It’s 10.24pm and I’ve messaged a retail chat bot. I get a response within 20 seconds. After a few exchanges, I had everything I needed organised.
None of us would have imagined this even a few years ago, that conversational commerce with all the money and resources needed to implement, would now be a normal part of being a retailer.
We know consumers have reached an expectation level where good customer service is required instantly, with chat bots just one of many new technologies being utilised by the retail industry to meet this consumer revolution.
If shoppers have a question, they want it answered NOW. They want exceptional customer service at any time of day or night, and it had better be fast or they’ll take their money elsewhere.
If consumers decide to purchase now, (and pay later in many cases), the items had better be in stock and ready to go out of their shopping cart and en-route to their doorstep with the same speed.
But as shoppers keep upping the ante on speed and fulfilment, have we finally reached a point where speed has trumped price?
The latest cab off the same-day delivery rank is Athlete’s Foot parent company Accent Group with a change of strategy that just a few years ago would have been unheard of.
Accent Group is in the process of rolling out this service across its entire network of shoe retailers – kicking off with its 12 Platypus stores late last month.
By the end of September, Accent will have rolled out the service under all nine of its retail banners.
With the exclusive distribution rights for 10 international brands including Timberland, Vans, Sperry, Stance, Saucony, Sketchers and Dr. Martens, it’s a likely game-changer in the footwear category.
But Accent Group is shaking things up even further from most other brands offering same-day delivery.
For a fee of $14, the goods are being dispatched from its bricks-and-mortar stores, instead of a centralised distribution point – effectively giving it 350 mini-distribution points all around the nation.
That means it will be able to offer the service to 70 to 80 per cent of the population. Not even Amazon could replicate this service, because like most other retailers, it is structured around a centralised distribution centre. And Australia’s not exactly a small land mass to cover!
Accent Group’s next move will be to introduce an endless aisle service, so that in-store customers can have out-of-stock items shipped to their home.
How’s that for customer service?
Accent Group Chief Digital Officer Mark Teperson said that being able to deliver to consumers via courier within hours was the result of a 12-month omni-channel transformation.
Mr Teperson summed up the sentiment perfectly, “I think consumers – particularly millennials – have this need for instant gratification.”
While the Group will no doubt face some hefty challenges in rolling this out successfully, it’s a great example of how bricks-and-mortar stores can bridge the divide between their distribution channels.
Consumers are changing, and so are we.
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