We’re all feeling the pinch of supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and other economic factors.
But while you’re probably tired of hearing about (or dealing with) shipping delays and product shortages, your customers still expect a great retail experience—whether they’re shopping online or at a brick-and-mortar storefront.
Today’s retail companies fight an uphill battle if they try to compete on their product offerings alone. To gain a competitive advantage, boost customer retention, and drive sales, companies must focus on creating an excellent retail customer experience for consumers—or risk losing repeat business to smaller, agile competitors.
But first: What is retail customer experience?
Retail customers have more ways of engaging with a business than ever before. From shopping online and visiting physical storefronts to texting customer service or using a website chatbot, the customer experience can take many different forms.
However, the best retail customer experiences—regardless of which channels consumers use—are seamless across all touchpoints and build connections with customers that strengthen brand loyalty.
If you’ve ever walked into an Apple store, you’ve experienced this. With just a few keystrokes, the rep at the front door can pull up your profile, purchase history, product information, and even set up an appointment if you need to talk with a Genius (an envious title) who can work their tech-wizardry on your gadgets. It’s a smooth, multi-experience that even follows you when you get home, unbox, and set up your new device.
These kinds of connected retail experiences make us feel good about our purchase and boost our brand loyalty. The stronger and more consistent the experience, the greater the loyalty.
Ignoring your customer retail experience will cost you.
Customer experience is the differentiator between businesses in today’s hyper-connected buyer’s journey.
On the other hand, a report from Qualtrics discovered that customers who have a “very good” experience with a brand will forgive a poor experience and recommend the company to their friends and family.
Creating excellent experiences for retail customers doesn’t just reduce customer churn, it actually helps companies boost their customer acquisition rate and bottom line—providing a win-win for both the customer and the business.
Quick wins create a phenomenal retail customer experience.
A lot of moving parts go into creating winning customer experiences, and it takes a healthy dose of company buy-in, as well. But focusing on these four core principles will get your customer experience transformation started off on the right foot.
1. Take an omnichannel approach.
Retail customers crave convenience and choice (as voiced by Kristen Kurelo at AT&T) in their customer journey, especially when it comes to how they interact with a brand or business.
An omnichannel approach focuses on providing a cohesive experience across every channel—meeting customers in their preferred channels and letting them seamlessly switch between them in their journey.
So if a customer researches a product on your website, interacts with your chatbot, then calls your contact center with more specific questions, each touchpoint should feel and function the same. More importantly, each of their interactions need to carry across these channels. That way when they do call in, an agent can see exactly who they are, where they’ve been, and pick up the conversation like they’ve been walking with the customer the whole time.
The key to omnichannel is a connected tech stack—one that can collect customer data, store it in a centralized CRM, then surface it when customers interact with your brand. This is especially important in voice channels, since queue-slammed agents don’t have the time to back-check all their callers to see where they’ve been. With omnichannel handoff tech, your agents can quickly see vital caller information before they even go into the call—letting them cut down on handle time and focus on providing a delightful customer experience to their callers.
2. Prioritize empathy-led human interaction.
Robots are great, but human interactions still beat virtual ones when it comes to forming new customer relationships, building trust, and making sales. In fact, three quarters of consumers still prefer interacting with a real person over an automated alternative.
But while one-off empathy seminars and training sessions can improve employee performance, brands also need to infuse empathy into every area of their tech stack and processes. Whether a customer interacts over your website, chatbot, email, text message, or any other digital medium, every channel should be accessible, easy to use, and provide clear pathways to connect with a real human agent if the need arises.
Automations and customer service tech should complement your agents and contact center processes, not replace them. The life of an agent is tough and burnout is high. Two things will help them drive real, human empathy:
- Present information about how frustrating or complex the customer journey has been up to the point they’re calling. Connect journey details and queue conditions to the screen pop so the agent can meet the customer with understanding.
- Relieve as many frustrations for the customer as possible so they don’t take it out on the agent. The simplest of these is hold time—there’s simply no reason a customer should have to wait on hold anymore, yet they take up an average of 1-2 minutes venting when hold times are greater than 10 minutes.
3. Explore social media opportunities to sponsor or transact.
Love it or hate it, social commerce is dictating your sales.
A recent survey from Sprout Social found that more than 40% of consumers shop in an app, and an overwhelming majority stated they plan to buy through social shopping or influencer platforms.
It’s all part of the experience. If customers can only view and purchase products through your site, you’re not giving customers choice in how they want to interact and transact. Even though it might present logistical hurdles, social commerce could be a massive opportunity.
Birdies Shoes relied on social listening and customer surveys to understand its audience and what it wanted. After discovering its shoppers wanted to see more relatable content, Birdies partnered with influencers and encouraged customers to share photos of their purchases as part of a series of branded hashtag campaigns centered around community building. In an interview with Forbes, Birdies Cofounder Bianca Gates explained that the result of this effort was a 200% increase in slide-style shoe sales.
4. Gather customer feedback you can act on.
You can’t work to improve your retail experience until you know how your customers think and feel about your brand. To give customers the experience they want, you need to prioritize collecting feedback through customer satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys so you can meet their needs.
Use a real-time, voice of customer survey tool that’s flexible enough to deploy in multiple channels. While some customers might respond best to an email survey, others may prefer to provide feedback via text message. A flexible survey tool needs to accommodate both preferences to truly understand customer sentiment across all your channels.
Look for trends in customer feedback to identify friction points in the customer experience—areas where customers may be getting stuck in the buyer’s journey and unsure of how to reach out for help. If you find that all your negative feedback is coming from customers who’ve engaged on a particular channel, then you need to make adjustments to improve their overall experience. Proactively addressing customer feedback also shows that you value their input—boosting brand loyalty and retention.
The truth is, if you’re only providing a status-quo retail customer experience, you’re going to fall behind in tomorrow’s market. Customer expectations are high, and the best way to meet them is by personalizing their experience and giving them the freedom and choice to interact with your brand on the channels and platforms they want to.
How does Mindful fit in? Mindful powers the very best retail and e-commerce experiences for enterprise brands, like Walmart, Lowes, eBay, Canon, Zulily, and more. See how it comes together on our retail page.