Lush is not a brand that struggles to offer good customer service. The retailer has been in the top five brands for customer experience for almost as long as KPMG Nunwood has been running its annual research. But the company isn’t one to sit on its laurels and so is turning its attention to digital infrastructure in a bid to offer customers an even more seamless shopping environment.
In a first for a major retailer, Lush has built and now launched its own tablet till system. The open-source system includes an app built on Google’s Android that allows its shop staff to roam the store, offering mobile checkout points to customers, as well as personalised product information. The tablet tills are also found where a normal cash desk would be, but they offer faster transactions and more payment options.
The project came about because Lush wanted more control over its technology – both in terms of what it offered and how it could cater to its needs. For example, Lush found that with the major till providers it was paying for services such as marketing tools that would implement discount rates, but this isn’t something the brand needs as it doesn’t discount outside one short sales period. When it did want to make changes it also felt like it was at the back of the queue so it took far too long to implement new ideas.
Jack Constantine, chief digital officer at Lush, tells Marketing Week: “I have been working on digital for over 12 years at Lush, seeing those projects happen year after year and the frustration. We already have our own website, and we wanted to take that digital web approach and bring it into the wider business.”
The boost to customer experience
The till system initially launched in the Oxford Street store and Constantine says the company has already seen clear benefits. At peak times it has seen revenue increase by up to 20% because of the ability to take more transactions, a reduction in queues and a fall in the number of people leaving without buying because the store was too busy.
Because the tills are smaller it also means Lush is able to dedicate additional space to products and offer more tills to one bank. There are also potential cost savings – Constantine estimates it will see around a 75% reduction in capital expenditure, plus it doesn’t have any licence fees and gets a reduced rate on its payment gateway.
“We are seeing cost savings and revenue growth, as well as customer experience improvements. And this is not over; we are laying the foundations for how retail and digital come together to provide the ultimate customer experience,” adds Constantine
“As a beauty and cosmetics company we have learnt a lot around building our own hardware and software. It has given us so much more control as retailer. It has been a learning curve and it might sound a bit crazy but actually the benefits of the process we have gone through are unquantifiable.”
We are laying the foundations for how retail and digital come together to provide the ultimate customer experience.
Jack Constantine, Lush
Having trialled the system in one store, it has now rolled it out to its top 10 outlets and plans to have it in all UK stores within six months, ahead of a global roll-out to all its 950 shops worldwide. And Lush is already looking at ways to improve the system.
For example, while it already works with gift cards and allows email receipts, Constantine wants to upgrade the system so email receipts could also include product information, or people could create wish-lists to send themselves from the in-store tablets.
“We are looking at how the service could help support product information, wish-listing – things where we can see more benefits and perks benefiting customers. Our ability as a team in the digital department is to be able to respond quickly to feedback and implement new ideas in one or two weeks,” adds Constantine.
Integrating Lush’s ethical stance into tech
Another key way that Lush’s new till system is different from those already on the market is in its focus on ethics. The company has looked at the hardware, software and data management to ensure it aligns with its brand purpose.
“Our vision is to introduce ethics into the digital market and work on how Lush wants to navigate that digital landscape ethically,” says Constantine. “The till project is a good way to tackle those issues that affect major parts of the business. It is in every shop and also looks at the hardware, software and data – so it covers all three areas where we want to build a policy on digital ethics.
The fact the till system is built on Android means it can be used on almost every tablet and smartphone, while the back office estate is powered by a cloud system run on 100% renewable energy. Lush is also considering e-waste and the issue of conflict materials being used in tech, looking at ways of cleaning up its supply chain and how products are disposed of.
Lush also plans to make its till software open-source and will allow ethical businesses, charities, NGOs and small companies to use it to create their own till system.
“We are keen to demonstrate to [other businesses] the benfits. The mission is to disrupt the software-selling marketplace where all these sharks appear and charge enterprises through the nose for their business tools. We want to see a mentality shift and send a message by going open-source that there are free, good quality versions.”