retail trends and forecasts

Retail trends: facilities managers as customer experience experts

The current era is often called the e-commerce era, a pronouncement usually accompanied by a doom-and-gloom forecast for the future of traditional retail. But the real retail trend is toward an era of omnichannel commerce necessitating integrated customer experience across all channels. This poses a significant challenge, and is bringing a new player to the forefront of customer satisfaction: the facilities manager.

Keeping today’s customer satisfied means delivering a consistent experience across touchpoints; in fact, 75% of customers demand it. And while UX and CX (user experience and customer experience) are commonly thought to be the province of online marketing professionals, if the in-store experience is to meet expectations, facilities managers must up their game to embrace innovative approaches for enhancing and enlivening both the store environment and the activity of buying.

Four things every facilities manager should include in their future plans

Here is a very partial primer on how you, as a facilities manager, can prove your value as a new breed of customer experience expert:

1. Push for integrated facilities management
The concept of integrated facilities management typically comes up when discussing increased efficiencies in managing the physical plant. It is also, however, key to delivering a superior customer experience. This can be as “simple” as smart bathroom systems that monitor supplies and optimize restocking so that no customer is left with wet hands but no hand towels.

It may also be as complex as unifying disparate legacy systems, to empower the kind of “seamless selling” that, for instance, enables stores to pick up a conversation on product details that a customer started online, rather than make them repeat questions or concerns already posed.

2. Make mobile move your customers
Some 73% of customers use multiple channels during their purchase journey, often simultaneously, and their mobile devices are key to effectively integrating those channels into one reliable path to purchase.

In the early smartphone years, seeing those devices in the aisles meant just one thing: showrooming, the phenomenon of consumers using your store as a see-it-in-person showroom, while using their phone as a buy-it-online price comparison service. Today, however, you can make the mobile positives far outweigh the negatives by leveraging mobile for everything from real-time promotional offers synced to a customers path through a store, to augmented reality demos of product performance, to the kind of instant customer feedback that could prevent a premature exist from your store.

With 57% of consumers already willing to connect via mobile and be guided in-store, in real time, to new products and promotions, the opportunity to move the needle with mobile is enormous.

3. Take (remote) control
As you look at software and systems to help deliver quality and consistency in customer experience, look especially to those that allow you, as facilities manager, the most varied, centralized control – typically delivered via a dashboard that you can access via computer, tablet and/or phone. To keep up with customers (and easily contact staff wherever they may be) you will need the ability to monitor and control all experience factors remotely, from changes to in-store signage to the status of in-restroom cleanliness, to that run on today’s special that needs to be restocked ASAP.

4. Push vendors and partners to get creative, too
Beyond pushing management for investment and staff for commitment, you should push vendors to be active partners in improving customer experience. Can they provide education, entertainment or other forms of engagement that make their products part of an exceptional, exciting experience in your stores? Today’s value-added partner should be adding to customer experience first and foremost.

Today’s successful facilities manager will position themselves as an essential player in shaping how the customer interacts with, and feels about, a retail brand. However, delivering a seamless, integrated customer experience is, of course, a bigger task than any individual can take on. Facilities management executives will need to push for a seat at the organization’s overall business strategy table, to encourage the kind of silo-busting collaboration required to capture, captivate and keep customers, no matter which channel they ultimately buy through.

Cushman & Wakefield: Retail Facilities Management Trends 2019
Sodexo: Top Facilities Management Trends to Watch
Nielsen: The 2020 Vision for US Retail and Beyond
Salesforce: Omnichannel Retail and Beyond