The retail industry is shifting, initially catalyzed by e-commerce, and furthered by an unending parade of new technology and changing strategies. At the same time, customer demand has only become more immediate, further complicating the dozens of other moving parts that change daily. It’s clear that customer experience has replaced price as the differentiator between success and failure. As a rule, delivering an exceptional experience, every time, is table stakes for retailers and the challenge is that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for success.
One factor that remains standard across retail is the concept of “brand uptime.” For e-commerce, this refers to anything affecting the website. In-store it refers to the physical infrastructure that directly impacts overall company performance. Despite the fact that perception is subjective, how a customer perceives your brand’s physical presence affects overall brand experience, irrespective of channel.
Brand uptime is critical for delivering an exceptional experience, both in stores and online and ignoring it is a recipe for driving empowered shoppers away, likely to competitors. Strategic facilities management (FM) for maximizing brand uptime in-store must be a proactive component to overall brand and multi-channel strategies. Retailers are realizing that physical assets serve as a stage for customized experiences that go beyond ambience to a platform for engaging with consumers, essential for further interaction. Apple is a brilliant example of leveraging physical stores for a well-rounded customer - and retail - experience. Its employees are trained very specifically to offer a superior experience; they aren’t focused on selling devices but rather on talking to interested people (not “customers”) about Apple products, building relationships and loyalty for its differentiated version of “service.”
Thoughtful in-store experiences inspire consumer loyalty that’s very difficult to achieve online, but are critical for success. They attract people to the location, driving purchases, loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising - arguably the most powerful model for influencing consumers. This also means that physical locations must be constantly maintained to project a consistent and positive brand image. From lighting and cleanliness to HVAC and landscaping, how you “touch” the customer proves as critical to your brand and its value as the innovative experience that initially attracts the customer to the store.
Infrastructure flaws such as faulty or broken equipment, broken lights or parking lot potholes can severely impact how customers view your brand, even after issues are resolved, and impact their future consideration and purchasing decisions - whether in-store or online. This influences a general perception of the company, potentially harming the brand across channels, underscoring the importance of store uptime and its connection to overall brand uptime.
Maintaining facilities for optimal brand uptime may sound obvious but can prove a logistical nightmare if not prioritized at a high level. While a clean store and functioning HVAC are overt “must haves,” ensuring uptime is complex and might include thousands of potentially unique, distributed locations – each of which requiring complete visibility across geography, employees, assets and contractors to ensure proper execution. It cannot happen without the requisite processes and technology to respond to what could become a logistical tragedy.
Modernizing and automating facilities management to maximize brand uptime cannot be overlooked - arming yourself with technology to preemptively solve problems, streamlining processes for finding and qualifying contractors if something does, and managing the minutiae that contributes to a smooth facilities program, can feasibly ensure brand uptime. Delivering a consistent in-store experience proves a critical advantage that extends far beyond the physical interaction, to your app and website, and all future experiences between consumers and your brand.
-Tom Buiocchi, CEO of ServiceChannel