There’s widespread belief across the retail industry that “customer experience is the new brand,” and with this comes an abundance of exciting opportunities for today’s retailers. Consumer spending habits are evolving and modern shoppers expect something extraordinary—fully personalised, user-friendly service across multiple devices and touchpoints. Nowadays, a run-of-the-mill digital experience just doesn’t cut it.
In many ways, we’re living through a retail golden age. Those who fully embrace a customer-centric approach, delivering the digital and physical in-store experiences that today’s consumers expect, are sure to get a share of the jackpot.
Bringing the Elements Together
What makes a truly great customer experience? Is it a recommendation? A good price? It’s all about how things work for consumers at every stage of their journey. But tweaking channels isn’t enough, because consumers don’t notice where your brand is. Instead, they take note of how you are represented.
For retailers, the ultimate differentiator in this new world of opportunity is getting every element that makes a great customer experience working together. New channels, new technologies, and rapidly changing consumer habits have turned customer experience on its head. Meeting these goals while setting yourself apart from the competition is key.
Consumers today can buy whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want—and competitive pricing doesn’t always seal the deal. Understanding their needs is a must, with little room for anything below par. For retailers, standing out is the key to success, and that’s where a memorable experience enters the fold.
Experience is the new product. In the past, branding was a product of the marketing team. Now customer experience is the branding. And it includes your customers’ interactions with your brand both before and after purchase. But, optimising the experience on both ends isn’t enough. The typical shopper engages with an average of 2.6 touchpoints before deciding on a product and the brand to buy it from.
Each element of the experience must work holistically to guide customers to where they need to be. Convenience, speed, and value are the name of the game. Service must be personalised, with recommendations for products consumers’ want, even before they know they want them.
Managing expectations across channels isn’t always simple. Luckily, in retail, there are many places for the experience and service to go well, but just as many where opportunities can be missed. Yet, despite obstacles, retail scores high in customer experience compared to other sectors. Delivering the right message at the right time across multiple touchpoints is challenging, even with technology to measure behaviour. Communication must be relevant and consistent, and offers must be convenient to be meaningful.
Technological sophistication is mandatory. Personalised recommendations drive great results, but only when you know everything there is to know about your customer. Without a single view, insights can fail. Add to that customer frustrations with page load times, login requirements, and inadequate in-store tech, and you diminish experience. In an era where every detail matters, retailers need to be as sophisticated as the technology in the user’s hand.
Driving Competitive Advantage Through Experience
A customer-centric structure is key. It’s next to impossible to design an extraordinary customer experience without putting the right framework in place. Breaking down organisational silos and promoting an open culture makes it easier to follow a customer-centric model.
Dedicate staff to managing customer insight, omnichannel strategy, marketing, and brand to set the stage for improving and maintaining experience at the organisational level. With the right structure in place, you can design experiences that cater to individuals, rather than the audience as a whole.
Personalised, customer-centric experiences drive business results. Harness the experience as a marketing tool and use it to drive your business forward. Serve up a great experience and your customer will do your marketing and acquisition for you, sharing with friends and across social channels.
Improve the overall experience and mitigate cart abandonment or poor in-store experiences—events that cost retailers billions of pounds each year. A true customer-first model can boost conversion rates and enhance customer satisfaction in the long run.
Like it or not, brands today are competing in customer experience terms. More than just how something looks and feels, a great experience is about how things work end-to-end.
As the next Uber, Amazon, or Airbnb ponders its next move, the pressure will be on UK retailers to make sure they’re meeting the next wave of customer expectations. To learn more about customer experience management, and where to start allocating funds for an experience-led strategy, follow up with the Customer Experience Management in Retail: Insight Report 2016.