Retailers face an increasingly difficult challenge of continuing to provide innovative products and services while creating personalized experiences. Every transaction is an opportunity for retailers to deliver a meaningful experience; a small effort that allows brands to connect with the consumer. It’s what modern consumers have come to expect, and brick-and-mortar establishments can no longer afford to treat their physical locations as simple transaction points. Consequently, retailers are rushing to meet continually shifting demands by creating seamless experiences between online and in-store. Throughout all of this, a critical success factor is the need to understand and exceed the expectations of customers across a multitude of touchpoints while delivering products and services that stand apart in the face of infinite choice.
Retailers can elevate the customer journey through a greater understanding of the people, processes, and technologies involved in delivering a personalized online and in-store shopping experience that exceed the demands of modern customers.
From a customer experience (CX) perspective, there are three key steps that retailers must understand and incorporate into their business models in order to connect with modern consumers: understanding the customer journey and the path to purchase, elevating the experience through meaningful connections, and developing mechanisms for actionable feedback.
Mapping the Customer Journey
As opportunities for product differentiation continue to dwindle, retailers must strive to develop both a personal and emotional connection for the individual customer. While new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Machine Learning, and image recognition are disrupting the retail industry and serve as powerful tools to engage customers, retailers must learn to balance online and in-store interactions.
As technology becomes more pervasive with 75% of customers reporting that they want more human interaction(1), digital brands have increased their investment in physical stores to supplement their digital presence with a human connection to elevate specific moments within the customer journey. For example, with plans to double its digital revenue by 2023, Lululemon Athletica is simultaneously focusing on elevating in-store experiences. The athletic apparel retailer recently opened a two-story experiential store in Chicago that includes meditation and workout sessions, a health food restaurant, and a space to showcase local businesses. With 43% of Gen Z and Millennial consumers expected to increase their in-store shopping this year, retailers are smart to move to a hybrid blend of digital-physical(2). This hybrid model combines technology and direct consumer interaction yielding vast amounts of data for many organizations, giving them powerful insights into the customer experience.
A better understanding of the customer experience allows retailers to identify patterns of engagement and the context in which decisions are made. This context ultimately defines the customer’s journey. Through the use of customer experience journey mapping, which is a visualization of the holistic customer experience, organizations gain an understanding of specific pain points, idiosyncrasies, and areas of opportunity that span across an entire experience. By capturing the people, touchpoints, and actions involved during the purchase process, retailers can determine what situations and stimuli are most likely to enhance the customer experience, and trigger specific behaviors and outcomes, like a purchase.
A Journey Map visualizes the holistic customer experience conveying the highs and lows people feel while interacting with a product or service.
Capitalizing on Customer Data
Utilizing the customer journey to enable a more personalized experience will drive loyalty and engagement as your organization becomes more aligned with the needs of its customers. Beauty giant Sephora has excelled at utilizing customer data to provide value at key moments throughout the customer journey, encouraging in-store shoppers to participate in personalized beauty tutorials while mobile users can access the retailer’s Augmented Reality feature to apply “digital makeup.” In placing greater emphasis on the end-to-end purchase experience, specifically by organizing around customer data and incorporating feedback into your CX strategy, brands can convert one-time shoppers into lifelong brand advocates.
As your business scales, the number of consumer touchpoints will grow to provide customers with more avenues to engage with your brand. Many organizations, specifically retailers, are currently collecting mounds of feedback often without realizing it: when a customer sends an email, leaves a review, speaks to an employee, or calls support, that’s feedback. Learning to organize around and act on this data will ensure that you are providing a seamless, consistent, and personalized experience across a growing number of touchpoints.
Beyond leveraging existing data, retailers can actively make customer feedback part of the experience. While surveys and customer ratings provide valuable structured data, consumers are increasingly embracing new technologies to share more detailed and personal information related to an experience. As customer data filters across touchpoints, establishing a representative audience segment known as a voice of customer (VOC) team allows organizations to develop a cadence around data collection, evaluation, and action. With customers engaging retailers in more focused conversations, a VOC team can serve as a sounding board for validating and delivering better outcomes across the customer journey.
As the retail landscape continues to evolve, brands are increasingly competing to meet customer expectations. While providing innovative products and services remains a top priority, the most successful retailers are investing in hyper-personalized experiences to edge out the competition and connect with consumers.
Productive Edge is a digital transformation in retail consulting firm where we bridge the gap between digital strategy consulting and technology development. We have successfully worked with organizations to establish and utilize VOC teams to validate new and existing products and services. In taking measures to evaluate and act upon existing data while proactively seeking feedback, companies are building deep relationships with consumers that allow for elevated experiences along every touchpoint. This all starts by building an experience vision and strategy for D2C in the retail industry. To learn more about this topic, view our latest eBook: Unified CX Vision & Strategy in Retail.