Brand Uptime, Customer Experience and Retail Success
The last few years have seen retail move through some dramatic and unexpected changes, and the fun is far from over. The transforming retail landscape is largely a result of disruptive and unprecedented business decisions (like Amazon acquiring Whole Foods, Walmart acquiring Jet.com), along with maturing technology (Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, etc.). The one constant that only increases in importance with each passing day: the criticality of delivering an exceptional customer experience, every time.
In addition to the factors mentioned above, the evolution of e-commerce, coupled with traditional online sellers moving from click to brick are also driving change. But no matter the channel, customer expectations for service and overall experience are more challenging than ever to achieve. Increased customer wants and needs are putting physical stores in a unique position, as they face a revolutionary customer-centric ecosystem. To respond, brands are hustling to create a differentiated customer experience — or risk failure. One strategy smart brands are adopting includes ensuring "brand uptime," the concept of meticulously maintaining stores to project a consistent and positive image. Often treated as an afterthought, store cleanliness, atmosphere and customer service can prove just as critical to your brand value as the dynamic experience offered online.
The Importance of Brand Uptime
Brand uptime remains significant across channels — online it refers to factors ranging from a down or unresponsive website and extends to include sluggish page load time — a recipe for driving empowered (and impatient) shoppers away in droves, often to competitors. It’s also critical in-store. Your physical infrastructure, for better or for worse, directly impacts overall company performance. Despite the fact that perception is subjective, how a customer perceives your brand’s physical presence directly affects how a customer experiences your brand, irrespective of the channel. Critical for delivering an exceptional experience, brand uptime is facilitated by a strong facilities management strategy — key for maximizing uptime in physical locations, an essential component to overall brand and multichannel strategies.
They may seem minor, but infrastructure flaws such as flickering lights, broken HVAC or parking lot potholes have the power to severely impact how customers view your brand, even after the issues are resolved. This ultimately shapes a shopper’s future consideration and purchasing decisions, both in-store and online. It also influences a general perception of the company, potentially harming the brand across channels, underscoring the importance of store uptime and its connection to the overall brand. Physical locations must be maintained to present a consistent and positive brand image. First impressions matter, and how a store appears proves a critical differentiator for brand perception. If your stores don’t look good, the value of the strategic and innovative experiences that initially attracted consumers to them basically plummets.
Benefits to Brand Uptime
With properly maintained store locations, retail associates are positioned to provide services that meet or exceed today’s demanding consumers. It’s imperative to understand that physical store appearance and superior customer service go hand in hand, not only to attract consumers to the store but to keep them there to enjoy the shopping experience being offered. The longer consumers are in-store, the more opportunity sales associates have to interact and make an impression with the goal of converting people from browsers to buyers. Nordstrom’s recent launch of its concept store that sells nothing, but simply caters to customer engagement is the perfect example of just how important physical locations are for retail — and the maintenance that goes with them.
Maintaining facilities for optimal brand uptime may sound self-explanatory, but can prove a logistical nightmare if not prioritized correctly. While cleanliness and snow removal are overt “must haves,” ensuring uptime is complex and can span thousands of potentially unique, distributed locations, all requiring complete visibility across geography, employees, assets and contractors for proper execution. It cannot happen without regulated processes and sufficient technology to respond to what could become a logistical tragedy if not managed carefully.
In a society where customer experience is THE differentiator between success and failure, and engagement is a key factor for achieving this, no retailer is exempt from prioritizing the maintenance of its sites. The singular way to do this is by using innovative technology. Brand uptime is a mission critical factor for avoiding the unfortunate epilogue appearing at the end of so many retail stories. Strategic and intentional management of facilities is the only path to happily ever after.
Tom Buiocchi is the CEO of ServiceChannel, a leader in facility management software and contractor sourcing.