With all the talk about technology in the news and out with friends, you would think that we don't really need people anymore to do anything. Whether it is shopping online, doing banking online or talking care of your VAT payments, everything seems to be just “better online". And don’t get me wrong, I am big fan of digital as a channel for many things. But last time I checked walking down Regents St there was still a massive amount of people still shopping in stores. They have braved the weather and tube to "go shopping" and interact with real people. I get the felling that companies aren't really looking at this phenomenon in a serious strategic way.
To me the issue is that too many companies still talk about 2 "channels": Face to face (retail or bank branches) and online (website, apps, mobile). One only has to look at all the people on their mobiles while they are in the stores to realise that customers have blurred these lines already. Sure some customers are just chatting away or checking email but many are shopping simultaneously online.
So if we assume that customers are already "multi-channel", should we not organise everything across the two channels and maximise the benefits of having both channels?
In the case of banks, I am slightly shocked that high street banks are closing branches at such an alarming rate. Like many, I am sadden for the people that prefer or need to use the branch but from a strategic perspective I am not sure I understand it. Sure there will be some short-term cost savings, but strategically you are throwing away a face to face channel. Be interesting to ask Monzo, Revolut, Atom and Starling banks if they would like a physical place to bring their brand to life, I am sure they would love it. (I would love to go as well as I bet it would be amazing!) Branches give you so many options to engage with customers that no smart phone ever will!
So what do I propose. Banks and retailers need to better link up the digital world and face to face. Now I am aware that not everyone can be as extreme as say Burberry which leads this type of charge, but all companies should be asking themselves "What things can we do BETWEEN the mobile and store that will create a better experience for customers". I am thinking things like alerting store staff that a person is coming to collect his click and collect package as they approach the store using beacons and geo-fencing. Also, why doesn't everyone utilise some form of automated appointment management to smooth out every visit. An excellent example of this type of software would be Qudini.
So, in summary, all firms that have digital/face to face channels need to challenge themselves with not only what type of request is served best in store or on the mobile, but what customer journeys can be enhanced by looking at using the two channels together!