How do you view Omnichannel Expenditures?
As a huge advocate of disruption – I am always discussing how a simple change or modification of your vantage point or perspective can make the impossible – possible. (Key word here – perception of it being “impossible” when it is feasible).
As an intro to my topic today – I do need to share a bit from a summary of Lowes from 2019 as well as certain financial metrics for their fiscal year 2018; all originating from the 2018 Financial Report. Sounds heavy – but hang in there. It will be worth it.
First – in 2019 Jamie Grill-Goodman summarized a few very clear gaps identified by Lowes. Nod your head in agreement as you reflect on your own business!
5 Key Technology Moves Lowe’s Is Making to Renovate Its Retail Business
By Jamie Grill-Goodman – 08/26/2019
- Lowe’s knows it needs to modernize its retail technology in some areas to catch up to today’s consumer expectations and other retailers.
- To this end, the home improvement retailer has been renovating its technology, from ripping up its price management system and rolling out predictive scheduling to replatforming its website, adding mobile tools and more.
- Lowe’s is taking aggressive steps to improve the technology foundation of lowes.com by replatforming the entire website to Google Cloud. It hopes the move will improve the retailer’s agility as it redesigns the online customer experience from search and navigation to checkout. “At the beginning of this year, our dot-com site was on a decade old platform,” Ellison noted on the retailers’ recent earnings call. “Omnichannel is a tremendous growth opportunity for Lowe’s and we have a very detailed transformation plan to modernize our platform and dramatically grow lowes.com sales in the future,” said Ellison. “Our goal is simple. We want to serve customers in a way they desire to shop.”
- Lowe’s will deploy a new price management system, which will allow it to better systematically analyze, prioritize and implement retail pricing actions. The new pricing management system will be in place by the end of the year and will get Lowe’s on par with most retailers. “Candidly, we’re quite a bit behind what a modern large retailer would be from the ability to leverage pricing and to have agility pricing in local markets in-store and online,” said Ellison. “This new system will create a single repository of pricing to provide better visibility for the merchants to understand the impact of our pricing decisions,” he explained.
- Lowe’s rolled out around 88,000 smart mobile devices to store associates earlier this year to improve associate engagement and drive store simplification. “We recently deployed the new mobile devices for our store associates we call SMART phones,” said EVP, Stores, Joseph McFarland. “Our new SMART phones are designed to reduce tasking hours by providing real-time data without ever stepping off the sales floor.”
Ok, let’s boil it down and summarize what I think was said. Their website needs work. Their point-of-sale is “isolated” (meaning not integrated with other systems including their website – which needs work). And their team is not “mobile” to leverage their POS that is lacking nor integrated with their website. (SMART phones – really…) All this to engage with the consumer where the consumer elects to engage.
Perfect. Welcome to the new era of “experience and engagement” retail. Did any of that sound like your current store(s)? The silver lining – LOWES and their $68B in 2018 Revenues is working to figure this out. You can as well. But I firmly believe it all starts with how you view this “thing” we call engagement.
Engagement is not a singular “thing”.
Think of the last time you shopped in a physical store for something other than daily consumables; a bigger purchase. Maybe a new flat screen. A lawn mower. A new coffee or dining table. Simply put – I bet your pathway to purchase was some variety of online activity followed by some in-store activity. Now – without hesitation answer this; would that retailer have had a chance at your dollar if they had not “engaged” with you in a way that made your “entire experience” palatable? Not awesome (awesome would have been GREAT) but palatable enough to get the deal done.
So, to you – the entire “journey” was engaging thus a positive outcome. Online worked (Online being website and possibly social channels). It informed/educated. It compelled. It validated. It affirmed. All the “P’s” were in alignment. Then followed by a pleasant seamless effortless hand-off to a physical visit. The in-store experience was then at least “on-par” with the online portion. No surprises. Seamless. Felt like you haven’t skipped into the retailers alter ego. The look and vibe of the store matched the online presence. (Vibe relating to the “feeling” you get when a retailer has it together – including adoption of technologies consumers really expect. That consumer “intuition” and observation. We all have it). Now what if the store associate had no clue if they had the item you were looking for? (Actually, if the site didn’t say in-stock would have you even gone in?) The price? (What if the price was different than what you saw online? Whoops. Best Buy did that once to an epic Social Media beating). Did the store associate have to disappear for 15 minutes “to go check”? Did the store associate have any “at-the-ready” knowledge pertaining to their own online offerings/presence/promotions? (That is a big disconnect – hint – and a whole topic altogether).
The retailer won this time. To you – the entire journey (summation of all the micro-experiences) was engaging enough for you to convert. The entire journey and all the waypoints along the way (every touch or engagement opportunity) got you to your/their destination – a sale!
So – to view consumer engagement as a singular “thing” – well I believe you are missing the point. Pause and reflect on that last retail purchase (that journey) you had envisioned above. Experience is “all the experiences”!
Engagement does not come with a singular “cost”.
Unfortunately, the “thing” we discussed above happens; a lot. Experience is attributed to the “thing” – and now one point of fixation for the retailer. Unfortunately the “thing” is now set-up for underperformance. A retailers singular focus demonstrates a lack of understanding of how the one thing fits big picture. In the single focus – the one “thing” IS the picture. What is a store without customers? What is a website without visitors? What is social media without content? If you followed the last section – you hopefully acknowledge that the “journey” should be viewed as a summation of all possible consumer engagement points. However, if you don’t – i am afraid you will fall victim to viewing this singular “thing” as being engagement – (whatever you determine “it” to be) – and it will not deliver the desired results. You expect it to do X, but it will do Y. Again, because it is just a piece of the journey puzzle.
Here come the “cost” conversations. “They said theirs was the best and it should be as the dang thing costs me x a month and it did not meet “fuzzy” expectations”.. (Almost feeling like a “magic pill” paradigm). Guess what happens next. The retailer will fixate on finding another solution using COST as the driver. Because their current solution cost X and it didn’t deliver – the next one should do more and cost less. If this is the third round in this cycle – even less than that! A slippery slope with no bottom. However, if you truly view engagement as a “journey” – you will look to identify and address other points that may have contributed to the less than desirable results of the one piece of the engagement equation. To immediately jump to the P&L “it cost too much rationalization” – again, I believe you missed the point.
You can win – just step back. When you do – you can look at the big picture.
It “appears” that Lowes is peeling back the layers of the onion – looking to learn and improve engagement across multiple “points” in their retail business; all directly related to what consumers (we) expect as part of a positive shopping journey. Engaging with the consumer when and how and where “we” chose to engage – and doing it in a cohesive way as our journey will continue down the retail path. The trick is to not relentlessly focus on one “thing”, but how it is part of a bigger “engagement strategy”. And when you invest in that strategy – not just the “thing” – your chances of winning improve exponentially.
Oh – here is that article on Lowes in case you want to read more!