Interview with Chloé Cortinovis – FOCUS #68 – by the French Chamber of Commerce in Singapore
French Chamber of Commerce Singapore (FCCS): TODAY, A CUSTOMER CAN GET EVERYTHING VIA THE INTERNET. IS THIS THE BIG SHIFT IN RETAIL? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR BRICK-AND-MORTAR?
Chloé Cortinovis (CC): The emergence of digital technology shaped different customer profiles. I believe that our relationship with shopping is double. On the one hand, there’s the shopping of convenience, the needs of which digital technology has met perfectly. We’re shopping online, not for it’s fun, but it’s more convenient. The online shopping giants are well aware of this and have optimized their order path, from item selection to secure payment and delivery dates.
On the other hand, there is enjoyment shopping, linked to the concepts of emotion and experience.
In that sense, our expectations made the points of sales shift to physical spaces where brands express their codes, values, expertise and the personality of their ambassadors; they are becoming extensions of the brands’ cognitive capital.
There are numerous reasons that make us enter a store, yet they are all connected to a common desire: living experience with a brand, immersing into a universe. Several parameters are at stake in this encounter: the place design and atmosphere, the quality of the service and the customized recommendations, the product expertise, the sense awakening, the shared pleasure with sales advisors, up to the lasting impression the customer will keep, and even share on social media.
The physical store is an ideal playground to form a bond with the customers and create customer loyalty, but also to increase your sales thanks to cross-selling/up-selling and to make the most of data. Many claimed the physical stores were to disappear; I’m convinced of the reverse! I can tell by the fact that pure-play e-retailers are starting to open their own physical stores.
FCCS: TELL US ABOUT THE NEW CONCEPTS IN BRICK-AND-MORTAR THAT YOU HAVE SEEN ON YOUR RETAIL TOURS? WHAT NEW TECHNOLOGIES ARE BEING DEPLOYED?
CC: Sports brands were among the first to incorporate new technologies into stores. That may be due to the fact the performance and innovation concepts are much appraised in sports practice. See for example the new Tmall x Intersport megastore in Shanghai.
Customers are welcomed by an array of state-of-the-art technologies and augmented reality-powered interactive games. For example, the Smart Shelf and the Smart Shoe Mirror can instantly provide the customers with all the information they need about specific shoes they picked from the shelf.
Shoppers can also get style advice from an AI Shopping Assistant – an interactive mirror that recommends related accessories or items that complement the article of clothing they are trying on.
A 24/7 interactive window display at the main entrance of the store also enables people to shop at the megastore around the clock. By using motion-sensor technology, a giant screen wall can identify the gender and approximate age of the passers-by and recommend the best type of shoes for each person.
In a different field, Nespresso has developed self-service spaces based on RFID to lessen the waiting time in stores.
After picking their products from automatically stocked shelves, the customers can pay their order with total independence. Thanks to an RFID chip included in every package, the cash register detects automatically the products in the shopping basket and proceeds to a double-checking by weighting the items: all items are recognized in less than 5 seconds and paid by credit card. Launched in some strategical stores, this service was quickly adopted by the users: 42% to 48% of customers make use of it.
Other store companies like Hema Fresh in China, Maisons du Monde in Europe and Calvin Klein x Amazon in the US have developed such innovative technologies to improve the customer’s pathway.
FCCS: WHAT IS ONE ASPECT BRANDS OFTEN OVERLOOK WHEN THINKING ABOUT CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE?
CC: Customer experience is not limited to a determined time between the brand and the customer anymore: it’s now the result of repeated touchpoints and mini-experiences, both online and offline.
Few brands actually master the whole customer pathway and know how to use their different channels in a complementary way.
Customer experience is first and foremost a question of common sense associated with an acute understanding of customers, observation and anticipation skills. Also, even in these digital technologies and artificial intelligence times, simplicity and generosity remain crucial.