If there has been one constant for retailers in the COVID-19 era, it has been change – changing needs, changing customer expectations, changing challenges, and changing solutions. And few companies have experienced that change in as many ways as omnichannel retailers, given their reliance on both online and in-store sales.
We sat down for an insightful conversation with our customer, Chaitanya Pallapothula, SVP Omnichannel Technology, at leading clothing retailer Tailored Brands. With a portfolio of well-known brands such as Jos. A. Bank and Men’s Wearhouse, Tailored Brands has focused on an innovative approach to integrating digital technologies with the classic experience of shopping for clothes in-store. They’ve also taken on the costly problem of Customer Journey Hijacking, boosting their online conversion rate by 2.36% with Namogoo.
Here is what Chaitanya had to share with Lauren Bermudez, our Director of Field Marketing, about the transformation and challenges facing today’s omnichannel retailers:
Lauren: When it comes to customer experience, what are the biggest ways you feel customers’ needs have changed over the past few years?
Chaitanya: I’d say that over the past few years and particularly this year, those needs have changed dramatically. There’s been a lot of focus on AI and seamless omnichannel experiences, especially for a retailer like us that has both an online and store presence. That focus has allowed us to increase sales and customer loyalty by improving the customer experience.
Another important area of development for us has been analytics – particularly predictive analytics, with the understanding that we could raise our sales numbers by developing the ability to tell which products a given shopper was likely to want and when.
Lauren: How does that new reality put pressure on retailers like Tailored Brands to implement change, and how have you adapted?
Chaitanya: It’s up to retailers like us to meet and even exceed customers’ new needs and expectations. It’s not enough to follow the regulations. We need shoppers to feel safe in our stores and technology can play a major role in making that happen. As a result, we accelerated several new omnichannel initiatives such as BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up In Store), appointments, ship-to-home, and curbside pickup in order to make it faster, safer and easier for our customers to shop.
Overall, we’ve introduced 30 digital and omnichannel capabilities since the beginning of the pandemic making shopping with our brands safer, faster, and easier for our customers and employees and doing our part to keep our communities safe.
Lauren: How do you expect the reality you just described to change over the next year?
Chaitanya: Even if in the future there is less of an urgent need for the innovations of the past year, we expect to see many consumers continue to embrace those technologies and ideas, just because now they have seen how much convenience an omnichannel shopping experience introduces. We certainly expect to see many customers continuing to shop online.
As a result, we will continue to invest in our digital capabilities, both online and in-store. We launched Apple Pay on both our websites and already have touchless payment available in our stores.
Another upcoming feature will enable online customers to connect with an in-store wardrobe consultant who can help them pick out the right clothes while having a video chat with them.
Also, if you’re looking to try on a suit online, our complete look feature recommends you a shirt, socks, shoes, and whatever else you’d need to go with that suit. We are planning to introduce this feature in our NextGen stores. This Digital Lay Down table is a unique retail experience where the customer and associate will co-create their look digitally ahead of trying those physical garments in the fitting room.
Lauren: What is one valuable yet often-overlooked opportunity that eCommerce companies should focus on to improve the online shopping experience for customers?
Chaitanya: Offering dynamic pricing and promotions is one key way retailers can improve the customer experience and boost their own sales. That’s an important aspect of personalization, and doing it effectively requires knowing the customer.
Of course, in general, personalization plays a major role in customer retention, and we know that retaining existing customer loyalty is just as important and valuable as seeking new clientele. One key area of personalization for retailers to focus on is understanding the customer’s intent and then recommending the right product. That’s something that Amazon has done really well and something online retailers should continue to invest in.
Lauren: How do you prioritize your eCommerce projects?
Chaitanya: For every idea/project a team member proposes, they’re expected to submit a hypothesis, a problem statement, a solution, and a list of the KPIs and metrics that the idea/project aims to improve. Everybody has to follow that template; it has become a standard for us.
Lauren: Which online KPIs do you think will become even more important to focus on when measuring success within your company?
Chaitanya: Beyond the standard KPIs – conversion rate, revenue per visitor, revenue per click, and so on – in the future, I expect to pay more attention to how long it takes the customer to submit their order from the time they arrive on our website.
If you can shorten that amount of time, that’s a strong indication of your customer experience and understanding of their needs.
For instance, if you present a certain promotion or a product to specific customers at the right time and then see that their time to checkout is significantly shorter than average, that might show you that your targeting is working very well. And that really speaks to successful personalization that really addresses customers’ needs, interests, and habits.
Lauren: If you had to give one piece of advice to other eCommerce retailers on how to emerge successfully from 2020, what would you say?
Chaitanya: Online has become the default channel for shopping, so most of all, I would say to invest in your digital capabilities while putting the customer front and center in everything you do. That means investing in understanding your customers’ needs so that you can personalize the shopping experience effectively, including offering dynamic pricing and promotions.
And if I could give a second piece of advice, it would be to be mindful of your bottom-line expenses. Because when your top-line is taking a hit — as it is for so many companies this year — you have to be especially careful to spend every dollar carefully and plan ahead.
Lauren: Which eCommerce strategy has best helped you address COVID-19 challenges, and do you expect it to still be critical after the outbreak is over?
Chaitanya: BOPIS, curbside pickup, touchless measurement, and touchless payment have certainly helped us, especially because fit is so important for clothing retailers like us. That way, when a shopper comes to pick up a new article of clothing at a store, they can be assured the garment will be satisfactory.
Some of the other innovative features we’ve introduced have also made a big difference, such as the ability to try on clothes virtually and see how they look on you. And we’ve simplified the processes of entering a rental order and scheduling an appointment to shop in-store.