Morrisons invests in its staff – but in the right way?

Savvy retailers will already know just how important its staff are to their success. As the faces to their name, it’s essential that the happiness of the workforce is prioritised.

Morrisons is certainly attempting to do this with its latest move, which will see the supermarket chain invest a huge £30 million into facilities for its staff. Not only will this include a décor revamp, but employees will be treated to perks like subsidised coffee.

However, the change that is likely to result in the most enthusiasm from its workers is to wages. Employee benefits and pay is a hot topic right now, as retailers prepare the implement the new National Living Wage in April. And Morrisons is staying ahead of the curve on this one, promising its 90,000 staff a 20% pay rise to £8.20 an hour, more than the expected £7.20.

This is sure to boost staff morale– much needed considering Morrisons has been suffering falling sales for quite some time now. But are the changes actually going to help staff do their jobs any better?

Being the ones who work in the stores every day, store associates are the only ones who can really know what needs improving. Yet, they’re often the ones who retailers listen to the least. For example, new research from Miura Systems claims that UK retail businesses are losing millions of pounds in sales by not listening to staff who’ve spotted a vital need to improve store technology.

Today’s shopper is tech-reliant, so it’s no surprise that this is a major factor in how they rate a store experience. Whether it be a speedy checkout service, or the ability to browse the web as they navigate the shop, consumers expect technology to run seamlessly – and it’s often the staff they’ll blame if it doesn’t.

So, even with a free cup of coffee in hand, it’s unlikely that Morrisons staff will feel very motivated if shop floor processes aren’t optimised.

Miura also revealed that 72% of retail employees think customers are more demanding than ever before, even asking them questions when they’re serving others. With this mind, retailers should be doing all they can to help employees in high-pressure situations. Arming them with tablets so they can check product information and stock availability quickly, perhaps, or placing interactive kiosks in-store to allow shoppers to serve themselves easily when a staff member is unavailable.

A further 80% of retail staff said shoppers put pressure on them to hurry when there is a queue. In busy trading periods this can’t always be avoided, but it can certainly be improved. A speedy payment process is absolutely essential here; as the final stage in their journey, this is the memory most shoppers will take away when they leave. Therefore, retailers must in the most cutting-edge payments technology to keep queues flowing – such as contactless and mobile.

Of course, this is no discredit to what businesses like Morrisons are doing. Rewarding staff with treats is a great way to show appreciation for all their hard work, and happy store associates tend to be more productive. However, this work will do little good to the performance of their business if they’re not armed with the right tools to keep customers happy too.

Inside the mind of the modern consumer

Understanding customers is no easy job for retailers today. What consumers want is changing all the time, as is the technology that they rely on as part of their shopping trip. It’s no wonder that many businesses are struggling to keep up!

It doesn’t help that retailers are inundated with headlines that profess the latest insights into consumer habits; which ones can they actually trust? Here, we’ve detailed the most recent retail research that retailers – online and off – should factor into their customer experience strategy.

“They are impatient” – Vodat International

5 minutes; that’s how long a customer will wait for their query to be answered in-store. That doesn’t leave much time for a staff member to gather the information they’re unsure of, before that shopper abandons their journey completely.

How to respond

Ensure that your workforce receives regular training regarding your product offering – especially if new items are added. For an extra helping hand, why not implement tablets in stores so that answers are always at staff’s fingertips?

“They expect personalisation” – iVend Retail

A third of shoppers think they get personalised offers online, but not in-store. Perhaps this is one of the key reasons why ecommerce seems to gaining its sales share of channel.

How to respond

Yes, online has automated capabilities that allow loyal customers to receive information that is specific to them – but there is something the store can do better.  The ability to see, touch and try products cannot be replicated online, and even better, the presence of staff means that shoppers can get even more insight into the products they’re interested in. There’s nothing more personable than face-to-face interaction, so encourage conversation to give staff the opportunity to upsell products that might compliment a customer’s purchase.

“They tap-to-pay” – Visa

The number of contactless transactions made in the UK last year increased by 250%, according to the payments specialist. It’s suggested that this is largely due to the spending limit rise in September, which saw consumers able to pay for goods of up to £30, as opposed to just £20.

How to respond

The speed of the payment method fits the profile of today’s busy, impatient shopper. Therefore, now is definitely the time to ensure that your store not only accepts contactless, but encourages its usage.

You’ll also find that the same NFC technology in contactless terminals works with some mobile payments services, e.g. Apple Pay. As availability widens, consumers will come to expect all retailers to offer the method to them in-store. Those that don’t are likely to be viewed as outdated pretty soon, while those that do will see queue times accelerate and customer satisfaction soar.

Of course, if you’re planning on implementing such technology, you’ll want to make sure that your card payment network security is up-to-scratch. You can find out how to ensure this here.

“They go mobile” – Episerver

Mobile shopping is already playing a huge part in how people are shopping this year; 59% of Brits used their device to purchase items in the January sales.

How to respond

Shopping on a mobile device is meant to provide the ultimate convenience for consumers, allowing them to browse retailers wherever they go. With this in mind, it’s essential that you make your own mobile experience easy – ensure that you’re website is properly optimised, and that the payment process is neither lengthy nor fiddly.

“They click-and-collect” – Atomik

Shoppers might love mobile, but not quite as much as click-and-collect. A recent survey saw it beat mobile as the method that impacted their 2015 shopping experience the most.

How to respond

The role of the store has evolved from being just a sales channel, it now has to deal with a constant flow of click-and-collect orders. As most retailers now offer the service, they need to make sure that it’s the best it can be to stand out from so many others that offer the same. Training staff, implementing dedicated click-and-collect personnel, or adding an interactive kiosk are all ways to better optimise the store for click-and-collect. Of course, with all this extra technology, retailers must invest in a network that’s robust enough to support it.

Have you seen any recent retail statistics that you think offer real value to retailers? Then share them with us on Twitter via @Vodat_Int.


Retailers need a network fit for a multichannel environment

The in-store network is fast becoming the life line for retailers that need to reach their customers through multiple channels and devices. There has never been a better time for the store to rediscover its strengths as the flagship for the retail brand as, regardless of which channel a consumer decides to shop via, the store remains a key destination at any stage in the shopping journey.

In particular, the millennial generation (generation Z) take a different approach to shopping, one that centres round the store. Before making a purchase it has become common practise for this group of consumers to visit the store for the purpose of browsing, taking pictures of products to send to friends, log onto the Internet through tablets and kiosks and update their Facebook pages with latest locations – all before deciding what, when and which channel to make a purchase.

While eCommerce provides convenience, consumers actually gain more enjoyment from the physical shopping environment. However, at present it lacks lustre in comparison to product availability and the capability to evaluate prices online. To counteract customer disappointment, new technologies have recently been deployed to bridge this gap and entice tech-savvy consumers back in-store.

The emergence of these new interactive technologies are also delivering value added services within the store environment. These include payments on the spot, scanning of product tags using a mobile for detailed information and connection to the online channel.

However, it’s a double edge sword as generation Z have high expectations once in store. Some retailers have worked hard over many years to satisfy these demands, but  the bar has risen: retailers need, if they can, to identify every customer as they arrive and provide each of them with a personal experience, regardless of the reason behind their visit.

This is where the store network comes into play. Retailers cannot forget the technology behind the scenes that enables all this functionality – the retail network. It is the crux of in-store operations and will continue to be so, as the in-store environment evolves into an interactive hub, where consumers can look, touch, feel, test products and engage with sales staff armed with devices delivering in-depth knowledge far beyond the capabilities of a lone sales assistant.

How can retailers keep customers in store and engaged?

With recent figures confirming that retail footfall rose 1.6% year-on-year in January, its best performance since December 2011, how do retailers keep customers in store once they have taken the time to step inside?

Figures released by the BRC show that shopping centre footfall grew by an impressive 2.4% in the month of January, with shoppers coming in their droves to avoid the rain and no doubt cheer themselves up with a bit of shopping.

Whilst this is good news, retailers can’t rely solely on the weather to boost sales. They need to find ways to entice shoppers to make a purchase once in store, delivering an unforgettable experience that they will want to have again and again.

Whilst the promise of free WiFi and the use of mobile PoS is an enabler to get staff interacting more with customers – improving customer service and increasing sales, can such offers deliver the same impact across all sectors and retailers with varying target audiences?

It was recently uncovered at NRF that 18 – 35 year olds, known as the ‘millennial generation’ are not as impressed with the stereotypical in store service, as some may think.  What this generation crave is for retailers to be both inventive and joined up with their offering, with the expectation for store staff to be helpful and knowledgeable.

However, retailers need to consider their entire target audience, not just this one group. One thing all customers have in common is the desire for a better shopping experience, but individual needs differ, so achieving a balance of innovative technology and in store services that cater for all needs is imperative.

Retail technology highlights of 2013

2013 has seen new developments in technology, including virtual reality applications for changing rooms both in-store and online, as well as the development of technologies such as click and collect, mobile PoS, RFID and QR codes and clever visual merchandising, all of which have become embedded into many retailers’ every day operations.

Smart retailers will continue to invest in services that better connect the online and in-store journey, while delivering richer product information and ultimately personalisation.

Electronic labelling has become more widely adopted, in particular by high end fashion retailers such as Burberry, which is using RFID tags to personalise clothing. Customers can access a wealth of rich product data from RFID tags embedded into garments in-store with their mobile devices, when logged into, revealing the story of its creation by way of videos and product info.

Although, the real star of the show in 2013 is customer facing mobile PoS, with retailers such as Warehouse, Coast, Oasis and Reiss using the technology in multiple ways, from product information and stock availability, to wall mounted visual displays. Most importantly has been connection to the online channel, enabling customers to place an order then and there, whether a desired product is in stock or not – delivering the ultimate customer convenience and completion of a sale.

Other convenience based services that have become widely adopted this year include click and collect, which consumers have come to expect as a given delivery option. With contactless payments beginning to pick up momentum – delivering ease and speed when making payments under £20 – which are perfect for fast food environments. These and other convenience driven services will continue to grow in popularity in 2014.

However, the focus is still very much on multi and omni-channel, the facilitator for which is cloud based technologies that support a holistic view of stock – single product availability across channels – using services such as online connection in store via an iPad or click and collect. In short, one offering across all channels.

Why retailers, hotels and restaurants should invest in a professional WiFi network

The need for a strong WiFi network in retail and hospitality businesses to support technology such as iPads, visual merchandising, digital music and personal WiFi for customers has reached a tipping point.

Since 2012 there has been an increasing demand for WiFi from retailers, restaurants and hotels. Whilst we are still seeing some businesses trying to provide WiFi on the cheap, most now see the value in installing a robust, business class solution which gives greater management of the WiFi network from head office and delivers security of sensitive business data.

As more-and-more new technologies that rely on the network continue to emerge, the management becomes ever more complicated and businesses need to be mindful that it’s important to keep public and private data separate for security purposes.

With a mobile phone only an arm’s length away for close to 50% of the population, what better method is there for retailers, restaurants and hotels to communicate with their customers?

Customers now use mobiles and tablets to access websites, research products and services, make purchases and reservations, as well as downloading vouchers for redemption in person and accessing free WiFi networks in stores, hotels, cafes and restaurants. Businesses can also send direct marketing in the form of push alerts, enticing customers with the latest offers and promotions.

Personal customer access to the internet cannot run off the same part of the network in which customer transactions take place, however, running two or three separate networks is costly and complicated. This is when the need for a business class solution is highlighted – one that is capable of managing all of this functionality securely and cost effectively on one network.

If your business is currently relying on a basic broadband service, it may well need to consider a professional and robust business network in the near future, as consumer demand continues to grow for services that run off the WiFi network.

Contemplating the considered consumer

With a growing plethora of ways to research products, price, gain feedback and buy merchandise, teamed with tight purse strings, consumers have never been so considered when it comes to making purchases.  So how can retailers go about delivering a winning offering?

Vodat International outlines a recipe for success when it comes to the considered consumer:

Social media

Social media is and will continue to play a huge role in influencing consumers buying habits. With satisfied and unsatisfied customers taking to platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to share thoughts, feedback and pictures. It can contribute to creating a buzz and demand for a product, but on the flip side can sometimes have the opposite effect and create a negative perception in a consumers mind – preventing a potential purchase.

Retailers should use social media to listen to and learn from customers and be responsive to their feedback, demonstrating a joined up service and attentive customer care. If queries are dealt with quickly and efficiently, consumers are far more likely to continue shopping with that retailer and spread the good word.

Connected channels and availability of products

With customers expecting to be able to shop when, where and how they chose, it’s important that sales channels are integrated for a seamless experience, which ever channel a customer choses to shop via. This should extend to consistency of pricing and promotions across channels, so consumers aren’t pushed to search online for the best deals.

Retail systems should be linked into all inventory locations across the retail estate – both in the warehouse and throughout the stores – so sales assistants are able to interrogate systems and identify if a desired product is in stock elsewhere, if not within that store. This way, a purchase can be completed then and there, without a product present, resulting in a guaranteed sale, consistency of availability and happy customer.

Customer service

Staff need to be armed with knowledge and access to technology that enables them to be helpful and deliver against customer demands. When they are unable to answer a question surrounding stock and its availability this often causes frustration for the both the customer and sales assistant.

Mobile PoS connected to a retailer’s network enables an abundance of functionality that a lone sales assistant isn’t capable of delivering, from product data in the form of information and videos, transactions on the spot, connection to the online channel, visibility of stock across the retail estate and much more – enabling a sleeker and all-round more pleasurable experience.

Supply chain

Finally, an agile supply chain is required to manage the transportation of stock across the retail estate and directly to customers, so the availability of products is consistent across all channels.

Every person through the door is a potential opportunity, but retailers must offer a service that delivers consistency and convenience across the board to maximise sales and create an environment that consumers can rely on and trust, without having to over-consider every purchase made.



Personalise the customer service with captivating technology in store

Customer service in store will always be the defining factor when it comes to customers choosing to shop in store as opposed to online, but how can retailers take this a step further than the shop assistant asking if they can be of service, delivering a truly unforgettable experience?

Other than consumers loyal to particular brands, the delivery of this season’s new stock simply isn’t enough to encourage new customers in store anymore.

The way that people shop is evolving and the store’s role with it; in the era of the smart phone, the store is emerging as an interactive hub. Retailers must change with customers’ buying habits and enable them to interact with via their smart phone.

Coast, Oasis and Warehouse have recently installed WiFi networks to support their iPad MPoS system roll-out. The iPads all entirely different roles, from transactional MPoS for speed of service and queue busting, to improved customer information and wall mounted iPads in the changing rooms for interactive marketing – displaying image and video content on seasonal ranges, specific products and special offers.

Customers in store can also use the WiFi to access the internet on their own personal devices, although the Coast, Oasis and Warehouse networks are restricted to the retailer’s iPads for security purposes.

To support these types of new and emerging technology innovation, companies need robust and reliable network communications, ideally, delivered on only one network for visibility of critical business data.

The devices themselves need to be secure and used effectively for mobile PoS, online connection in store, stock checks and to display visual content, all of which contribute to improving the customer experience.

Preparing for the next generation of tech savvy consumers

If we consider the rate at which technology had developed over the past five years, with virtual changing rooms, visual screens integrated into shop walls, self-service kiosks and iPad points of sale (PoS) just to name a few, are the leisure and hospitality sectors ready for this next generation of consumer facing technology and the tech savvy consumer?

The answer to this question is no! In particular, the hospitality industry is overly cautious about their purse strings, but in a competitive and evolving environment it’s imperative that businesses look to invest in more customer service driven technology to thrive and survive.

It’s common for the head office to expect easy access to on-site data in real time, but with several disparate networks managing the transfer of on-site data and critical services, such as payments, sales reporting, free WiFi, CCTV, music and gaming – all relying on the broadband network to function – it’s more often than not that something as simple as transferring sales data becomes a challenge.

Other issues that come with this type of set up, is that it’s costly, unreliable and highly complicated. The bandwidth is often restricted by the many networks that run off the broadband, causing long delays in services, resulting in poor customer experience.

More of an issue is that a clunky network hinders the implementation of new technologies, such as contactless payments, mobile PoS (iPads) and digital music which are fast becoming the norm across industries.

American franchisees and London restaurants are currently trialling iPads integrated into the table, giving customers the option to make their own orders and settle the bill.

If businesses are to prepare themselves for being able to introduce these types of technologies, which are essential to the long term success, they need to consider a robust network that is capable of managing all of the above services as well as new emerging customer facing technologies.

When considering a network it’s important to ask the following questions:

Do your customers continually expect more and more IT and data provision?
Does your network have a number of VPN’s (Virtual Private Networks) to support?
Does this cause you problems and waste valuable time and IT resources?
Do you have to look at IT support staff costs or possibly new staff members?
Do your internet facing circuits cause you pain with speed and reliability problems?
Would you like to have a fully managed MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) network but think it too expensive?

If you have answered YES to three or more of these questions and would like to find out more please visit:

Is today’s ‘convenience driven consumer’ capable of loyalty?

Retailers are now faced with a new type of customer – fickle, informed and connected – who will turn to a competitor if lured with what they perceive as a better offer. So, what can retailers do to preserve a loyal customer base?

First and foremost, price alone is no longer enough, except for certain highly commoditised items. The consumer of today wants convenience, whichever channel these chose to shop via, along with the guarantee of a competitive price. They expect items to be readily available and to be able to purchase a desired product in-store or online.

Therefore, retailers need to guarantee consistency across their sales channels and regularly engage with customers to better promote new product lines, offers and sales across the retail estate. But what is the most effective way for retailers to reach the new customer and keep engaging with them across channels to build a rapport and ultimately loyalty?

With mobile technology used across sales channels and over 30 million people owning a smartphone in the UK, it’s the easiest, most instantaneous and effective vehicle available on the market for retailers to reach out to customers. Offering convenience of service for the consumer and delivering immediate results for the retailer.

Some retailers are already capitalising on these opportunities, offering mobile vouchers that can be redeemed in-store or/ and are considering mobile payments, but there is so much more that can be done to better connect to the customer on their journey.

Retailers need to bring their loyalty programmes into the mobile era, using NFC or geo-location technology, rewarding customers with vouchers for visiting the physical or online store, using mobile payments or simply for being a loyal customer.

With the lines between online and in-store becoming increasingly blurred, eventually, loyalty cards will be delivered as a mobile wallet as opposed to a physical card – so all points, vouchers, offers etc from multiple channels are stored in the one place. Pizza Express already offers a similar mobile application, allowing customers to receive and redeem vouchers on their mobile in restaurants.

This type of mobile loyalty scheme will deliver a level of convenience across multiple channels that a physical card cannot; providing the flexibility required in today’s ever evolving retail environment for loyalty across the retail estate.