Consumer • Digital • Growth

Olympics eye-opener for retail practices

About a year ago, I had made up my mind to attend the Olympics in London, knowing fully well that I was going to witness a great sporting spectacle. But I had little idea then what an amazing retail experience it would turn out to be as well!

It started with the tickets. I registered myself on the official website and listed the events I wanted to watch. I would get regular e-mail updates whenever tickets for these events became available. However, as the last window for buying tickets opened in May, it was a big scramble.

In the first round, I was charged £6.0 for delivery. But when I bought more tickets the next day, there was no delivery charge because my previous purchase hadn’t been shipped yet. Meanwhile, the site remembered my credit card number to facilitate an easy check out. All I needed to do was enter security codes. This was the first time I had such a great online shopping experience.

I think one of the biggest challenges for London 2012 organisers was to deliver a world-class experience to the visitors to the Games, especially to those from abroad. This experience was delivered by thousands of trained and courteous volunteers who were supported by high-quality processes, systems and content.

The millions of guests visiting from different parts of the world, speaking different languages and from different cultures, were treated like customers visiting a mall. It was one of the best examples of customer service I have ever experienced!

I think the key was in setting up quality processes and communication as well as having a large number of volunteers (“store associates”) all over London. Before the beginning of each event, the audience was explained the nuances of the sport, how the scoring is kept and what sort of tactics one could expect from players. The quality and clarity of content used during these 30 minutes made me feel like an expert. This not only helped me enjoy my event to the best but also helped me develop interest towards that sport.

Then I decided to check out stores of the same brand in Central London as well as in the newly opened mall at the Olympic Park in Westfield. The experience was different. Both places were stocked with their range, nothing was unavailable.

One of my purchases was checked out without removing the security tag and I had to come back next day to get that removed. Perhaps the technology used by this brand was under stress because it certainly wasn’t the staff! And since I had to travel all the way back to the Olympic park for this, the store manager decided to reward me with a gift voucher!

Towards the end of our stay, my wife decided to visit a Royal Post outlet to buy some Olympic stamps and she was offered a new one with the boxer Nicola Adams. Adams had only two days back won the Gold, having defeated Mary Kom in the semis. I was surprised to see the efficiency and speed of printing the stamp and making it available at their outlets within such a short time. A great example of efficient plan-distribute and sale model of modern retail.

All these practices and systems were based on common sense. The volunteers were just ensuring they did their jobs sincerely — delivering the experience they had planned to!

From a series of articles commissioned by DNA (Money) dated 22 August 2012.


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