As part of the multi-channel shopping experience analysis for this year’s Retail multichannel experience report (coming soon – watch our twitter feed for its release!) I evaluated how well companies make their customers aware of the different channels they do business through. So, for example, do high street bricks-and-mortar stores champion ecommerce channels or other ways of shopping?
A good example (shown in the image on the right) is from a Debenhams department store in Westfield shopping centre. Even if I don’t have access to a smart phone, by using these online shopping points in-store on every floor, I can scan items I don’t want to lug around with me, buy them online and have them delivered. It also draws attention to the rather good Debenhams online shopping experience.
Are there any more good examples of cross-channel publicity?
Boots scored quite well for this guideline too, but I can’t show any photos in evidence of this because when I attempted to take a picture of a cardboard stand that allows customers to order items in a Christmas catalogue I was approached by a very agitated security guard. He told me that taking pictures in the store wasn’t allowed and he wouldn’t let me leave the store until I’d deleted the photo. It was apparently against company policy. Actually, he ordered me very aggressively to delete other photos I’d taken in other stores thinking they were other images of Boots (although in a potentially foolhardy act of defiance I resisted that – never try to forcibly destroy a UX consultant’s data…)
A check of the law reveals that shops are strictly speaking private property, and there’s no general restriction on taking photos while on private property, provided the photographer has permission to be there. Presumably, members of the public have permission to be in shops. However, the owner has the right to impose whatever conditions he/she wishes on entry into the property, including a restriction on photography. But since Boots don’t publicise their no-photography policy it’s hard to understand how people would know about it until it was too late.
Does it matter if people take picture in stores?
So, why the draconian measures? I wasn’t given a reason but some companies could be sensitive about the theft of ideas, for example, someone taking a photo of a designer dress could be stealing information to make it on the cheap. Although, a cardboard gift-ordering stand hardly feels like the stuff of industrial espionage.
Does it matter? Well, camera phones are ubiquitous now, and it’s not unreasonable to assume that people will take photos if it’s useful to do so. If you’re in a shop and you’re not sure about a product, you can take a photo of it and email it straight away to get someone else’s opinion. If you can use a barcode scanner app or use QR codes to check the price of the same product elsewhere, why shouldn’t you be able to take a photo of the product number to do the check later? That’s just consumer power and potentially could work in favour of the retail industry so should perhaps be considered as a positive for increasing conversion, and should perhaps be encouraged.
Beware the influences that effect brand experience!
Now I come to the most important point of this blog post, a security guard is still an employee of the company in the same way as a shop assistant and so is representative of the brand. In the same manner that sales assistants are delivering a brand experience by their tone of voice and physical appearance, so is a security guard. Just take one walk down Bond Street and you will see that the luxury brands have got this down to a tee and their security guards are all very well presented, polite and helpful.
My experience with the Boots security guard may have been a one off but it was an eye-opener for me proving how every channel and interaction that a customer has with the brand or that might be associated with the brand, be it website, advert, sales assistants or security guard it all influences perceptions and feelings towards a brand. So it might be advisable for brands to keep this in mind and ensure that even security guards communicate with customers in a manner that meets the same standards as would be expected from every other member of the store. Unnecessarily aggressive behaviour doesn’t do brand image any favours.
But, hey, Boots all is forgiven – I’m still giving you a good score for your multichannel customer experience!
If you have you had any interesting experiences that have altered your perceptions of brands, we would be really interested to know – please leave a comment below!