Published on 08 March 2015

DIY & Garden centres from “store-centric to a customer-centric view”

Today’s complex consumers are more knowledgeable, connected, empowered and mobile.
by Roberto Bonfiglio

The Garden Industry is undergoing a phenomenal transformation. To respond to consumers’ expectations of a seamless, personalized and consistent experience with brands, retailers need to take on an omni-channel approach that is customer driven. Operational processes need to be synchronized between channels and channels should be aligned to act as one single face to consumers. Even though a company has several channels, the consumer still views them as one, as a single company.

Today, it can no longer be assumed that shopping begins and ends in the store, or that the retailer has more information on its products than the consumer. Central to this transformation is the recognition that new paths to purchase are enabled by anytime, anywhere information and in turn these new paths result in complex consumer driven journeys involving touch points across many channels. Consumers are enjoying an omni-channel shopping experience that blends digital with traditional bricks and mortar retailers to create a new kind of purchase journey. (GFK - The Blended Shopping Experience).

To keep customers coming, retailers need to do a better job of creating experiences that customers value, evolving with the customer, so that those experiences always match and exceed expectations. Customers demand exceptional service and personalized content and offers because they expect retailers to know their personal profiles, preferences and their past purchase history.

With boundaries between bricks and mortar and on-line retailing becoming blurred, this article looks at the impact on the DIY & Garden Centres retail sector over the next few years.

Shifting from a store-focused approach to an omni-channel mind-set requires retailers to change their traditional frames of reference and ways of working. At the beginning of their store-network transformation journey retailers must find out what their customers truly care about.

Therefore today’s challenge for retailers is to integrate all online and offline channels and move from a store-centric to a customer-centric view of retailing.

In this article I've combined a framework to use as a starting point in designing a customer-centric view for your omni-channel retail strategy - which include:

> Personalized customer service
> Enrich shopping experience
> Experienced sales staff boost retail sales

Personalized customer service

It’s indeed time for DIY & Garden centres to change the way they think about getting ‘customer-centric.’ We’re not talking about emails that include a customer’s first name or a single, positive interaction with a retail associate. A unique, customized experience requires understanding each individual consumer, making them feel valued, giving them undivided personal attention, and quickly connecting them with the very best resource to help them find what they need, when, where and how they need it. This level of customization needs to be carried through every stage of the buying journey — from initial consideration, to active evaluation, moment of purchase and post-purchase experience. Achieving that goal starts with understanding your customers, engaging them regardless of where or when they’re shopping, and connecting them with knowledgeable associates.

Best practices, examples:

> By allowing customers to book personalized appointments before going to any DIY or Garden centres location, shoppers can now be in control of their own experience before they even get to the store.

> Permit consumers to manage their loyalty program from anywhere (online or in the store) and propagate new promotions across multiple channels simultaneously. Several DIY & Garden Centres are now encouraging customers to join loyalty schemes which provide discounts on purchases as well as invitations to special offers and garden events.

> The offering of a free wifi service to customers in store may help to encourage them to spend additional time in the centre.

> Differentiate online experiences that offer value beyond the product itself, such as easy access to ratings and reviews, how-to video tutorials, personalized match-finder applications, and digital shopper solutions.

> No  reason  in  future,  why  retailers  couldn’t   offer  an  in store  service  which  included  the  3D printing  of  garden products,  spare parts,... . Indeed, Garden is one of the places where 3D printers are most likely to make a remarkable entrance in the near future. The endless designs you have in your imagination can now become true. The confluence of 3D printing and gardening has potential to alter the way we buy and consume garden goods.

> Garden automation or Smart Garden is already a reality, widespread especially in the areas related to irrigation, mowing the lawn and lighting. Use Science and Tech to Build the Ultimate Automated Garden: water the plants, mown the lawn, spot the laggards, grow the greens, shoo the pests,…The garden will become increasingly automated because the platforms to manage automation are becoming easier to use. Robots, detectors, systems can already be controlled from a single app for smartphones that provides management experience simple and intuitive. The "smart garden" is no longer the prerogative of experts or "geeks", but a way of managing the garden to everyone.

> The “virtual reality” (Htc Vive VR - Samsung Gear VR’s - Oculus Rift) is a simpler way to enjoy immersive experience. It can become easy for everyone to plan their new garden, to select the most effective/relevant plant (based on size, age, type of leaves, flowers, environment,…), to experience or test new products, to engage in garden activities, to learn a variety of different gardening techniques. Beyond imagination the virtual reality can really enhance the gardening experience.

Enrich shopping experience

For many people, DIY & Garden Centres are destination stores that customers visit as a leisure activity in combination with their purchasing. Customers want pleasure from the activity of shopping, which means the in-store atmosphere and ambience must be improved. Shops that reinvent themselves as destinations, rather than mere stores, will continue to rise. Instead, they must deliver compelling experiences and offer something that no website or device can match

Best practices, examples:

> Castorama France opened new format stores in Pau and Toulouse. The stores have been built with shelving that is much clearer and easier to shop and the outside display is accessible by car for picking up larger items. They both also boast a new service – customers can place their orders online and collect them from the stores within 2 hours from dedicated collection points – great for busy customers. Other services available from the stores include van hire for getting larger items home, home delivery, installation services and design centres for bespoke projects.

> Homebase has opened a new format in Worcester (UK) that features its first café, run by Costa, and a focus on inspiration as it bids to enhance its appeal with female shoppers. Homebase has also upped the number of hours worked on the shop floor by 20% in order to improve service standards. The store also features a building zone, a plant zone, and a Grow Your Own zone for those wanting to produce their own fruit and vegetables.

> Ensuring there is good searchable information about specific plants, tools,…., enabling consumers to carry out research prior to, or even during, their shopping trip, such as finding out what plants would be appropriate for their garden environment, and also to check stock levels, would provide a useful tool to customers. Some DIY & Garden Centre chains have already begun offering a click and reserve/collect mode of shopping that customers have grown used to from other retailers.

> Websites should be optimised for mobile devices to enable customers to access product information while in store, including QR codes on shelf that link to product information, or the opportunity to order items for home delivery.

> Interactive displays allow to "expand" the surface of the space showing the products in virtual mode. Posters replaced with dynamic screens, to browse videos, promotions, deal of the month.

> New hanger technology that digitally displays, on top of price and quantities available, how many "likes" a product has on Facebook. There’s no reason why each product couldn’t have some form of review information taken directly from the retailers/manufacturers websites.

> Brochures replaced with tablets. A tablet brochure can deliver fully interactive content, bespoke to your brand. With an overview of your range, showcasing your brilliant imagery and detailed information about each of your products including stats, choices and individual options. With unlimited options including interactive elements, embedded video, links to ecommerce and social media, you can create the experience your customers are craving. In addition mobile devices/tablets that tell store employees where exactly in the store an item is located and how many units are in stock could enable them to better assist customers.

> Handheld payment points would allow customers to avoid long checkout lines.

> Premium parking close to the store for “fast track click & collect”.

> The internet and social networks provide easy access to product and price information, as well as reviews. Capabilities such as being able to shop on mobile devices empower consumers to interact with a brand when and where they want. The consumer’s shopping journey is now dynamic. Consumers’ are constantly evaluating their options and interacting with retailers across channels. The modern consumer researches online before making purchases in store, researches for products and alternatives on their mobile device while shopping in a store and even makes purchases online but visits a brick-and-mortar store to collect them. The shopping journey is an ongoing cycle because the digital touch points that consumers interact with are always on and accessible.

> Flexible payment modes, like Mobile payments (Apple Pay, Google Wallet, PayPal Here,…). Mobile payments power the technology inside your phone so you can check out either online or in a store. In a busy retail it’s all about shaving seconds off the checkout time and increasing overall customer experience. These flexible new payment options allow our customers to do just that. The DIY and Garden Centres will be able to capture customer signatures digitally via a sleek, customer-facing tablet, eliminating the need for paper receipts. Customers can opt to receive receipts via email for faster, more convenient service.

> Aside from selling products, stores should holds workshops where customers can come in and participate in DIY classes and even have their kids take part in special activities. These courses and workshops can enhance the customer experience and knowledge on plants and gardens, pruning, trimming & brush cutting, propagation, growing fruit and vegetables (fruit & vegetable cultivation and techniques), indoor and container gardening, soils, fertilizers and composting….

> As consumers increasingly shop across channels, terms like “convenience” and “efficiency” take on new meanings. Customer expectations are rising: for instance, customers now expect price consistency across channels, the ability to buy online and pick up or return in store, and a range of payment options. Price transparency puts pressure on retailers to develop ultra efficient operating models. The wealth of online information available to consumers raises the bar for in-store service and expertise. (McKinsey -Making stores matter in a multichannel world)

> Self checkout systems, to shorter queues and a faster checkout process.

> In addition, some of its stores offer services including tool rental, truck rental, and more, giving consumers more reasons to head to the store. 

Knowledgeable employees - Experienced sales staff boost retail sales

Retailers need to redefine the role of their employees and the retail organizational structures. Redefining roles, understanding and assigning inside experts, restructuring the service organization and giving staffers the resources they need to do their jobs both efficiently and effectively.

Knowledgeable employees are the biggest, untapped resource retailers can use to narrow the time-to-service gap, minimize the impact of showrooming, capture more revenue and build customer loyalty.

Consumers are familiar with this process already and are beginning to see this as normal - they don’t expect a member of staff to be rushing off to find a dog eared catalogue with out of date prices. Customer experiences are only as good as the people who deliver them. Education, training and coaching will be required. Job descriptions should be updated. Incentives should be considered. Indeed, incentives drive retail staff behavior and omni-channel shopping will likely need to be supported with multi-channel commissions. A shared success incentive model will be extremely helpful for most retailers

> Retailers could give store staff easy access to detailed and up-to-date product information so that they can provide knowledgeable customer service without needing to memorize too many specifics.

> Retailers need to enhance not only the level of staff training on product knowledge but also on behavioural training so colleagues can recognise when shoppers need help.

In summary omni-channel, which is fundamentally derived from customer centricity and the convergence of channel-shopping behavior, is an outlook that retailers must adopt to become closer to their customer and remain a sustainable, relevant business in the future. Becoming customer-centric is definitely not just putting up an ecommerce site. It is being able to step into the shoes, the hearts, the minds of your shoppers to truly be where they are, when they need and want you to be.

“Essentially for DIY & Garden centres there is no strategic alternative but a relentless approach towards driving customer centricity in order to achieve current, future and lifetime profitability by creating customers for life. ”

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