Five Customer Experience Lessons Retailers Can Learn from Foot Locker

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John Wompey, Foot Locker
John Wompey, Foot Locker

The retail industry ain't what it used to be. From beacons and augmented reality to in-store devices and check-out free experiences (here's looking at you, Amazon), brands are constantly coming up with new ways to improve the retail experience to get customers to buy.

While it can be fun to get caught up in the hype, it's important for marketers to remember that some of the best retail practices are the ones that have stood the test of time. At Forrester's CXNYC Forum in New York, John Wompey, VP of customer experience and connectivity for Foot Locker North America, sat down with Lisa Davis, VP of communication for customer experience management solution provider InMoment, to share some customer experience lessons he's learned at the athletic apparel and footwear company. Here are five of his main takeaways.

1. Play defense, not offense, in store

In retail, a lot of brands play offense and push their own agendas based on KPIs, Wompey said. However, he encouraged brands to play defense and respond to customers. Doing so, he noted, will lead to a positive in-store experience and lead to more return visits.

“We know the value of an experience in-store is precious,” he said.

2. Identify your muse

Foot Locker Inc is home to several brands, including Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, and Champs Sports. Wompey said the company has a “muse” for each one. To identify these muses, Wompey said Foot Locker finds core influencers and gets to know them on a deep level, such as by interviewing them or visiting their shoe closet. He then said the company revisits its muses to see if they still represents the brands' core audiences or if they've evolved or matured out.

3. Solicit feedback and optimize your methods for doing so

Customer feedback is key to retailers' success. One way Foot Locker acquires this insight is through surveys. But it doesn't just create a survey, blast it out, and then forget about it. On the contrary, Wompey said that the company was probably on its fifth version of its survey, which it changes based on how customers respond. For instance, he said Foot Locker scaled down its number of survey questions after learning that it previously asked customers too many.

In addition to leveraging surveys, Foot Locker uses InMoment's technology to conduct text analytics and dive deep into customer comments.

4. Focus on authenticity

When a customer entered a Foot Locker store in the past, an associate would greet the customer and then move onto the next, just to check off that he or she had done so, Wompey said. However, he realized that this type of greeting wasn't delivering value. What was delivering value, he noted, was being authentic. So, he said the company stopped holding associates accountable for these hard-driven behaviors and encouraged them to be more authentic.

“You have to empower your associates to do this,” Wompey said.

5. Don't give up on your CX efforts

Brands can be resistant to change, and Wompey said it can be difficult for those championing a better customer experience to keep up the good fight.

“I call it the bloody monkey system,” he said, referencing how chimpanzees will sometimes kill other chimpanzees from outside groups or those who may be opponents (as this Los Angeles Times article explains).

However, he said that it's important for customer experience professionals to keep getting smarter and keep convincing those in upper management that their efforts are worth it.

“The key is keep plugging away,” he said. “Don't ever give up.”

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