With ASOS citing IT as a key factor in its profit slump in recent days, should fast growth retail companies be looking to the cloud?
According to ASOS’ CEO, Nick Beighton, the last financial year was a “pivotal period” for the former fashion sector darling, which saw profits fall 68%. The company blamed issues with their new distribution centres in the US and Germany, saying that their systems were unable to meet demand from on-trend customers in the 237 countries they ship to.
Compare that to the slick expansion of ASOS’s rival Boohoo, a business with a greater market cap but a UK-only distribution system. For fashion-hungry 16-30s, what matters is getting their Friday night outfit in time, no matter the warehouse it comes from. And when an order comes with a side of delay or stock issues, retention will only be possible through outstanding Customer Experience (CX).
That doesn’t just mean being super responsive on your social channels. Whether you’re offering support via friendly sales advisors, SMS capabilities or a toll-free phone line, what matters is the quality of your engagement with customers, not to mention the consistency of experience across different channels. Get these things wrong – on top of any other purchasing or fulfilment issues – and your business will struggle to win back loyalty.
As a business grows, its CX operations will need to scale up too. Typically, a good CX strategy will be built around a centralized contact centre and/or CRM. And while this might start off as multiple physical centres in each operational market, arguments for centralizing and migrating these components to the cloud only become stronger the more you scale.
No! Holds barred. Cloud as a CX differentiator
Forget about telling customers that their call is important while they’re number 63 in the queue – you need to devote enough resources to your contact centre so customers aren't stuck on hold. This goes beyond having the requisite manpower to answer the phone and actually includes having enough bandwidth available on your underlying telecoms infrastructure to handle peaks in call volumes. The cloud facilitates rapid and agile expansion in the voice capabilities of your CX operations – just what’s needed when a celebrity tags a product and sales shoot through the roof.
Most importantly, cloud enables you to differentiate your business by making your CX a true competitive advantage. Look for a CX uplift at the point of sale and beyond, including driving engagement and repeat purchases through better support and outbound sales and marketing campaigns.
For giants like Netflix or Airbnb, their (cloud-enabled) CX is a core competency, not just an add-on, and it’s increasingly important for fashion retailers too. Owning every touchpoint with your customers, building on the data from every interaction and making it easy to get seamless support across devices means creating new value for your business and owning the sweet spot between customer experience and customer service.
Driving into new markets – cloud as an enabler
Smart businesses are not just using cloud for in-bound customer contact however. A leading electrical car manufacturer recently expanded across Europe comms-first in order to massively cut their market research and entry costs. They used cloud telephony to establish virtual sales rooms ahead of investing in-market as ASOS has done. By doing so, they rapidly and cost-effectively entered new markets for the low cost of a toll-free phone line, getting a sense of the latent demand for their product before establishing a physical presence
For businesses built around apps, cloud communications can also provide a localised, embedded SMS and voice function to achieve cutting-edge CX.
Don’t mind the B word: Compliance in the cloud
Expansion across Europe – a key consideration for those facing the likely downturn of a post Brexit UK economy – previously brought complex communications and telephony compliance issues. 28 countries have 28 different sets of telecommunications regulators. But today, cloud communications can be (and should be) just as compliant as your legacy telephony.
For us at Voxbone, it is at the heart of our technology. This means retail businesses concerned about the regulatory hurdles of jumping into Europe can rest a little easier. Although cloud alone can’t perhaps settle the whole Brexit debate!
Whether in fast fashion, fast cars or fast food, cloud solutions are providing agile options to bold retail businesses. Cloud communications specifically can be a positive point of CX differentiation, an efficient route to multi market localisation and a compliant route to expansion.
Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?
Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.