Chief Retail Officer sees connections and collaboration as key to Office Depot’s future

Discussion
Source: Office Depot
Mar 15, 2022

Office Depot is combining humanity and technology to become more customer focused.

Kevin Moffitt, EVP and Chief Retail Officer for The ODP Corporation, speaking at the recent eTail West 2022 conference, shared how his company’s e-commerce team is applying user-centered design (UCD) techniques and expertise from store associates to create more connection points with stores, customers and communities.

Mr. Moffitt, who was one of the most engaging and animated presenters at the conference, stated that “internal alignment and collaboration are critical to being truly customer focused, and it’s not about the website or the store — it’s about the customer.”

Below are examples of how Office Depot is harvesting, packaging and communicating compelling content inside and outside of the organization to enhance engagement.

  • Pivot videos are used to communicate promotion launches, new products and operational tips throughout the organization.  
  • Advocacy packages, individual product or product combinations that employees have identified to solve real customer problems, are documented and used internally to inform merchandising and store operations as well as externally in email marketing campaigns. While other retailers presenting at the conference shared how store associates stepped into digital CSR and social influencer roles, Office Depot took this a step further and packaged up knowledge for internal and external purposes.
  • Office Depot shares the credit for curbside delivery, where more than one million transactions in 2021 were fulfilled in 20-minutes at an almost 100 percent on-time rate. “Rather than worrying about who gets credit for the sale, prioritize opportunities for digital and physical connections to create a virtuous customer cycle,” said Mr. Moffitt.  Since the conference, Office Depot has announced it will provide on-demand delivery from its 1,000 Office Depot and OfficeMax stores through a partnership with DoorDash. 
  • Start Proud, a community investment initiative, is powered by an integrated B2B distribution platform and volunteer associates. In 2021 Office Depot assembled and delivered 18,000 backpacks filled with educational supplies to students and teachers, enhancing community relations.  
  • Monday meet-ups digitally connect store general managers with corporate leaders and one another to share information and momentum.

It’s a fact that customers who connect in multiple ways have a much greater lifetime value. Mr. Moffitt believes that “store associates are the heart of operation” and that “digital teams can help optimize customer relationships through the use of user-centered design, usability, focus groups and other techniques.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are retailers generally more focused on technology than human intelligence? Is store personnel expertise leveraged as much as it should be?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The more connection points that a retailer can make with a customer, the more valuable the relationship."
"What he is also talking about is local interactions with the community as well, building the many touch points with their customers and making them feel valued."
"I applaud Kevin Moffitt for his efforts to 'prioritize opportunities for digital and physical connections to create a virtuous customer cycle.'"

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16 Comments on "Chief Retail Officer sees connections and collaboration as key to Office Depot’s future"


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Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Turns out that it’s a great idea to have a whole store behave like a Genius Bar or Geek Squad. Or to put it into very old fashioned terminology, make it all about customer service. Customer service in the 2020s looks a little different than it did last century.

DeAnn Campbell
BrainTrust

Retail has been focused on e-commerce and technology for too long, ignoring the fact that over 70 percent of sales still happen through some form of brick-and-mortar. Office Depot is ahead of the curve in re-engineering their business around the customer rather than around technology. Leveraging the collective learnings of frontline staff, and aligning the entire company around those learnings, is a brilliant move that should quickly yield results.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust
Funny that Office Depot came up today. My spouse’s printer died last Friday and we had to go on an Easter Egg hunt to find a new one. Amazon was charging too much, for sure. Office Depot/Office Max seemed to have better prices, so we trundled off to the nearest store. NONE. Seriously. NONE. Not expensive, not cheap, just none. They were all on display, and we were even willing to buy a floor model. Once we found an associate (there were a grand total of TWO working in the whole 15,000 square foot store), his answer was “We don’t sell floor models.” And that was that. No conversation, nothing. Of course, I don’t really blame him. That’s a big store for two guys to cover, and one was tucked behind a counter. We went out to Brandsmart (a local big box electronics/appliance retailer) and they had exactly what we wanted. Yes, we paid about $30 more than I would have expected, but that was better than the $150+ extra we would have paid on… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Paula, that’s been my experience as well. The stores are a mess, the inventory is spotty at best and barely merchandised, and the staffs seem demoralized. They might be better off exiting brick-and-mortar altogether.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

So … They may not be listening to customers because customers might say something far simpler — that they want good stores, well staffed and well stocked with products that matter.

That said, I feel some empathy for CEOs who have to invent things to say to investors or they’ll lose their jobs. Reminds me of a Warren Buffet quote from 1984: “Most managers have very little incentive to make the intelligent-but-with-some-chance-of-looking-like-an-idiot decision. Their personal gain/loss ratio is all too obvious: if an unconventional decision works out well, they get a pat on the back and, if it works out poorly, they get a pink slip. (Failing conventionally is the route to go; as a group, lemmings may have a rotten image, but no individual lemming has ever received bad press.)”

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I worked for a retailer that was owned by VCs. I was on the operating committee. Every quarter, we’d go off-site to make up our “story” for the quarterly board meeting. Maybe this is just another manifestation of that. Behind the scenes, all the M&A that has been going on does not really give the accretive benefits promised. Maybe it’s time to just stop.

Karen S. Herman
BrainTrust

For the past few years, Office Depot has been innovating and investing in technology that has led to today’s digital teams that can collaborate and effectively apply user-centered design to improve the customer experience. Office Depot invested in focus groups from as early as 2014 to gain insight that led to the smaller footprint and small business focused Store of the Future roll-out in 2017. These investments in innovation helped to refined the user-centered design that is Office Depot’s current focus and I applaud Kevin Moffitt for his efforts to “prioritize opportunities for digital and physical connections to create a virtuous customer cycle.”

Andrew Blatherwick
BrainTrust

Three cheers for the CEO of Office Depot for articulating what many of us know and have been talking about for some time. Get the right staff, well motivated, trained and working together with one focus, the customer, and you are on to a winner. The store staff are the heart of the organization and using technology to help them, train them and share information across the organization is the best use of technology not for its own sake. What he is also talking about is local interactions with the community as well, building the many touch points with their customers and making them feel valued. Well done! It can only lead to more success for Office Depot.

Brian Delp
BrainTrust
4 months 29 days ago

I think connecting more to stores is a great idea, however there have to be some clear boundaries and acknowledgment that it is a partnership. Bed Bath & Beyond is one case study example as they have been doing this for many years. Stores are able on their own to have a localized approach and opt into programs. However there have been instances where the buying team has been at the mercy of a wide range of overwhelming opinions. Bloomingdale’s has an excellent program of “specialists” that are trained in select departments. It’s certainly an easier task to manage with the small number of locations, but this created a forum and structure for trained field staff to communicate with corporate.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

The more connection points that a retailer can make with a customer, the more valuable the relationship. The key is that the experiences for the customer, across channels are consistent and positive. By focusing technology on connecting the interpersonal and digital experiences, Office Depot is really on the right track here.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

As today’s discussion regarding Walgreens is a perfect example of lack of customer-centricity, Home Depot goes entirely in the opposite direction.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

Certainly nothing to disagree with in what’s reported about the general idea. Customers are, as they always have been, the core of success. So we must take into account what serves them best to make progress. On the other hand — the list of actions isn’t very exciting. I had hoped for something showing insight but we seem to have a list of typical corporate actions.

Scott Norris
Guest
Back to the future and everything old is new again – the Twin Cities office supply store chain where I cut my teeth in the 1980s, St. Paul Book & Stationery, had a dozen 5,000 square foot locations around the metro supported by a massive central warehouse and same-day delivery for our corporate accounts like 3M, Honeywell, General Mills, Northwest Airlines, etc. All us store clerks were expected and encouraged to help customers problem-solve; you could get personalized, professional service seven days a week – from printers to wedding invitations to office furniture to teaching supplies to art projects. And many store staff were “lifers” who really knew their stuff! The formula worked great for 130 years, and we repulsed the first wave of discounters like BizMart. Then our owner sold out, the new guy harvested our assets and cash flow, and we were out of business in three years just as Office Max rolled into town. Customer service at any of the office supply chains is but a pale imitation of what you could… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

To be honest I’m not sure retailers are focused on either, at least as well as they should be, but I think too many retailers trust their systems more than their people — and by people I mean their employees and their customers. Obviously, with some notable exceptions, most store personnel could be better leveraged. But before you can do that you have to learn to listen to them, reward them properly, and give them the skills they require. As to Office Depot, the website might be fine (technology), but the stores are embarrassing (human intelligence).

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust
Depends on the retailer. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that tech is a tool for human intelligence to do their jobs better. Store personnel expertise is hard to leverage because of high store turnover and low barrier to entry for employees to come on board. The real expertise comes in the form of knowing how to use the technology correctly. A neat example was after leaving a Cabela’s store, my child was reviewing the receipt and noticed that we hadn’t paid for a tent we had purchased; it wasn’t scanned nor on the receipt. I asked my son what to do (teaching moment). As we were in a sleet storm and almost home, he suggested calling the store to ask them. We called the store and spoke to the associate on the phone. He said hang on a moment as he checked the recent purchases at the store. He first asked whether we can return to store or he can take a credit card over the phone, but I mentioned we’re driving and almost home… Read more »
Anil Patel
BrainTrust

I feel retailers should be human-focused first and then tech-focused. I have often observed retailers not ensuring proper knowledge transfer when it comes to using digital equipment. Store staff will never be able to deal with modern-day customer needs if they are not confident with the tools they are using.

Worse still, onboarding store staff for new initiatives becomes awfully difficult for retailers. I remember one of the retailers sharing how their employees hate it whenever they are asked to learn something new. To prevent store staff from rejecting new tech initiatives, retailers need to look out for these few things:

  • The digital initiatives they are implementing should be easy enough to grasp and use.
  • Come up with better strategies to deal with change management.
  • Ensure accurate knowledge transfer before they directly practice tech initiatives with the walk-in customers.

By doing this, retailers will be able to develop store personnel expertise and ultimately ensure a deeper relationship with customers.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The more connection points that a retailer can make with a customer, the more valuable the relationship."
"What he is also talking about is local interactions with the community as well, building the many touch points with their customers and making them feel valued."
"I applaud Kevin Moffitt for his efforts to 'prioritize opportunities for digital and physical connections to create a virtuous customer cycle.'"

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