With one-third of consumers spending more on experiences than possessions, retailers must understand that the shift in consumer behavior is not just a blip on the radar. Anticipated by analysts as a long-term change, this shift is driving an experience renaissance. It focuses on the unmet needs of customers and delivering exceptional experiences. Evidently, the constant adjustment to customers’ tastes has led retailers to deliver connected, omnipresent experiences that engage, entertain, interact, understand, and stay focused on meeting customers’ expectations.
With dynamic, perpetual, multichannel buying seizing the center stage, connected offerings in marketing, design, content, and commerce can open up new doors to success in an experience-led economy. As a new age in retail dawns, new expectations, higher resilience, and next-level omnipresence that can foster customer loyalty are on the horizon. But are retailers prepared for this change, and how can they chart the path to reimagine the connected retail experience?
Here’s a detailed look at what it will take for enterprises to succeed in this new climate of change.
Enable Consistent Engagement
The idea of connected retail experiences finds its strength in hyperconnectivity which forms the foundation of modern retail. With people and things linked together, customers expect a consistent brand experience – from online to in-store – regardless of the channel. The cumulative experience across multichannel and multitouch customer journeys holds the secret to making customers happy and keeps them coming back.
Retail organizations must rewire themselves to attend to end-to-end customer journeys by setting up dedicated teams for each function. A fully-integrated and connected retail environment must also include an easy-to-navigate website. This comes with meticulous attention paid to details in product descriptions and reviews. This experience can be amped up with cash and discount vouchers that can be redeemed at stores.
Besides, 40% of the brands in a recent survey revealed that experiential retail would be a top priority for them in the next year to deliver unique in-store experiences. Such incentives bring customers back to the stores again, where they can experience great service from sales associates and other staff. They can also shop with ease at well-organized stores, make quick payments, and more. Consistency in customer engagements also includes getting everyone in the team on the same page regarding service subscription renewals, upgrades, issue resolutions, and other milestones to tailor the journey appropriately.
Make Every Interaction Memorable
Every interaction with a customer (new or old, prospective or existing) is worth paying attention to. They are all relevant. These interactions are the gateway to connecting, impressing, retaining, or advocating for customers. Additionally, this gateway can help retailers learn more about customers and their needs, boost loyalty, increase referrals, improve operations, and elevate employee motivation.
Amid fierce competition, the way retailers interact with customers at each touchpoint can be a key differentiator. That said, retailers need a well-thought-out customer interaction strategy. It needs to focus on making the brand reliable, empathetic, and responsive to ensure all customer needs are taken care of. Making these interactions meaningful and personalized is vital. In doing so, brands harness the power of data and analytics to improve their understanding of their customers and harness AI to weave authentic interactions and hyper-personalized experiences.
Next, they must retain and even amplify the human element in digital interactions. When a customer enters a retail space, they bring in different emotions that go hand-in-hand with their consumption patterns. Human-centric experiences bring back the spotlight on the all-important subject of trust and foster customer goodwill. This is as long as customers feel retailers understand and respond appropriately to their emotions and needs.
Sometimes, under-promising and overdelivering can also help in making customer interaction memorable. But it is important to be transparent when retailers or brands communicate with customers, especially when they make an error. In such cases, retailers must own the situation with empathy and gratitude, explain how it happened, and apologize, while reassuring that it will not happen again.
Put the Customer In the Spotlight
To keep up with the recent shift in consumer behavior, organizations need to quickly reimagine their omnichannel approach. In the same vein, retailers should set a North Star that can help them navigate the customer experience labyrinth and achieve five goals: reiterate on digital, rethink the physical network, innovate their omnichannel approach, adopt an agile operating model, and transform stores to deliver engaging and safer experiences.
Today’s customers are tech-savvy, mobile-enabled, and connected in different ways. They seek interactive engagement powered with superfast connectivity instead of the usual browse and buy experience. Getting personalization on point requires in-depth knowledge of customer journeys, relevant messaging, and content that propels actions, coupled with the implementation of the right technology for delivering and measuring experiences.
For instance, retailers can partner up with messaging and social media platforms to create connected experiences that are aligned with what their target customer base utilizes and values. Meanwhile, relevancy serves a greater purpose in turning touchpoints into transactions; irrelevant messaging and unwanted email blasts are a thing of the past. Apart from personalization, the way to customer delight also stems from other factors too. 69% of shoppers seek the best deals, 56% look for efficient delivery or collection options, whereas 42% prefer eco-friendly or sustainable products.
Overall, the spotlight while building connected retail experiences should be on the customer and their needs.
Normalize Exceptional Experiences
It goes without saying that retailers need an enduring advantage while serving their customers. This makes exceptional customer experience a business imperative. 80% of customers view the experience offered as important as the products and services. Evidently, going the extra mile to create unique and memorable customer experiences is no more a “nice-to-have” feature; it clearly dictates the future of a brand.
To win hearts and wallets, delivering amazing marketing, eCommerce, sales, and service interactions will not cut anymore; they will need to do more. Retailers need to prove that they have the customers’ best interests in mind. They can adapt their brick-and-mortar operations to facilitate contactless transactions, enhance the speed of service, and adopt more self-serving options. There’s substantial evidence that similar initiatives pay off in the long run. 91% of customers are likely to return and shop again from the same brand after a positive experience, and 71% make a purchase decision based on experience quality.
The quality and price battles are things of the past now; these elements can only bring businesses into the game. However, what they really need to excel at is impressive service experiences that can ‘wow’ the customers. And also that can help differentiate themselves in the market. In the new normal, exceptional customer experience must be normalized, making it more seamless and consistent everywhere.
Ceaseless Commitment to Innovation
As retailers, it is important to stay on top of their game when it comes to the latest trends in technology. They should know what is out there, what is gaining traction, and what is coming next. The industry is witnessing increased adoption of biometric technologies in stores for activities like payments and checkout.
‘Pay with a Selfie’ by Alibaba is a great example of biometric innovation. AI and machine learning are also gaining momentum in diverse applications to improve operational efficiency and customer experience. AI-enabled chatbots are being implemented for in-store navigation, sales associate support, natural conversation enablement, and more. Besides, retailers are increasingly utilizing computer vision to create real-time feedback pipelines through images and videos. Automation in inventory, customer preferences, and profile checks can help reduce human-prone errors and improve efficiency. These are only some of the digital innovations that can perfectly complement the retail functions in the age of the experience economy.
While building a connected retail experience from the inside out, digital experiences resonate with the needs and preferences of the rising generation of digital natives. However, there’s a caveat: even the best digital-first strategies cease to produce desired outcomes if they are digital-only initiatives. As a result, retailers must balance these experiences across the digital and physical spaces to achieve connectivity in the truest sense.
Rewriting the Rules of Retail Experience
Retailers have a lot of ground to cover when it comes to building amazing connected retail experiences; time is of the essence. As the next normal takes shape, retailers must stay a step ahead of customer expectations. They must offer connected experiences across the customer lifecycle powered by an interplay of digital initiatives across multiple touchpoints. With a more proactive, progressive approach to creating this “connectedness,” retailers can align brand value with real actions.