One of the first things out of Jeremy Fennell's mouth when he takes to the stage at the Internet Retailing Conference is "to understand what the customer perceives as value is the basis on which retail will survive."
It's poignant stuff to hear from someone who spent a large chunk of their career working in the buying sector of business. But now Jeremy's moved into the world of ecommerce, it's good to hear that he hasn't lost his ethos behind delivering value to the consumer.
This focus is something that Dixons seems to have been delivering for a little while now and isn't something it plans on stopping any time soon.
While it already offers up the absurd feature of Google Maps Street View in some stores, along with Google Maps mapping out the floor plans of certain stores for customers, Dixons Retail has been making other changes behind the scenes. What's more, all of these changes have come directly from the feedback that their data has given them.
Jeremy points out that the gathering of data may seemingly be a big buzzword in the industry at the moment, but as a practice it's been around for years in the form of paper surveys and receipts. However, just as Harper Reed said at Europe's Customer Festival, companies aren't really doing anything to gain insight from the new data they've amassed.
The intent is certainly there though, as more people understand how this far more granular data can be used to shape the company and channels they deliver to the customer. However, the hard sell is really convincing people inside the business to buy into this new avenue – which is where data visualisation comes in to show the cold, hard, facts in an effective way.
Once that's out of the way it's about time to figure out what your data is really for: "know what it is that you want to know," as Jeremy so eloquently put it.
So what did Dixons use their data for then?
Well, going from the customer data that they acquired via website visits and working out how much of a site people were seeing and using from certain devices, it was clear that Dixons needed to create a site that suited all screen sizes.
Instead of going down the simpler – but potentially more cumbersome – route of creating an individual page for mobile, tablet and PC, Dixons instead opted to create a reactive site that changed layout and formatting based on what device was being used. Already this helped keep people on site for longer and in essence increased prospective sales.
Another simple change that came from consumer insight was dropping the icons from its App in favour of using words. By doing something as simple as replacing an icon represented by a spyglass by the word âsearch', there was a 20 per cent increase in search completions and people finding the products they wanted.
Sometimes it really is as simple as that.
Other times it's a little trickier.
One major complaint was that prices at Currys and PC World were higher than competitors. Having undertaken price analysis it appeared that Currys and PC World were actually competitively priced. But it was the likes of Amazon that put such doubt in consumer's minds and so it boiled down to finding a way that costs can be lowered even more to improve systems and deliver prices that a consumer feels prepared to pay.
Again, data is key in realising this dream.
Thanks to purchasing feedback, it's easy enough to see which products sell well and which ones don't. From here Dixons took a âCore Range' of products and made sure that these were readily available at almost any store and online. Then, the products that didn't sell so well would be grouped into the âExtended Range' where fewer stock would be held, but it'd be easy enough to obtain them when it looks like they'll sell out. By working with a supplier to facilitate this, costs for holding products is reduced and the cost of goods can drop a little bit.
Combine this with a keywords sheet and you can see what products customers want but aren't getting – thus letting you phase those products in through the âExtended Range' first. By doing things this way, Jeremy and his team noticed that many people had been coming to them to look for sewing machines; now, sewing machines are stocked in stores as a direct result of this feedback.
You don't just have to use this data online either as it can be easily transferred to the offline world too.
Cleverly, Dixons uses its online visits to determine how it sections up its stores. Essentially helping customers get what they want – especially if they look online first before coming into store.
Doing this means that not only do customers feel instantly familiar with what might be in stock due to knowing the areas online that get the most attention, but it also means that they know what they can get in terms of popular products.
Another thing that Dixons' data shows is that customers do actually want to shop in store. They check and compare prices online, but more often than not there's a correlation between people seeing if an item is in stock in their nearest store and then that item selling.
Jeffries believes that the idea of a customer coming into a store, checking a price online and buying from a competitor is a myth of sorts. Or, at least, he believes that this isn't anywhere near as common as companies believe it is – after all, how can you tell which ones checked online and bought it in your store over a competitor?
Jeffries wrapped his talk up with a couple of final points, points that really should be listened to:
- We know what customers are doing, so stop fearing change and just do it – people know what they want, just help them find it and they'll come back again and again.
- Let yourself accept when you're wrong and just go with what the data says is true. Don't fight the infallible fact, this isn't the same game it was a few years ago.