For those unfamiliar with the British high street or retail park, Halfords is the best known store in the country for buying bicycles and car accessories. However, like any other retailer, it has had its challengers, particularly in cycling. As the sport took off massively after London 2012, Halfords was pretty open about how it was having to share a lot of that interest with start-up retailers such as Evans Cycles and online specialist Wiggle. These smaller, faster-moving stores carry fewer legacy issues and have strong reputations for customer service. They compete on advice far more than price.
So, amid all the talk of how Halfords is repositioning itself to move away from price and focus more on an emotional message, the fact that it has begun to offer e-receipts this year caught my eye. It underscores how the brand is serious about removing legacy issues -- namely crossing channels to span the gulf between stores and online. It's always a surprise that more retailers don't do the same. Apple is the first brand that comes to mind for offering e-receipts, but I can't think of too many others. Considering that it gives an opportunity to enrich your understanding of an existing customer or add a new name to your database, it's surprising more brands don't follow suit. It makes perfect sense for Halfords, for example, which might want to follow up on whether I have summer or winter cycling gloves to go with my new purchase, maybe remind me of a maintenance plan or let me know when a new range of shorts or helmets are in.
The truly reassuring part of Halfords' reinvention is that it isn't just a case of changing top-line strategy to appealing to emotions as well as wallets. No -- it's that it clearly wants to do the tech stuff too, starting with the apparently easier stuff, and link channels to improve customer insight through the simplest of services that customers often see as a win-win. My receipts stored on a system, I don't have to save a scrap of paper and the worst can that happen is the next email i get from the brand will be targeted.