One idea which captured the imagination earlier this year was the Darty panic button – you hit the button and you are put in touch with a call centre which can help. There are many ICT retailers who are going to press a panic button if they don’t get their service model right, because they risk losing out.
A whole new generation of products is emerging with wearables, smart technology and connected devices for the home. Cisco estimate that in 2018 there will be more than 7 billion machine-to-machine devices in the world, almost twice the number of smartphones. That is a lot of devices to sell. Some retailers are also targeting small and micro-businesses with a Retail-to-Business or R2B Channel. The winners know that they have to put in place a full service offering whilst maintaining a keen cost structure:
- listening to customer needs with skilled in-store staff
- holding a broad enough range of products to meet those needs
- providing an omnichannel solution which allows customers to go from web to store and back again
- and the all-important after-sales service of installation, warranty and general hand-holding
Here is why. Traditional retailers are already losing market share to etailers, but new threats are emerging: utility companies such as British Gas are linking the installation of new boilers to the creation of a smart home, with, for example the installation of smart thermostats and other kit. DIY retailers are trusted for service and installation, so how long will it be before they create a smart package with the installation of a new kitchen. Specialist retailers are emerging which are dedicated to the sale of wearables and connected devices. One of our keynote speakers at the Smart Channels Summit in DISTREE Monaco in February 2015 is Stephane Bohbot who has set up the Lick stores in France – in an interview with him in the FT he said that his salespeople are “coaches”. In the world of connected devices, a practice which was once taboo is now becoming commonplace –manufacturers are establishing direct links to end customers – unless retailers find a way to maintain their customer intimacy as retailers like Staples and Lowe’s are doing with the creation of a hub, retailers will lose out.
This journey involves investment in people, training, product availability, partnerships with other providers. Currently I am trying to order a Nest Thermostat so that I can walk the talk of a smart home myself. Two leading bricks and mortar retailers offer a solution through their call centres and websites but none has been able to assure me at the moment of passing an order that I would have both the product and an installation date. One of them told me I would have to go in store to get it ordered. No-one I spoke to really knew what a Nest Thermostat was. The question is – who is prepared to give full service to their customers, and win the prize of a new generation of products and customers.