In today’s global village, competition in the retail industry is at an all-time high. Creating a positive customer experience has never been more crucial to stay ahead and outshining competitors. A survey by Forbes revealed that around two-thirds of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. But what is customer experience in retail, and is customer service vital in the retail industry?
Customer experience in retail is all about customers’ overall impression of a brand, from when they start interacting with it until they make a purchase. The sum of all eCommerce and brick-and-mortar interactions shapes a customer’s perception of a brand and ultimately leads to business growth.
In this blog post, we will dive deep into the importance of customer experience in retail and explore ways retailers can create a positive shopping experience to ensure customer satisfaction. From innovative technology to personalized interactions and omnichannel experience, Let’s discuss what makes a great customer experience and ensure customer retention.
Overview of the current state of customer experience in retail
2022 has brought some rigorous evolutionary phases for customer experience in retail. The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed some significant challenges, like rising inflation rates and declining customer engagement. But all these challenges come amidst promising opportunities for businesses eager to enhance their customer experience and improve customer retention and acquisition rates.
While that might have been true 4-5 years ago, be no longer relevant to why customers do business with a company. Now it’s all about providing the best customer experience, whether eCommerce or in-store experience.
The rise of eCommerce served as an added fuel to increase the importance of customer experience. A study by Accenture found that 86% of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience, and 89% are likely to switch to competitor brands after an unsatisfied shopping experience.
In 2023 and onwards, businesses are more likely to produce profitable outcomes by improving customer engagement, retention, and satisfaction results. Some of the top strategies to improve customer experience in retail include:
- Personalized experiences to meet customer expectations
- Automated chatbots for a seamless eCommerce experience
- Gathering customer feedback to redefine product development strategies
- Omnichannel service is becoming a necessity for companies to meet customer expectations
It is crucial for companies to continuously improve the customer experience they deliver in a dynamic market environment. Companies that refrain from adopting modern methodologies are on the verge of losing their customers to competitors who value customer satisfaction. Thus, it has become mandatory for retail businesses to invest in improving the customer experience they provide to remain competitive and relevant in the market.
How digital solutions are changing the customer experience in the retail industry
Digital transformation has changed the makeup of the retail industry, leading to numerous advancements in the customer experience. Below are critical areas introduced as improvements to the customer experience by digitization in the retail sector.
- Retailers can now offer omnichannel shopping experiences to make customer journeys more seamless and engaging across multiple touchpoints.
- With the widespread adoption of mobile devices, customers now have real-time access to stores worldwide.
- Social media has become a prevalent platform for advertising and engagement, offering retailers new opportunities to reach customers.
- Innovative technological trends like artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) have significantly revamped customer service, enhancing the overall customer journey.
- Retailers can leverage data analytics and machine learning to make informed and data-backed business decisions.
Understanding the Customer Journey
The customer journey starts from the first interaction with the brand until the final purchase. The five customer journey stages that lead to deal closure include:
- Awareness – The customer becomes aware of the brand and its offerings through various channels such as advertising, social media, word-of-mouth, or research.
- Interest – The customer expresses interest in the product by researching its features, benefits, and customer reviews.
- Desire – The customer is inclined towards purchasing the product, driven by its perceived value and alignment with their needs and wants.
- Action – The customer takes the desired action by purchasing the product by visiting a store, making an online purchase, or speaking with a sales representative.
- Loyalty – The customer maintains brand loyalty through a positive post-purchase experience and advocates for your brand to their family members and friends. The major contributing factors to loyalty include product satisfaction, dedicated customer support, and relevant follow-up communications.
The above phases of the customer journey are not as smooth as they sound. It involves various pain points such as difficulty navigating a store or website, finding the required product or category, long queues & waiting lists, product unavailability, and a lack of personalization. All these factors can significantly impact the customer experience and lead to customer frustration and, potentially or worst permanent closure of a business.
Retailers can turn to customer journey mapping to address these pain points and enhance the customer experience. Customer journey mapping is a visualization strategy that assists organizations in understanding their customers’ experiences, identifying pain points, and designing effective strategies to address them.
By mapping out the customer journey, retailers can comprehensively understand each touchpoint along the way, including positive and negative customer experiences. Once the key problems are identified, an effective initiative like digital solutions or changing policies can be formulated to address these challenges. For example, a retailer may discover that customers often find it frustrating to wait in long queues. The retailer can implement queue management and online booking systems to resolve this pain point.
Implementing Digital Solutions for retail
Digital solutions can improve customer experience in the retail industry by enabling retailers to gather and analyze enormous amounts of customer data, personalize interactions, and provide seamless customer experiences across multiple touchpoints.
By leveraging technologies such as AI, machine learning, and cloud computing, retailers can create an omnichannel experience to ensure a personalized, intuitive, and responsive posture toward their customers.
Below are the 5 digital solutions offered by wavetec that can significantly improve customer experience in the retail industry.
- Enterprise Virtual Queue Management – allows customers to wait virtually in line, reducing physical wait times and improving the shopping experience.
- Online Appointment Booking and Scheduling & Management – allows customers to book appointments and schedule shopping trips in advance, resulting in a more organized and efficient shopping experience.
- Digital Signage for Retail – displays real-time information, promotions, and advertisements, creating a more engaging and informed shopping experience.
- People Counting – helps retailers better understand customer traffic, leading to optimized staffing and improved customer service.
- Customer Feedback – allows retailers to gather valuable insights from their customers, leading to improvements in product offerings, store operations, and the overall customer experience.
Leveraging Data and Analytics
The adoption of digital solutions backed by data-driven insights and analytics has the potential to improve customer experience in the retail industry significantly. Data analytics and machine learning can inform retailers’ decision-making, leading to more informed product development strategies and personalized marketing campaigns.
Data serves as the lifeline of the retail industry, providing valuable insights into customer behavior and preferences. Retailers can access various data sources, including customer surveys, website analytics, transaction data, social media listening, and customer feedback.
To make sense of this data, retailers can leverage various analytics and CRM platforms like Hubspot and Salesforce. These platforms allow retailers to collect, clean, store, and analyze data, providing actionable insights to make informed decisions. For example, data visualization tools such as CRM reports, dashboards, and heat maps can help retailers find at which stage customer journey the prospects are most likely to abandon the sales process. It can help them devise an effective strategy to improve and optimize these areas.
Importance of personalization in improving customer experience in the retail industry
Customers expect businesses to acknowledge their requirements and expectations. According to Salesforce, around 66% of customers feel they are often treated like robots and numbers.
Another notable report by Google reflects that 90% of marketers claim personalization significantly improves the bottom line of their business.
The lack of personalization can cost businesses by reducing the customer base and exacerbating ROI. Bringing personalization by ensuring omnichannel experience, data analytics, and mobile eCommerce help address this issue to a notable extent.
Common Customer Experience Issues in the retail industry
Change and evolution require effort beyond the comfort zone. The central and most common customer experience issues faced by the retail industry are due to the lack of inclination towards digital solutions and the willingness to stay in the comfort zone by practicing traditional practices.
Retailers must create a unified platform for a smooth customer experience across all touchpoints to stay ahead of their competitors. The transformation starts with learning more about customer shopping habits and implementing a retail model that works across channels. Below are some of the top customer service pain points faced by the retail industry:
- Technological Upgradation – Many retailers struggle to update their outdated technology, which is necessary for creating a unified, omnichannel customer experience.
- Evaluating ROI of Customer Experience Strategies – Customer experience initiatives provide a long-term ROI, but retailers often find it difficult to connect their initiatives and ROI. Failing to invest in improving customer experience can cause your customers to drift away.
- Understanding the Customer – Retailers need to put effort and spare resources into learning about their customers to address their dynamic needs and meet their growing expectations. In modern times, customer experience is the game changer, and retail businesses will cease to exist if they abstain from ensuring customer satisfaction.
Omnichannel Experience in the retail industry
Omnichannel retail is a holistic approach to commerce that aims to provide customers with a seamless experience across all front ends, including the website, physical stores, and mobile applications. This approach involves ensuring an engaging presence at all customer interaction points, leveraging data, and streamlining the sales process to deliver a unified customer experience. The ultimate objective of the omnichannel experience is to offer a seamless and hassle-free customer journey that improves the overall customer journey.
Below are the top challenges hindering a seamless omnichannel customer experience in retail.
Integration Data Sources – Integration of systems and data across all channels is a significant challenge in creating an omnichannel experience. A survey by Forrester reveals that only 24% of retailers have a centralized view of the customer journey and interactions across all channels.
Personalization – Another notable challenge is personalizing the customer experience, which is crucial for omnichannel success. A report by Accenture reveals that only 40% of retailers have a holistic personalization strategy across all channels.
Inventory management – Omnichannel retailing requires real-time access to inventory across all channels. A study by the National Retail Federation reveals that 59% of retailers struggle with inventory management across different sales channels.
Digitization – The technology needed to support an omnichannel experience can be complex and expensive, making it challenging and costly for many retailers to implement or outsource digital solutions. According to Deloitte, 63% of retailers cite technology as the most significant barrier to omnichannel success.
Customer behavior – Understanding customers’ behavior across different channels is vital for the success of the omnichannel strategy. Salesforce found that only 30% of retailers understand entirely their customers’ behavior across all channels.
The strategies below can play a vital role in resolving the issues and complexities of implementing a practical omnichannel approach.
- Personalization – Retailers need to use customer data and fetch meaningful insights to personalize their interactions with customers, whether it be through targeted promotions, recommendations, or custom-tailored experiences.
- Mobile-First – Most eCommerce sales are made via mobile devices. Therefore, retailers must ensure their customer experience is optimized for mobile. Ensuring mobile-friendly websites and applications is an effective way to ensure a mobile-first approach.
- Continuous improvement – The market, competition, and customers are all evolving rapidly. Retailers must continuously analyze and revamp their omnichannel strategies to remain at the cutting edge. It includes gathering customer feedback, tracking customer behavior, and analyzing customer engagement & interaction time across channels to make informed decisions about improving the customer experience.
Customer experience in retail has become a top priority in 2023. Retail businesses constantly look for modern ways to improve customer experience to outshine their competitors.
The most heated strategies for improving customer experience in retail include personalization, digitization, and offering a seamless omnichannel experience.
These strategies ensure increased customer satisfaction, improved customer loyalty, and, ultimately, more significant profit margins for retail businesses. As technology advances, business owners and decision-makers must stay up-to-date and relevant with the latest innovations and best practices to provide superior customer experience.