I was recently invited to contribute to CX Factor, a web series hosted by Mark Fidelman, CEO of Fanatics Media, that shines a spotlight on world-class brands known for delivering smarter, superior experiences to today’s modern, connected customers. The episode in which I participated featured Sunil Bhardwaj, SVP, technology, platform, and data science for Kohl’s.
The interview is content-rich, though the following points stood out:
Kohl’s website’s search feature, for instance, is the main product finder for customers. Detecting that search relevance was not optimized and both scalability and conversion rates had plateaued, Kohl’s transformed the search experience using open source and big data technologies. And Kohl’s has long been lauded for its “Hassel-Free” returns policy for all purchases. My only recommendation to Kohl’s would be to move its returns department and in-store online pick-up from the back corner of the store (e.g., Arapahoe Crossings location) to the front. This will further reduce customer effort – which is the goal of a frictionless customer experience.
Agile is a disciplined project management method that encourages an iterative approach to process improvement with frequent inspection and adaptation. Kohl’s recognizes that when you run fast (to adjust to fashion trends, consumer preferences, new technology, competition, etc.) you have to be very disciplined as well. Kohl’s uses a “test and target” methodology to identify a subset of customers, establish key performance indicators (KPIs), analyze site metrics, and solicit end user feedback. In doing so, they’re able to decipher the “voice of the customer” embedded in the process and make midcourse corrections to deliver an enhanced customer experience.
Recognizing the opportunity for synergy (where one plus one equals three or more), Kohl’s works with a community of select vendor partners. By meeting regularly with these partners to “pitch” for what they are doing, Kohl’s is able to learn what these niche start-ups are trying to accomplish for retailers, keep up with industry trends, and incorporate these lessons into its business strategy. And just yesterday I read an article announcing Kohl’s recent partnership with Amazon. Eighty-two stores in the Chicago and Los Angeles areas will soon accept return items from Amazon. Kohl’s will pack and ship the merchandise back to Amazon free of charge. Kohl’s will also sell the Alexa-enabled Echo speaker, Fire TV, tablets, and other Amazon-branded devises at 10 of its stores.
By providing a frictionless customer experience, employing agile methods for process improvement, and identifying creative partnerships, Kohl’s is evolving into a digitally focused company that gets customers the products they want, when (and how) they want them.
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