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Sue Shepherd, general manager at London Designer Outlet (LDO) – the capital’s leading fashion and lifestyle outlet centre – discusses the importance of good customer service

With notable brands exiting the high street, consumers mastering the art of online shopping, and a country now accustomed to sitting  at home, the ongoing challenge for retail destinations is encouraging the British public to leave their newfound comfort zones and remind them why they fell in love with the shopping experience in the first place.

As retail begins reopening across the country, Sue Shepherd, Realms’ general manager for London Designer Outlet (LDO) says it is important to remember that consumers embrace of online retail was borne predominantly out of necessity. The responsibility, she says, now falls to customer service teams to create a safe and welcoming environment and make sure that guests can have positive experiences when they return to physical retail spaces.

“When we get that balance right, our guests have a great time with us,” says Shepherd. “As convenient as online shopping can be, transactions on a screen can never replace the experience of physical shopping.”

At LDO, the Guest Services team has been front-and-centre in welcoming back shoppers, making sure every guest has a memorable time whilst keeping safe. Shepherd says that, for many shoppers, just seeing members of the team in the centre donned in clear face masks to greet shoppers with a smile and give out helpful advice has been hugely reassuring, and has given them the comfort that a strong customer service culture exists within the destination.

Hoping to reinforce shopper allegiance and restrengthen relationships which might have waned over lockdown, LDO is rolling out a new digital loyalty programme following a trial of a marketing and customer relationship management platform between lockdowns with loyalty solutions provider Coniq.

“Technology like this, supported by our click-and-reserve service ‘The LDO Edit’ and app-based store-to-door delivery service ‘Dropit’, helps ensure guests can make the most of their visits and enjoy the experience, helping to drive footfall to our brands and increasing sales,” says Shepherd.

Despite the ongoing restrictions and the online-shift, she remains optimistic about the future of bricks-and-mortar retail: “While more of us have shopped online than ever before over the last year, what we at London Designer Outlet have seen since retail reopened is that people are eager to return to their favourite stores.

“A physical shopping experience, enhanced by technology, will always be appealing to guests. Destinations that embrace this will thrive – to the benefit of our guests and our brands.”

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