While retail is not an area that we normally focus on for the Cisco brand line in distribution, digital influence and its impact on retail is a relevant topic. I have to admit that this past holiday season I did participate not just in Black Friday/Saturday/Sunday but also Cyber Monday (sorry to my boss, I had to get the online deals).
Like many shoppers, I braved the Thursday portion of Black Friday at Walmart of all places.
I was impressed with their operations, which included wristbands, prices listed on displays, quantities left easily available, easy checkout and roped off sections for streamlined and organized browsing.
It felt as easy as all of my online shopping and I left as a happy camper. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.
How disconnected retail technologies can cause customer dissatisfaction
I won’t name the store but I needed to pick up a few gifts, including one item I had reserved in advance. When I stopped at the courtesy desk, the store’s scanner didn’t pick up the barcode on my phone’s display. The employees weren’t able to access my order reservation because they couldn’t “tell” the system that I was there to pick it up. I tried accessing the website on my phone to confirm I was in the store to pick up my order but it only created more confusion for employees who were doing their best with what was obviously a complicated and frustrating system.
In the end, we actually had to abandon my online reservation and an employee and I found the product on the shelves together. But that’s not the end of my story…
In the checkout lane I gave my rewards member information to the cashier. I informed her that I also had a $5 off certificate on the account. That’s when I learned that the store’s rewards accounts are not linked to their point of sale (POS) systems. What?
So… I had to log back into the website, find the rewards section and THEN log into that. The line was getting longer, my toddler was getting crankier and once again, I just gave up and unhappily swiped my debit card to pay.
Poor customer experiences can be costly for retail organizations
What went wrong for this store? Several obvious things – the cashier wasn’t empowered to help, the store’s systems weren’t linked together to provide a seamless experience for customers and I – a frequent customer – made a decision to exclusively do my holiday shopping online from then on.
We all want our in-store experience to match that of the online experience. Retailers are being disrupted by their own sites and it shows in the disconnect we encounter in brick-and-mortar stores.
My other online orders were placed within five minutes under no pressure while I enjoyed coffee in my quiet home office. They were delivered to my front door with the same integrity as if I walked out of a shop holding the product in my hands. Why couldn’t my experience outside have the same result?
Cisco plays a big part to remedy this disruption of retail. The solutions they provide and the support they offer can enable employers and employees to become brand ambassadors at every customer touchpoint – even at the checkout lane. The easiest interaction doesn’t always have to happen in your online cart.
Many retailers (including, I hope, the store I was at) are already reviewing data and performance from the 2016 holiday shopping season and are starting to strategize how to improve next year. Interested in learning more? Read what Cisco has to say about busy retail seasons in its recent blog – Rethinking Black Friday: The 4 AM Wakeup Alarm for Retailers by Brian McDonald or check out Cisco’s retail portal.