It seems that in this era of the savvy, smart shopper, the key way for retailers to differentiate from their competition is to showcase their commitment to customer experience. Consumers want a great experience with a brand or store, and research from Defaqto even highlighted 55% of consumers would pay more for a better customer experience.
With this in mind, here are our considerations on how to achieve the optimal customer experience:
Know Your Audience
Let’s start with the obvious yet often overlooked: know your target audience. In order to achieve optimal customer experience you need to know your market and your target audience. For example, a popular beauty retailer recently re-evaluated how their audience wants to connect with them. Perhaps motivated by some varied profit reports from Ulta Beauty, they are tackling this head-on and investing heavily in their website, mobile platforms, targeted marketing, and a loyalty scheme.
However, they haven’t forgotten that their target market likes to engage in-store to try new products in person or receive instruction or guidance from a store associate. They were able to combine digital and in-store through one omnichannel approach, where a strong online offering has resulted in 62% online growth this quarter. This has been bolstered by an additional 100 stores that not only provide a venue for consumers to come and test products, but somewhere to showcase exclusive lines and provide “a level of customer service that cannot be replicated online”, all of which provide an additional reason to visit, and an overall great customer experience.
Bring Online In Store
Online and offline need to work in tandem to deliver a seamless and enjoyable shopping experience. The majority of shoppers expect instant gratification and want results quickly. These same expectations are present in store and consumers want store associates to be able to help with their enquiry at the drop of a hat. Perhaps surprisingly, we found 74% of consumers expect store associates to access their customer history while shopping in store. Consumers clearly want some element of personalization and understanding.
Customer experience means more than just providing a friendly and helpful service. Consumers expect the right level of technical support around store associates so they can go above and beyond. Retail is almost a victim of its own success, shifting consumer expectations from accepting whatever is in store to comparing it with what has been seen online and at other retailers. To address this, store assistants need the tools to not only check inventory levels across the organization, but potentially price check against the competition so sales can be finalized. We’ve seen some forward thinking retailers bring online in store with tablets or mobile point of sales (mPoS), and 84% of people we surveyed are influenced to purchase when store associates are equipped with them.
Multiple Fulfillment Options
In such a competitive market, customers want what they want, when they want it, and of course they don’t like when an item is out of stock. However, customers have a solution, and that is to go elsewhere. In fact, Deloitte found that 76% would shop from another retail brand if their item was ‘out of stock’.
Customers also want choice when it comes to fulfillment. More than half (55%) of consumers surveyed in our Consumer Trends Report said they would switch retailers if their preferred fulfillment option isn’t available. And 66% say multiple fulfillment options influences willingness to complete a purchase.
A great example of improving the customer experience with fulfillment is Walmart. Walmart’s Pickup Today function has grown 27% since last year, as the CEO states, “customers’ love being able to order an item with an app and get it that day.” In March they rolled out new capabilities in their app – allowing customers to skip traditional service and use the ‘express lanes’.
The ability to deliver such service relies on the back end order management systems knowing exactly what stock is where and the best way to route it to the customer. Retailers need to think beyond the warehouse, instead utilizing the huge amount of stock they have in store that is far more accessible to customers.
These are just a few considerations for improving customer experience. Although each focus on a different area, the common factor is they all have to work together in order to create a seamless customer journey. In the short term there will be costs associated with implementing these improvements, but as markets become more competitive and profits become squeezed further, customer experience will become the biggest differentiator.