Customer experience has gained respect from various verticals as findings signal that experience will soon be the key decision-maker for consumers, above product and price.
Here we look at five customer experience trends in retail highlighted in our recent research.
1. Customer experience is a good revival strategy
Retailers are finding themselves in the position of having to do more with less. Many are reacting by making cuts. Closing stores, reducing staffing levels or hours according to store size projected sales and ignoring location surrounding facilities and competitors and turning to tech to deliver services at scale.
However, a recent Wharton University study looking at the relationship between staff levels and store performance has shown that it’s a big mistake to react this way to the retail apocalypse. Their study states that well-trained staff are the long-term solution for stable profits. “Understaffing stores and undertraining workers was never a good idea, but it’s especially bad now, because it takes away the biggest advantage traditional stores have over e-tailers: a live person a customer can talk with face-to-face”, said the study’s authors.
In the study after boosting staffing levels at certain outlets over six months, the stores in question made over $8.9m in extra profit even after accounting for additional labour costs. Around 6% more revenue was provided by staff who had received an hour per month in training that empowered them to solve problems for the customer.
Customers are utilising stores now as experiences, Steve Kato-Spyrou - UX Manager, John Lewis notes: “They visit to do fun things and spend the whole day out, not just to simply purchase something. So that’s where we’ve got to head in the next 12 months with in-store: the experience.”
2. Utility is key
Serious investment into CRM, customer insight and analytics represents investment into a robust CX framework for a brand to provide value to clients.
In regards to adding value for customers, Steve Szymczyk, Director Digital Marketing, Adidas (Retail) says: “[A CX trailblazer is] anyone that can capture a consumer’s imagination and use data to combine the two to provide a great consumer experience.”
“What Nordstrom Men’s is doing in the US with the virtual store, that’s a really interesting model. Obviously it’s one store, so we don’t know if it’s working yet.
“There are so many things happening in this space and we’re going to see a lot of ‘trailblazers’ that will have some phenomenal successes and some will have pretty spectacular failures. What is important is to test things, listen to the consumer and they will vote with their wallet, they will tell us what they want.
“As brands, it is our job to provide new levels of comfort, convenience and be thinking about things that the consumer doesn’t know they want yet. In reality, the things that will work are the ones that will be edgy enough for the consumer to have fun with and add value to them in a real way.
“If you’re not adding value and not looking at it from a consumer-centric point of view, then it’s probably not going to work, no matter how much you want to make it happen.
“The one piece of advice is to really put yourself in the shoes (pun intended…) of a consumer to see how they experience your brand, spot where their touchpoints are and work out whether you control them or not. Because let’s face it, a viral video from a 16-year-old on YouTube giving an opinion on your brand counts as a brand interaction, whether you like it or not.”
3. Customer-first culture
Highlighted as the main challenge for CX practitioners in retail, a customer centric or CX centric culture is fundamental to creating an organisation that embeds customer experience into all of its decisions and activities. CX must be a framework for business activity, just as profitability, efficiency and marketability have been embedded previously.
Steve Kato-Spyrou, UX Manager of John Lewis notes that the key retailer battles with breaking down business silos. “We have the knowledge in the building; it’s getting every human into the right place at the right time to disseminate that knowledge and talk to each other to come up with the product or service or experience that works.”
There is no such thing as stand-alone product development, marketing, or digital strategy. Those disciplines are all, essentially, feed into the same purpose; they are the customer’s interaction with the brand or organisation.
4. More consistency needed with actioning customer data
Data and analytics dominate as the most important, impactful trend for retailers. Although they recognise actionable insights as a challenge, research from CX Network indicates that many in retail are indeed actioning customer feedback in someway. This has had strategic benefits for the research group involved regarding customising products or packaging and new tactics to improve delivery speed.
However, the research did signal that there is a need for more consistency as many insights fall through the cracks and aren’t fed back to relevant business units.
Retailers should continue to aim to consistently close the loop with the voice of the customer. In a sector increasingly reliant upon social proof it is logical that consumers need to recognise the power of their feedback and contributions. This closure will also encourage the customer to keep the channels of communication open with retail firms, thereby helping the brand to improve their products and processes.
Businesses are struggling to make the omnichannel ecosystem a reality. Minor progression has been made year-on-year according to these stats.
However, businesses must press on in this journey, as omnichannel customers are thought to have more lifetime value than single channel customers. Also, the more your competition progresses with omnichannel the higher expectations will rise from your prospects.
Steve Kato-Spyrou - UX Manager, John Lewis said: “We heard today there are infinite touchpoints. So as far as omnichannel: you should be everywhere your customer is. If you’re saying: ‘we need to look into mobile or we need to look into in-store’, that’s correct, you need to go where the customer is.
“As far as the baseline, I would say look at your strongest competitor - that’s the expectation. It’s a case of: ‘Amazon do X, Y and Z – so, why don’t you do it?’.”