Winning retailers understand that the future of customer experience looks a little different. Get tips on satisfying changing customer behavior and more.
The retail industry is no stranger to the term ‘omnichannel;’ in fact, McKinsey writes that even pre-pandemic, most strategic retailers already were blending physical and digital channels to engage customers on their preferred channel.
Thanks to the virus, in-person interaction has changed significantly, with ecommerce sales in areas like apparel and grocery both rising. And while holiday sales may have helped some retailers regain profits lost in 2020, the journey forward is still fraught with uncertainty. Fortunately, the future of retail still puts the customer first.
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How to Improve Customer Experience in Retail
To build more resilience into customer experience, McKinsey recommends that retailers focus on the following five actions:
1. Focus on digital
Thanks to grocery purchases, online sales grew by 25 percent in a two-week period in March 2020. In order to quickly expand their digital presence, retailers should first work on driving traffic to digital assets by investing more in online marketing. Pay closer attention to paid search and optimize social channels to increase their “shoppability.” Further, retailers should extend digital-channel presence and engagement by prioritizing mobile apps or point-of-sale experiences. At the same time, retailers also need to augment direct customer interactions via engagement in apps and other relevant channels. Finally, prime digital channels for a frictionless experience by focusing on site speed, delivery times, and stability. This approach includes ensuring that all digital channels are integrated and offer both consistent experiences and services.
2. Make omnichannel innovative
Study emerging customer needs and pinpoint where innovation can fill existing gaps to support consistent experiences. One way to accomplish this goal is to bring an in-store feel to the digital experience by offering personalized engagement through virtual appointments, optimizing websites for voice search, letting customers “try on” products with tech like augmented reality, livestreaming to connect with customers, and increasing both loyalty and revenue via sharing experiential content. Don’t forget entertainment! Retailers can make a memorable splash in the landscape by tapping trained staff to create content that solves customer challenges in an entertaining way; this is also a good method for promoting current products and services. Further, diversify the ways customers receive their purchases – the goal here should be speed and safety. From curbside pickup to third-party delivery services, retailers have plenty of options to satisfy this customer expectation. Finally, enhance convenience by forging strategic partnerships. This will allow retailers access to new capabilities while reaching new customers in new places.
3. Leverage ‘SafeX:’
Store customers now must social distance; at the same time, they are displaying a preference for self-service. Retail stores that provide safe[r] experiences – SafeX – will be necessary in relieving customers’ worries and supporting a return to in-person interactions. Stores in the pandemic era need to implement policies and processes that enable safe distances, sanitize products and services, and communicate clearly, concisely, and with empathy. At the same time, to offset revenues shifting to online channels, retailers need to reduce costs while improving operational efficiency. By implementing measures like establishing new safety requirements for both customers and employees and moving certain experience elements outside of the store, many stores have the opportunity to establish new models.
4. Physical locations, reimagined
With more and more consumers choosing ecommerce, retailers are being forced to rethink their brick-and-mortar stores and how these locations can best support the customer experience. When choosing which stores to reopen, retailers can leverage customer data to get a detailed view of micro traffic patterns – and which stores are getting the most traffic. Further, retailers should have a comprehensive understanding of how online sales might be affected if all brick-and-mortar retailers’ locations closed. With four-wall profitability and cross-channel strategic importance, retailers can cluster stores by these potential actions: transform and grow, reopen as usual, reassess their role, and renegotiate leases or consider closure. The stores of the future are still being built, but it’s becoming clearer that they will utilize immersive experiences, reinforce the brand’s positioning, and support ecommerce retail sales.
5. Operating models embrace agility
Competitive retailers are leveraging near-real-time tracking of consumer trends and behavior shifts to create targeted retention plans, messages, and offers that will maintain customer relationships. At the same time, customers want to be included in the process; with qualitative feedback gathered through online tools or in-person concept sprints, ideas can be analyzed and iteratively improved. The bottom line? Meet consumer expectations by adopting agile practices and real-time consumer insights to quickly recalibrate business models and offerings.
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The Online Retail Customer Experience
In today’s landscape, emotion drives behavior. And in order to create an amazing retail customer experience online, retailers should prioritize actions that inspire positive emotions and influence behavior at scale. Retail Customer Experience recommends the following tips to harness emotional connections with customers:
- Future-proof CX by linking conversations: What do we mean? Responding quickly to customer inquiries won’t cut it anymore; instead, mirror consumers by quickly moving between online communications channels and conversations. In the process, online retailers will be personalizing the customer experience while retained linked conversations records for easy reference.
- Keep the human element central to AI interactions: Not everything that can be automated should be automated. By combining human empathy with digital engagement from AI assistants, brands can be efficient while meaningfully engaging with customers.
- Make customers feel valued: Retailers that are winning are experience-led but maintain a deep human focus. As consumers continue to adopt technology at a quick pace, all it takes is one bad interaction for them to switch allegiance. Turn valued customers into advocates by prioritizing CX!
- Make digital channels visible: Customers are still more interested in getting their issue resolved rather than using their preferred channel. Therefore, make popular avenues like web chats visible to customers in order to provide an effortless experience.
- Make customer support options clear: Empower customers to self-serve by clearly directing them to channels where something like web chat is not best suited. Over the last few years, customers have consistently shown that they prefer web chat to social media; make sure they know how to interact with your customer service channels.
- Understand the impact of social initiatives: Social media success should be measured beyond ‘Likes’ and ‘Shares. Instead, retailers should be leveraging the data generated by their social media efforts to understand what is resonating with their audience. Understand the topics that are popular among customer conversations related to the brand, study competitors, and extract insights from customer frustrations to help employees be more productive.
- Support holistic CX with tech: To enhance customer understanding, satisfaction, and value, interlink conversations and data. By breaking down internal siloes typically found in customer service and marketing departments, retailers can build a better digital experience.
- Prioritize emotions in CX strategies: Today’s approaches to CX should build confidence in brands, enable simple, stress-free interactions, and make customers feel safe and secure. When customers are feeling positively toward your business, customer satisfaction, loyalty and retention, and strong relationships all increase.
- Measure social value in terms of real return: Don’t just focus on vanity metrics like comments, retweets, and posts. Instead, to provide a greater experience, understand how and why your users interact with your digital channels. To improve user experience today, leverage data to help customers navigate to information in as few clicks as possible, analyze heat maps to see the most used areas of your app, or study social media data to understand what to serve to your customers and when.
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Creating positive customer experiences is our mission. To attain this goal, we capitalize on data analytics and our operational expertise to improve IT interactions. Further, we understand the importance of analyzing the end user’s experience, perspective, and voice to build positive customer journeys.
Our programs focus on the interaction between end users and IT services, listening to the customer’s voice at all touch points. With people, processes, and technology working together, we are able to deliver cost savings, efficient processes, and improved levels of service for your business’ end users.
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