Customer experience, as a whole, has become the key differentiator for most customers.
In fact, according to a Walker study, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. It’s a perfect illustrator of the case of the price premium, and why things have shifted so much to focus on CX. It applies precisely to retail customer experience from every vantage point and has escalated even further on into 2022, post-pandemic. That’s why the leaders in eCommerce (Amazon being the spearhead) have grown at a prolific rate. Direct-to-customer (D2C) is a massive retailing wave, threatening to drown consumer entities that ignore it. Indeed, COVID-19 undoubtedly energized this retail revolution taking hold and gaining traction by the day. Here are two key questions that give us the best way to dive into the subject:
- What is it that consumers are looking for in a differentiated retail customer experience?
- What do retailers need to do to match their expectations?
Based on your answers, the most groundbreaking strategies your team should follow for retailing success will emerge. Read on to learn more.
But first—what is retail customer service, and why is it a key focus?
Retail customer experience covers all the touchpoints from end to end in the interaction between retailers and their customers. It starts with gaining attention, and stretches to include after-sales service, then repeat orders to keep the customer life cycle going as long as possible. Extending life cycles is the essence of establishing brand loyalty.
Thrown into the retail customer experience process are several vital junctures, such as product selection, delivery, and aftercare support (to mention only a few of multiple touchpoints). Moreover, it cuts across every vertical, from physical facilities to digital channels like a retailer’s web presence, mobile apps, and social media platforms.
Thus, nothing matters more than retail CX to grow revenue-pushing home this same point in the introduction above. For example:
- Accenture research shows that nearly 50% of adult shoppers were on the wrong end of poor service in physical store interactions. The metric leaps substantially when only looking at millennials who are adamant they resist traditional outlet shopping wherever possible.
- Glance’s research-centric report tells us nearly 80% of customers surveyed jumped off the retail customer journey with brands based solely on inadequate (and ultimately disruptive) retail CX touchpoints.
- Zendesk research indicates that it takes a single disappointing touchpoint for 50% of consumers (even loyal brand customers) to abandon ship; that’s how sensitive the situation is. Moreover, in line with the Glance findings (see above), 80% of respondents said they wouldn’t risk giving brands a second chance if the first retail CX was below expectations.
So, based on the above reliable feedback and the Walker observation cited in our introduction, it’s clear that you can only ignore the cruciality of retail CX at your business’s peril. In fact, it implies that marketing executives should critically focus on retail customer journeys by mapping out the latter’s touchpoints and evaluating each one.
A question that invariably arises when revenues disappoint is, “Who killed the sale?” That’s fair, but it spells massive trouble ahead when you don’t know where or how to begin answering it. Thus, avoid stress and aggravation while enjoying sales growth by locking into the strategies below.
Five retail CX strategies that will make a difference in 2023
1. Give your employees data-driven ammunition to make better decisions.
Do you realize that accurate, current, relevant, and seamlessly accessible data is the most valuable asset for any business? Hackers worldwide are trying every trick in the book to steal it, with good reason. Yet many retail marketers have it in their backyard ripe for the picking, but don’t recognize its accessibility. So, use data to give your employees the facts, and you’ll change their behavior from a shotgun approach (“hit-or-miss”) to sniper rifle precision. The net result will be fewer corrupted touchpoints and fast remedial action when the latter raises its ugly head.
Companies like Sogolytics provide customer feedback analytics tools that deliver real-time data from every touchpoint connected to the brand—positive, negative, or neutral. Moreover, it doesn’t take hours to decipher the information. Why? Because the data streams through in easily digestible formats (thanks to AI advances, see below). Consultation entities like this are worth their weight in gold, creating systems that convert tremendous volumes of data across multiple channels into mind-blowing insights with a high probability of success. What better way to dismiss guesswork and apply reliable, trustworthy methodologies? The results of shifting to data deployment are:
- Passionately motivated staff committed to jobs that deliver on their promise
- Significant time-saving
- Less customer and employee frustration
- A foundation of trust replacing suspicion and uncertainty
2. Focus on multiple channels and retail CX touchpoints.
In 2018, Amazon reported that the digital era had evolved to the point where nine out of ten consumers deploy at least two devices seamlessly and without interruption on a shopping journey. This involved activities like:
- Checking reviews
- Comparing prices
- Perusing descriptions
- Watching videos on the fly
- Contacting technical support
- Conversing with agents on live-chat formats
Brand interaction knows no geographic boundaries. Getting answers takes minutes (not days), and sharing can go viral even when the sharers don’t intend it to do so. The truth of the matter is it’s a wonderful happening for customers, but it makes retailers’ lives severely complicated. Tracking all the zigzagging touchpoints becomes a seismic challenge that only a few marketers fully master. However, it’s possible, and brand strategists should not rest until they do.
Consider the following: Wunderman Thompson’s research indicates that 42% of consumers expect their RCX to smoothly align connecting touchpoints in all the channels they use. Thus, a seamless experience across all devices and physical store visits is crucial to four in every ten customers. In short, unless your business is retail customer experience-centric in every department from the factory to the warehouse, IT, physical stores, client support, accounting, marketing, sales, advertising, aftercare service, and more, destructive touchpoints will inevitably encroach on your processes. It defines an overriding approach versus erratically deploying tactics here and there.
3. Personalize your service.
Customer retention is the lifeblood of successful brands. The latter, in turn, results from unique and differentiated retail customer experiences. In a world where competitors pirate and copy products – even with patents intact – how you engage your customers creates loyalty. Forrester’s research, backed up by several similar studies, reveals that 75%+ of consumers are willing to pay more and try out new variations without resistance to brands they are loyal to. It goes on to say that “loyalty” aligns closely with a “personalized experience.” So how do retailers do that? Here are some simple suggestions to begin with:
- Address customers by name wherever possible in communications
- Remember birthdays
Old hat, you say. Everyone’s already doing it! You’d think so, but then if you’re not and competitors are, it’s a huge step backward. However, it’s not nearly enough – springboarding off the above is where you’ll gain real traction. Once you’ve rated customers as “loyal,” plus you have an excellent rapport one-on-one, use that advantage to reward them with products, discounts, and recognition for feedback and recommendations. Even when the latter connects to something negative, there’s no better way to right the ship.
The customer data doesn’t lie: Enterprises show that most customers respond to “by-name service,” so it shouldn’t be any different in the SMB sector. Use every opportunity by email, letter, or direct contact to show customers they stand out from the crowd. As a result, they are more likely to forgive your touchpoint missteps. For example:
- Analyze a customer’s past buying behavior
- Recommend better buys and discounts
- Recap how you derived your recommendations
Undoubtedly, in a case like this, the customer will see the relevance, driving the message home that they’re not lost in a vast client base. Aside from imparting take-home value advice, it’s another way to use your support teams with proactive interactions.
4. Climb on to the AI bandwagon before it leaves the station.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are doing wonders for customer-oriented companies, keeping them ahead of the curve. The impact on retail CX has been nothing short of astounding. For example, several retail CX intelligence tools have integrated AI systems via Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology. Thus, they can take on vast data inflows from various sources (e.g., reviews, surveys, and more) to:
- Deliver mind-shifting trends, insights, and patterns in hours and minutes—versus the months (perhaps years ) it would involve deciphering manually.
- Provide benefits that speak for themselves in a double-whammy advantage of saving overheads and understanding customer motivations in real-time—not long after the fact.
- Combine data feed from customer support and NPS surveys, chatbots, or app store reviews to create new angles of looking at the same thing.
Finally, think about it this way: if your competitor is learning now what you will only discover in four months, who do you think has a decisive edge?
5. Predictive analytics is the latest name of the game.
Predictive analytics combines historical data with statistical algorithms, AI, and ML technologies to allocate probability ratings to future outcomes. The aim is to extrapolate what has happened into assessing what will occur down the line. However, the question is this? How insightful are historical data insights?
A McKinsey report on The Future of CX (February 2021) points out that while most marketers (93%) rely on survey metrics like CSAT and CES, only a tiny minority (16%) believe it has any value in unearthing feelings and emotions that move markets. So are predictive analytics (PA) any better if the data input is itself limiting? The answer is not simple.
Quantitative data without qualitative backup leaves gaps in uncovering motivational trends. So, PA must combine both aspects for deep insights. Thus, the data that AI technologies (see above) pulls from customer interactions, touching on thought patterns and emotional reactions, mixed in with the quantitative side, is arguably the right way to go. Sogolytics is the entity to have in your corner to strike the optimal balance. Detecting that customers’ reactions are stalling a retail customer journey at a specific touchpoint is one thing; knowing if it’s a trend or just a few isolated cases is quite another. Let this cutting-edge consultancy company in the retail CX arena put it all in the proper perspective for you.
Exceptional retail CX is the key to customer loyalty
The content above fits in with the concept that retail CX drives business today ahead of product characteristics. Customers stay loyal to the brands they identify with, where their surrounding culture, aspiration groups, and personalization make them feel part of something bigger with the least number of pain points. The above strategies go below the surface and simultaneously address multi-dimensional communication channels. Indeed, it revolves around a sophisticated approach, calling on marketers to stay tuned to their clients’ touchpoints.
Moreover, it’s not something one executive or even an entire department can do alone. It requires a shift in strategic focus to bring all divisions into this line of thinking. Why? Because touchpoints stretch from corner to corner of interconnectivity with customers. It may be a warehousing glitch, a double-charging invoice, a technical issue that requires upper-level advice, cybersecurity issues, marketing promises not kept, or other things that disrupt retail customer journeys. Unless the entire team buys into delivering a smooth retail CX, there’s no winning. The bottom line is this:
- When customers churn quickly, it signifies that the touchpoints are working against you.
- Conversely, net retention (the opposite) implies an retail CX mindset is taking hold and winning.
Finally, one of the worst side effects of gaining market traction is complacency-resting on your laurels. The most disruptive undercurrents running through markets these days are those of change.
- COVID-19, for example, turned everything we thought we knew as good upside down.
- The upheavals obliterated business models that were functioning like clockwork for years.
- Likewise, social distancing (and the feelings it created) shaped digital shopping as we see it today.
The lesson? Our competitors will leave us in the dust unless we adjust quickly. So, stay in touch and don’t let go of the reins even for a minute. Instead, carry on doing the right things as suggested in this article, stay tuned in to the voice of the customer, and they’ll be the first to signal you quickly if there’s a change in the wind.