NEXT: A Profile of E-commerce Done Right in the UK
Despite the dominance of big box chains and online monoliths such as Amazon in the US, when it comes to fashion, apparel and home goods in the UK, many consumers are choosing to be somewhat more discerning when purchasing online. Despite the convenience and growing popularity of multi-vendor platforms such as Lyst, more and more consumers are choosing to buy directly from retailers themselves. How then does one continue to maintain customer loyalty in the face at a time in which convenience, variety and choice remain at an ever-increasing high?
Next : A Giant Among Giants?
With an annual revenue in excess of £4 billion and a total of some 700 brick and mortar stores, it’s plain to see why clothing and home goods retailer Next is the largest apparel retailer in the UK. Having beaten its main competitor, venerable British institution Marks & Spencer, Next’s e-commerce portal boasts of over 3 million active customers annually, securing a consistent place among the world’s top 10 internet retailers. What is Next doing right, other than maintaining a unique brand reputation?
Back to the Future : Multi-Channel Delivery as the Next Step
While online sales growth should be the natural focus for any retailer hoping to compete in 2016 and beyond, more and more consumers are demanding a greater need for synergy between the physical shopping experience and the convenience of online purchasing. Having recognized this early on, reporting that some 20 percent of their online sales are delivered through physical storefronts and 60 percent of online returns are conducted likewise, Next implemented key delivery strategies and options (such as next day-to-store delivery at a reduced price) in conjunction with large format stores, multiple payment options and the ever-popular “click and collect” option that has helped boost online sales to over £1.5 billion.
What is more telling is the mutually coefficient role Next sees in the relationship between online and brick and mortar, and how both are necessary to forging a memorable and holistic customer experience. In Next CEO Lord Wolfson’s words: “What [has] changed is consumer purchasing patterns. Over the last 20 years, consumers have shifted their purchasing habits so they shop for smaller amounts of clothing more frequently and closer to the time they need it. And that means the old way of structuring ranges isn’t appropriate anymore.”
Social Media and Customer Service
A company of Next’s stature is always going to be bound to make the occasional error, but what makes Next so remarkable is their pro-active customer service. In addition to the standard issue resolution platforms of email and phone, Next has chosen to actively engage social media to handle any customer complaints or queries, be it through Twitter or Facebook. What this encourages is the image of Next as being more than a massive but anonymous retail ogre but a friendly and personable entity dedicated to ensuring absolute customer satisfaction.
What this visible pro-activity amounts to is nothing less than maintaining customer loyalty by Next’s very presence. In an age in which multi-vendor retail app usage is at an all-time high, customers want to be reminded that their interests and their values are always firmly at the forefront of any retail practice. And by choosing to the engage with the voice of its customers through social media, Next continues to maintain an identity with its customers.
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