche that can feel overwhelming.. That is, in summary, what David Mattin writes in his article How to spot a trend at www.trendwatching.com.
Still, being on board wih the latest trends or even anticipating them doesn't have to be the preserve of a chosen few with seemingly magical intuition, Mattin says. According to him, trendspotting can be a simple, replicable process that anyone can do. His article provides a model that answers the question that any start-up, CEO, marketing director or product developer struggles with: what will my customers want next?
There are various methods to determine what customers want. Traditional market research is the most well-known method. Yet Mattin believes this method is inadequate to spot future trends in an environment of rapid change.
”After all, our job is to figure out what people will want before they want it. People often don't know what they want until you show it to them."
Observing potential customers with ethnographic fieldwork is another research method. This can yield deep insights, but it is hard, slow and expensive. Big Data can provide useful customer information, but it usually only allows you to optimise what you’re already doing. Big data rarely generates the radical insights that can underpin something truly new, Matting claims.
So what’s the answer? The key to actionable foresight lies in looking at the overwhelming onslaught of innovation — new brands, products, services, campaigns, experiences and more — that now parade before our eyes and across our screens every day.
Mattin: "The ultimate answer lies in the customer expectations those innovations are creating. In order to be successful, businesses must meet those expectations at the right time.”
In order to spot consumer trends, it is essential to define what a trend is exactly. According to the trendwatcher a trend is a new manifestation - in behaviour, attitude or expectation - of a fundamental human need or want, usually via a new technology or an economic or social change. In other words:, when an age-old human need: for connection, security value, excitement… is served by a new technology, this will most likely introduce a new trend. A good example of this is Napster, the well-known illegal music streaming platform from 1999 This innovation served the basic needs ‘novelty’ (more music) and 'convenience' (instant access). It was this innovation that has led to iTunes, Netflix and Spotify, all of which satisfy those needs and are extremely successful.
Learning from Uber
But there's still a piece of the puzzle missing. How does a cluster of innovations that serve a basic need in a new way become a worldwide trend? The answer lies in two words: expectation transfer.
David Mattin: “When an innovation serves a basic human need in a new way, it sets new customer expectations: it primes consumers to expect something new. Once created, new expectations spread across markets, industries, product and service categories.”
He refers to Uber as an example, with which the basic human needs of 'convenience' and 'low-cost transport' are served. The iconic innovation of Uber raised consumer expectations of one-touch smartphone fuelled services, and these expectations were served by others, such as Handy, an American on-demand home services start-up that earned 50 million dollars in just one month.
Mattin claims it is crucial to watch as many innovations as possible, as this allows you to tap the collective intelligence of the business crowd around the question: what will customers want next? When you spot a cluster of similar innovations, you'll know that you could be on to an interesting new signal of where customers are heading. The trendwatcher also emphasises to not dismiss innovations that seem niche or even ridiculous — they can often be weak signals of powerful new emerging expectations.
“Remember when couch-surfing was just for students and broke travellers? Now, Airbnb will let you rent the Villa Machiavelli in Tuscany for 5,164 pounds per night”, Mattin argues.
Goldmine of opportunities
The trendwatcher concludes that in order to spot trends, you should start interrogating every innovation you see for the new customer expectations it creates, and pretty soon it will become a habit.
“That habit becomes something more: a new way of seeing the world that turns the overwhelming flood of innovations into a goldmine of opportunity. Of course, you'll need to apply the trends you spot. That means turning them into winning new innovation ideas, and then executing.”
Expérience consommateur et culture d’entreprise, plus liées que jamais
Forrester Research insiste sur l’importance de fédérer ses employés autour de valeurs fortes. Recette du succès en matière d’expérience consommateur ?
Selon le Consumer Experience Index de Forrester Research, 82 % des entreprises américaines enregistrent un score passable voire en deçà en matière d’expérience consommateur. Or, les champions du domaine partageraient une caractéristique commune : une culture d’entreprise centrée sur le client.
« Toutes les sociétés à succès en matière d’expérience consommateur sont marquées par une culture très centrée sur le client, portée par l’ensemble des collaborateurs. Souvent, cette culture a été inscrite dans le marbre dès leur fondation », a expliqué Samuel Stern, analyste principal chez Forrester, spécialisé dans l’expérience consommateur, à l’occasion du CXSF à San Francisco.
Ce dernier rappelle d’ailleurs le rôle clé de la culture dans le succès d’une entreprise.
« La culture d’entreprise ne fait qu’une bouchée de la stratégie ! Elle impacte considérablement le fonctionnement et les processus de l’entreprise comme ses résultats. De plus, elle est déterminante dans la création d’une expérience consommateur de qualité », a poursuivi Samuel Stern.
L’expérience client débute avec la culture d’entreprise
Forrester relève une différence d’approches de la culture d’entreprise entre les sociétés leaders en matière d’expérience consommateur et les moins performantes. Pour les champions de l’expérience client, la culture est considérée comme étant articulée autour de valeurs humaines : l’intégrité, la transparence et la générosité par exemple. En revanche, pour les sociétés les moins performantes, la culture est davantage associée à des notions financières, le profit en tête de file.
Et pour aller plus loin, Forrester a puisé dans les données de la start-up Glassdoor, un acteur montant du recrutement. Les utilisateurs de la plateforme Glassdoor peuvent anonymement noter les entreprises dans lesquelles ils ont occupé un poste. De cette analyse ressort une nette corrélation entre le succès de l’expérience consommateur et celui de l’expérience employé.