Helping the customer to always be right


Sean Taylor, Head of Retails Solutions UK at Panasonic Business

We’ve all heard the mantra that “the customer is always right.” But those of us that work in the retail industry are well aware that this isn’t always true…

The phrase was supposedly coined back in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, founder of Selfridge’s. That same year, the first ever Woolworths opened – so it wouldn’t be unfair to assume we shouldn’t overly rely on 111-year-old ideas when it comes to retail.

We know that customers’ expectations and shopping habits have evolved in over 100 years. High street retailers have spent the last few years attempting to translate the seamless shopping journeys customers receive in online and app worlds back into the store. This year the industry was faced with an ever-bigger problem; new groups being introduced to online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic. Older shoppers, those who aren’t tech savvy, and those who had simply not tried online shopping before, are now turning to the internet and smartphones for everything from weekly grocery shops, to clothing purchases, all the way to major purchases such as furniture. Prior to the pandemic, online purchasing accounted for 43% of all shopping. By late March 2020, it reached 62%.

Now is a vital time for retailers to consider how they’ll encourage shoppers back in-store during and post-pandemic. We all know why people choose to shop online - it’s quick and convenient. We also know people like to make purchases in-store –72% of UK shoppers prefer to touch, feel, and try on goods before they buy.

So, which aspects of online shopping can retailers replicate in-store?

One of the many advantages online shopping has over in-store is how informative it can be. Product pages with the latest prices, sales information, specs and allergy information. The only way for high street retailers to keep up with this previously was by briefing employees on multiple product details and hoping they remember it well enough when speaking with customers. Customers can be quick to turn away if they feel they’re missing information, as 52% of shoppers would visit another retailer if they feel a sales assistant is unhelpful.

Even the best-prepared employee can fumble when a customer sees an outdated sign and expects a price or promotion that is no longer available. The customer may be right from their perspective, but if the label is simply out of date due to human error or a slow instore update you end up with a very unhappy customer and often a lack of a sale.

How can retailers ensure the customer is always right? By giving shoppers the most up-to-date and relevant product information and prices. Just like our customers, that means we’re heading online. For smaller stores, this may mean a simple online system, or for larger franchises, a central price management system. Either way, these can be synced with electronic shelf labels (ESLs) to inform your customers.

Think of an ESL as extension of your in-store employees. These shelf labels can display critical store information, from advertising and promoting discounts, to giving updates on stock availability, to displaying QR codes that provide allergy information and product origins. The customer will receive all the information they would usually receive online from an e-retailer, automatically updating in sync with the retailer’s digital management systems, meaning the information is never outdated or incorrect.

More and more customers are researching products on their phones in advance of making a purchase, whether that’s at home or in-store. They’re accustomed to the wealth of information the digital world offers, and when they come to stores, it’s what they expect. It’s time to extend this experience into stores through the use of ESLs. Stores then have an opportunity to enhance the overall customer experience. Staff spend less time manually updating prices, and more time servicing customers as the ‘experts’ customers speak to if they need assistance.

The customer isn’t always right. But with the right technology in place, we can nudge them in the right direction.

If you are interested in learning more ESLs in retail, you can find more information here on our website– or contact us.