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Not Your Father's Customer Journey - Staples Reinvents Itself Through Omni-channel - contenttriggers blog

Not Your Father’s Customer Journey – Staples Reinvents Itself Through Omni-Channel

Staples Reinvents Itself by Prat Vemana, Director of Staples Velocity Lab and Mobile,
On February 1st I attended a sold out called event called, Not Your Father’s Customer Journey: “What’s Next” e-Commerce Summit. This event was sponsored by MITX (The Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange).

I’d like to share four key insights from a session with Staples called, Reinventing Itself Through an Omni-Channel Experience. They highlight major areas they’re investing in to take their customers and their business into the future.

Staples, the inventor of the office supply superstore, is now in 26 countries. They’re the second largest e-commerce company in the world after Amazon, with annual sales of $25 billion. They serve consumers as well as businesses from home-based to Fortune 500 companies.

The discussion started off with Prat Vemana, Director of Staples Velocity Lab and Mobile.

“The path to purchase—the moments you can influence—has really changed,” Prat explained.

What is an Omni-channel Experience?

Basically, as consumers move easily from one channel to another, their browsing and purchasing behaviors are tracked. Retailers deliver relevant information, offers, products and services seamlessly across, and optimized for, all channels. Customers expect to receive a convenient, consistent and personalized buying experience from in-store, to online, to mobile, TV and beyond.

Staples is innovating its business model yet again to integrate omni-channel and to help their customers do business and shop however they choose.

 This Model Affects 4 Main Connectors at Staples

1. Perception is Everything

The one trigger that takes time to build is trust. This component of trust is often missed, especially online. But Staples has mastered it, and that’s perception. Staples is known for delivering a service that’s “easy.” (Remember the Easy Button.) It’s not only their mission, it’s a perception that the brand instills in their customers. Staples makes their busy lives easier.

Once they discover the pain points, they create services to ease the pain. A few of the services that come to mind are Easy Reorder , a way to inventory and order supplies, Easy Rebates  (which I’ve used several times), a mobile app and EasyTech Services.

The customers buying journey has become more complex as they maneuver seamlessly across multiple channels and devices. However consumers and businesses still expect a service that’s easy, regardless of what device they use and wherever they are.

On Feb. 11th Staples launched its new campaign to “provide every product businesses need,” but with an added bonus. The omnichannel experience of shopping where, how and when they want.

Take a peak at the 30-second spot” Meeting Business Needs: It’s not magic, it’s easy.” (I grabbed this from YouTube which was posted by StaplesChannel on YouTube. Here is a link to check out StaplesChannel.)


2. A Customer Shopping Experience

When asked, “What does omni-channel mean to you?”Janet Kieran, Director of Site Development & Operations explained. “We have to look at it through our customers eyes. Gone are the days of single channel shopping. All consumers, retail or business, are using multiple touch points.”

They’ve discovered two things their customers want the most. One, they want continuity across channels so they can be in control of how they shop. Second, they’re looking for convenience making it easy to shop.

To add to this, social matters. But you have to just do it, not over analyze it. Users want to be able to connect and engage with Staples and with each other. Staples has even partnered with LinkedIn and launched the LinkedIn Small Business Network. They want to create a community around helping small businesses succeed.

Reviews are also important. Customers still hold more credibility in online reviews than with in-store associates. Staples wants to help customers find what they’re searching for by having tablets available in stores.

Staples has to reach out to the customer and keep the conversation going from online to in-store and back. Even online chat can help get questions answered and speed up the purchase path.

The more value they deliver the more satisfied and loyal their customers are.

3. Their Own Business Environment

Business is more complex now between online and retail stores, the supply chain, call centers, partnerships and even time zones. Internally Staples is bringing the right systems in place to work smarter and be more efficient.

Another challenge they face is finding the right talent. They have to grow the team fast enough to innovate and work with the scalability of the systems.

Staples has to motivate to innovate. For example, they schedule time and resources for their team to look at new technologies and proof of concepts. It’s a priority.

Some of the advancements they’ve made include automated testing and measuring. API’s for easier integration, time to market and ease of use. They keep a close eye on customer experience stability.

Staples is bringing their perception of making life easier into their own environment.

4. Customer Engagement

Big data is the foundation for how they engage and have conversations with their customers. But, just looking at web data is not enough as customers use multiple channels simultaneously. They have to combine web data with data from 1600 stores, web behaviors, customer segmentation models, and simply by reaching out offline.

Conversions are the ultimate goal. But there’s one set of metrics that can make or break conversions. Leading customers online to research requires key metrics on engaging them as they make decisions. Without understanding what engages them, it’s difficult to know what works. Then through extensive testing they determine the best way to start conversations that lead to purchase.

The Wrap Up

To wrap up, Staples sees a big difference in the way customers shop in an omni-channel world. People are focused on researching what they want to buy and where they want to buy it.

They don’t see Staples retail stores, mobile app or websites as separate places to shop. They see it as one. That’s why the service Reserve Online, Pick-up In-Store was such a hit. It offers convenience and peace of mind that the merchandise will be there for them.

Last year Staples launched the E-Commerce Innovation Center. They’re developing new e-commerce solutions for business customers and making the omni-channel customer experience come to life.

They’re committed to delivering a service that’s easy and creating a consistent and positive customer experience however and wherever they shop.

So keep an eye on Staples. See what they innovate next for their customers shopping in an omni-channel world, while still maintaining their perception of delivering a service that’s “easy.”

Photo: Snapshot at the Live MITX event. Video: Courtesy of Staples, Meeting Business Needs: It’s not magic, it’s easy on YouTube.

What about you?
Do you know what perception your company has?
What customer shopping experience do you provide to your customers?
How are you engaging your customers?
[I’d love to hear your comments. Please share below.]

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