Listen and learn from the customer the Next way
Adopting some quite daring and savvy business strategies, all with the customer in mind and how they want to shop at the core, culminated in the company having their best financial results yet. As simple and straightforward as it seems, many brands and retailers are still failing to respond to the needs of the customer, and losing out in business.
Next have not had the most successful years recently – caused by factors including intense competition on the High Street – but in 2013 it pulled up its bootstraps and wholly embraced a multichannel sales strategy, with the customer at its heart. As pioneers of the first glossy home catalogue and then online shopping (for home, kids and fashion) they have expanded their core retail presence (floor space in stores increased by 4% in 2013).
A brave move into ‘adjusted buying’ ( moving into a four season cycle rather than the traditional two) means that they have been listening to their customers and addressing their needs (realising that as shoppers, we want to buy closer to and in the season, not in advance of it) and making the right seasonal clothing available at the right time. In addition the new free next-day delivery to store conveyed the message of speed and convenience alongside the standard next day home delivery. They also successfully capitalised on the rise in online demand (up 12.4%) which all contributed to the company’s profit increase.
Equally importantly, and ever mindful of the fickle marketplace, the company are not resting on their laurels. Chief Executive Lord Woolfson wants to increase staff customer service skills which he believes are “good but not consistently outstanding” – further emphasising their commitment to be better at customer service. He continued that they still have “the opportunity to improve both the consistency and quality” of their customer service. This is music to our ears.
The cold hard fact is that there has been a “consumer awakening” and customers are now in charge. Businesses, like Next, who recognize this, and the special challenges that it presents, are poised to be the new 21st Century customer service heroes.