Customer experience in retail | Old battleground, new battle

Retail­ers must adapt to changes in tech­nol­o­gy to gain new cus­tomers, retain exist­ing ones, and main­tain long-term brand loy­al­ty. Nev­er has this been truer than in today’s age of dig­i­tal con­sumers. The rise of e-com­merce has blurred the lines between dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal retail, leav­ing many busi­ness­es con­fused about how to cap­ture and influ­ence their tar­get cus­tomer who is exposed to a sea of frag­ment­ed brand inter­ac­tions.

How­ev­er, a trans­for­ma­tion is under­way as retail brands aban­don chan­nel-based ini­tia­tives in favor of a cus­tomer-cen­tric approach that focus­es on the expe­ri­ence across all chan­nels. This goes beyond the basics of pro­vid­ing a sim­ple online pres­ence to cre­at­ing unique expe­ri­ences that close gaps in the buy­ing process.

E-com­merce isn’t replac­ing brick and mor­tar

Con­trary to pop­u­lar belief, e-com­merce is not respon­si­ble for the clos­ing of large retail stores. In fact, while in 2015 e-com­merce sales increased 14.6 per­cent over 2014—an addi­tion­al US$43.4 billion—94 per­cent of all sales still hap­pen in store, and this is not pro­ject­ed to drop below 90 per­cent for the next few years.

Dig­i­tal is a gateway—that is, it’s often the start of a cus­tomer jour­ney that leads to oth­er touch­points from the brand and hope­ful­ly results in a con­ver­sion. Today’s con­sumers use both online and offline chan­nels, often start­ing their jour­neys “dig­i­tal­ly” from a mobile device, and end­ing them “phys­i­cal­ly” in a brick-and-mor­tar loca­tion. As a tes­ta­ment, while cus­tomers spent US$35 mil­lion via mobile devices in 2015, this mobile engage­ment helped dri­ve anoth­er US$977 mil­lion in sales tak­en by asso­ciates at reg­is­ters.

To dri­ve this rev­enue, brands need to under­stand and man­age cus­tomer interactions—from the first mobile search through the in-store pur­chase.

It’s the micro-moments that build a brand

The rise of e-com­merce has frag­ment­ed the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence into many seem­ing­ly dis­con­nect­ed touch­points that often occur out­side the brand’s con­trol. The chan­nels that these micro-moments occur through need to be opti­mised to pro­vide a uni­fied expe­ri­ence that guides the cus­tomer toward con­ver­sion.

As an exam­ple, most con­sumers pre­fer web apps over mobile apps when inter­act­ing with retail­ers, so before invest­ing in a strat­e­gy, con­sid­er what val­ue it will pro­vide. Sim­i­lar­ly, phone inter­ac­tions usu­al­ly cen­ter on prices, store hours, and avail­able inven­to­ry. Under­stand­ing how cus­tomers want to inter­act through spe­cif­ic chan­nels helps retail mar­keters man­age their omnichan­nel strate­gies.

Deci­sions are com­plex, with hun­dreds of moments and inter­ac­tions influ­enc­ing the out­come. And while the cap­ture and cor­re­la­tion of these events over time is dif­fi­cult, it is nec­es­sary to effec­tive­ly man­age your dig­i­tal pres­ence in a way that mea­sures and influ­ences the long-term val­ue of a cus­tomer over a life­time of inter­ac­tions.

Dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion through unique expe­ri­ences

Busi­ness­es are exper­i­ment­ing with new ways to rede­fine the in-store expe­ri­ence as well. From Kellogg’s trendy NYC café to Story’s month­ly redesign, brands are find­ing cre­ative ways to cre­ate unique in-store expe­ri­ences that match their dig­i­tal pres­ence.

Busi­ness­es are also empow­er­ing employ­ees with dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy, turn­ing sales asso­ciates into experts to deliv­er a tru­ly per­son­alised expe­ri­ence. For exam­ple, North Amer­i­can Con­sumer Techno­graph­ics found that shop­pers most often look to store asso­ciates to use mobile devices in-store to get prod­uct infor­ma­tion or locate and reserve inven­to­ry. This type of insight allows busi­ness­es to deliv­er the exact in-store expe­ri­ence their cus­tomer is look­ing for.

Con­sumers are also seek­ing sim­plic­i­ty in the shop­ping expe­ri­ence. There is a bot­tle­neck between the deci­sion to pur­chase a prod­uct and the customer’s abil­i­ty to enjoy it. UK retail­er Argos has addressed this by allow­ing cus­tomers to pick up online orders in-store with a guar­an­teed 60-sec­ond vis­it from arrival to exit. The com­pa­ny recent­ly expand­ed this mod­el to include a hub-and-spoke dis­tri­b­u­tion mod­el, so con­sumers can order items while on the train and pick them up des­ig­nat­ed kiosks in Lon­don Under­ground sta­tions.

Cus­tomer expe­ri­ence: The old bat­tle­ground but with a new bat­tle for retail­ers

Retail mar­keters that exploit estab­lished and emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies that make shop­ping con­ve­nient for the cus­tomer, will be suc­cess­ful in deliv­er­ing retail expe­ri­ences that attract and keep new cus­tomers.

Because in the end, cus­tomers just want to shop. They don’t spend time think­ing about how many chan­nels they’re inter­act­ing with your brand through, or the num­ber of devices they’re using. In their minds, the retailer’s role is to pro­vide shop­ping expe­ri­ences that are as effort­less and enjoy­able as pos­si­ble.

For the retail­er, this requires an expe­ri­ence-first cul­ture that uni­fies the brand across all chan­nels and is built upon rig­or­ous test­ing and a com­mit­ment to guid­ing the con­sumer from first dig­i­tal touch to unique in-store con­ver­sion. That is the new bat­tle that retail­ers must fight in this old bat­tle­ground.

To find out more about expe­ri­ence dri­ven com­merce, down­load the Mov­ing Beyond Click and Mor­tar: 5 Steps to Expe­ri­ence Excel­lence report.

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