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Using tech to win the retail experience battle


3-D foot scanning at Fleet Feet provides both customer and inventory insights.

The numbers don’t lie. Studies from Forrester Research have shown that making the customer experience your business is good for business. Brands that invest in experience register tangible benefits: their average revenue growth rate is 23 percent compared to 13 percent for those that don’t. Given such a powerful incentive to invest in experience, franchises, too, are hopping on board. And they are leveraging a powerful ally to help them get there: technology.

Neil Saunders, managing director of the retail division at GlobalData, an analytics and digital media company, says technology has empowered retailers to do two important things: collect customer data and identify patterns of behavior. Because customers leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind, both in the online and brick-and-mortar world, these data points are increasingly easy to harvest and process. Reading the tea leaves of customer preference data and then acting efficiently on those insights allows franchise brands to deliver a customized and superior personalized experience, a must in today’s retail landscape.

Here’s how two franchise brands are using technology to improve the customer experience and therefore, their bottom line.

Refining the omnichannel strategy

The physical store. The brand’s Facebook page. The Instagram account. The franchise’s website. The various touchpoints through which a customer can interact with a retail franchise have grown and delivering a stellar experience through every channel becomes even more difficult.

This is exactly the challenge Edible Arrangements is working on with the help of technology. “We’re taking a holistic look at how the consumer interacts with our brand from a product standpoint and a delivery standpoint and we’re aligning all those touchpoints to tell a more cohesive story about what makes this brand so special,” says Jill Thomas, chief marketing officer.

Edible is working to tell this “cohesive story” by ensuring it tailors its narrative and sales process to the customer’s needs.

Edible Arrangements

Edible, meanwhile, aims to make ordering its occasion-based arrangements easier.

By working with T3, a digital innovation agency, the franchise has sliced and diced its customers into three basic personas: the core user who is a brand loyalist and interacts with Edible frequently; consumers who need simplicity and help in decision-making; and finally, a younger audience that might want a greater emphasis on everyday gifting.

Understanding that different customers might want a different interaction at every touchpoint is key to delivering superior customer service, says Thomas. “Sometimes it’s all about efficiency and sometimes it’s all about experience and we want to serve those unique cases,” she says.

Edible is able to garner additional valuable insights through institution of this technology approach. For one, it found that while the brand was well-known for its seasonally relevant and special occasion-based arrangements, a fair number of customers didn’t know that Edible also offers treats they could pick up at the store for immediate consumption.

Second, from a behind-the-scenes technology perspective, the brand discovered ways to make the ordering process more seamless. “We wanted to figure out key enhancements we could add, such as virtual payment like Apple Pay, to our platform that would allow the customer to get through the checkout process faster,” says Somia Farid Silber, VP and general manager at Netsolace, Edible’s technology arm.

“Technology has benefited us as a team to really focus on the customer, to align our resources around the things that are important to the customer,” Thomas says.

A transformational customer experience

A laser-like focus on the customer is also what Fleet Feet sharpened with implementation of 3-D foot scanning by partnering with footwear technology company, Volumental.

Fleet Feet customers now have the option of getting a digital rendering of their feet with 12 points of measurement, which can show them the challenges they may or may not have with respect to fit and other factors. The process has been a game-changer says Fleet Feet CEO and president Joey Pointer. “It has allowed us to build a deeper level of trust than ever before because we can show consumers the science behind the fitting. So we can bring both the science and the art,” Pointer says.

The 3-D scanning technology also helped Fleet Feet achieve its mission of delivering not just transactional but transformational experiences. The retail franchise uses technology in a variety of ways: through an app that rewards not just purchases but also running miles logged and through social media challenges that keep its community of loyal customers motivated to achieve fitness milestones. “Ten years ago we were talking about how to make our website more sticky, now it’s about how we make our stores more sticky,” Pointer says. “This is one of those things that doesn’t exist online so it gives customers a reason to come in.”

While the 3-D scanning technology has proven beneficial to Fleet Feet, GlobalData’s Saunders cautions against franchise brands blindly adopting technology solutions. “The problem in retail is that sometimes technology is searching for a purpose rather than being developed because there was a need for it,” he says.

Fleet Feet

 3-D foot scanning at Fleet Feet

Backroom improvements

But Pointer is excited about the advantages the 3-D scans have delivered not just for customers but also for backend operations. For example, after noticing that many customers have wide feet, Fleet Feet has increased its selection in that size range.

Fleet Feet also developed a data model called Fit Engine which matches foot scans to shoe purchases. So now the franchise keeps valuable information about product recommendations in-house and builds upon it over time. “Previously when an employee left, that knowledge left with them. Now we’re able to keep all that knowledge in terms of how different shoes and different feet match up,” Pointer says.

Pointer says the technology helps the outfitters but it is still in service of the customer. “We don’t want to have technology for technology’s sake. At the end of the day, our focus is on a personal relationship with the customer and the experience our employees deliver each and every day to every customer,” he says, “Technology is just the assist.” And stellar customer experiences are the byproduct of that tech boost for retail franchises.

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