Every retailer wants loyal, happy customers. You could say it’s the ‘holy grail’ of retailing. What retailers have long known by instinct is borne out by research, which shows that happy, loyal shoppers benefit the bottom line in two ways.
Firstly, they spend more every time they shop with the brand, through any one of its channels. That extra spend can be up to a very significant 14% – I’ve never met a retailer who wouldn’t be delighted with a 14% increase in customer spend.
Secondly, they become ‘advocates’ and tell others about the brand. They spread the message by word of mouth, and through social media. We know that shoppers are more likely to be influenced by other shoppers’ opinions (even the opinions of people they don’t know), rather than the retailer’s own advertising, so advocates are a very important way of encouraging other consumers to shop with the brand, potentially to become advocates themselves. It’s a virtuous circle, which, if fed, continues to grow and to drive increased revenue.
“A brand is no longer what we tell consumers it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is” – Scott D Cook
So what drives shoppers to become advocates? Research confirms that it is their experience of the brand that forms their loyalty. Or otherwise – the same studies also show that it takes fewer than three bad experiences to undo all the good work and send the shopper running to another brand. A lost advocate is very hard to win back.
A brand’s omnichannel retail strategy is intrinsically linked to customer experience.
It stands to reason that the more channels the brand has, the more chances the customer has to experience that brand.
But unless those channels are linked and integrated – what I call creating an omnichannel retail ecosystem – then there is a risk that they have a detrimental effect and contribute to the three bad experiences that lose customer advocacy. There is nothing more frustrating for the customer than having a different level of experience over different channels. If they love shopping in the store, but find the website confusing and difficult to use, then the bad experience counteracts the good.
A truly integrated omnichannel retail ecosystem, however, offers wonderful opportunities to enhance customer experience.
For example, an extensive shopper survey carried out by CitiXsys found that one of the ways that retailers could enhance the store experience was to make it more like online. When the consumers in our survey were asked “what would improve your in-store experience,” their top answers included having personalised loyalty offers sent to them when they enter the store. A total of 71% wanted these digitally (42% to their phone so that they can access through a digital wallet, and 29% via email).
Offering that kind of experience requires a true omnichannel retail ecosystem – one where all channels are interconnected, so that shopping history in-store or online is known, tailored offers are built based on that history, and sent when the shopper is in or near the store.
Integration of channels is also a key way of addressing the ‘moment of truth’ that happens when an informed shopper, who has done their research online, walks into the store. At this point the store can simply become another step in the shopper’s research, or with an integrated ecosystem, can capture the client with great service and close the sale.
Ordering and pickup is another truthpoint for customer experience – our survey respondents told us that they love click and collect/BOPIS, but that delays or mislaid goods very quickly soured the experience. An efficient and connected omnichannel retail strategy helps to avoid this pitfall.
The final area that our survey covered was loyalty programs; again, something that customers love – if they are done well. To be truly valuable and valued, loyalty programs have to recognise the customer’s transactions across all channels. The customer is the same person, however they shop, and feels very frustrated if this is not recognised.
Happy customers truly are the holy grail of retail – they spend more and they become advocates, encouraging others to follow their lead.
An integrated omnichannel retail ecosystem is the foundation for building the customer experiences that generate happy, loyal customers.
Read more about how an omnichannel ecosystem helps create great customer experiences – download our research report: Great Omnichannel Expectations How Retailers Can Offer More Personalized, Consistent Shopping Experiences That Increase Sales And Deepen Customer Loyalty