Distributing a first class experience through a third party retailer

The quest by marketers to create the perfect omni-channel offering is well-documented, but also well-known to have been let down by the instore experience. And, with 43 per cent of consumers admitting they have left a store frustrated due to the lack of available information, isn’t it high time retailers address this? Having recently announced the launch of its ToYou service, ASDA is one retailer doing just that; taking the first very large step to revolutionising the customer experience, not through more customer-targeted marketing, but by partnering with other retailers.

As Craig Sears-Black, Managing Director for Manhattan Associates, explains, this strategy puts the store back at the fore, getting one step closer to bridging the gap between instore and online experiences once and for all.

Let’s take instore customer returns of online products as an example. Until now, only a handful of stores have offered the ability to swap online-bought returns with an instore item, let alone facilitate a return to another retailer that might otherwise have an online-only presence.

As a new era of personalised customer service is upon us, retailers are being driven by a growing number of savvy omni-channel shoppers who now account for a large proportion of total retail revenue. These are customers who research products online before buying in store; know exactly how to navigate each retailer’s website; which companies offer a good click & collect service; and which provide a better returns experience or multiple delivery options. But, they’re customers who equally enjoy the social aspect of shopping instore. Indeed, 71 per cent of shoppers say researching on their smartphone alone has become very important to their in-store experience, which leaves retailers with no choice but to align their strategies to consumer demand.

With its new ToYou delivery service, ASDA has placed itself in a unique position that caters to both of these growing demands, by allowing shoppers to collect and return online orders of both own-brand and non-ASDA brands at any of its 614 sites. The service therefore capitalises on the investment in its delivery network and encourages shoppers to visit its supermarkets, all while throwing down the omni-channel gauntlet with the ability to track order progress in real-time from any device.

This approach has rightly been heralded as a “game changer”. Not only has it enabled ASDA to take the next step towards a truly omni-channel experience as a retailer in its own right, it has positioned ASDA as an omni-channel facilitator, all while driving footfall to its stores and transforming its logistics function into a source of additional revenue. Clearly, game-changing innovation is fast becoming essential in creating the truly seamless experience all retailers are striving for, not only to retain customers, but to gain them.

Craig Sears-Black, Managing Director, Manhattan Associates

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