As an industry, we talk a lot about convenience, but the truth is that consumers can find what they want, whenever they want it – usually at the click of a mouse or a swipe of the screen. What ties them to particular retailers is customer experience.
Yet a recent research survey by Frost & Sullivan revealed that, globally, companies lose over $300 billion due to poor customer experiences. So what is standing between what shoppers want, and what retailers can deliver?
Where is customer experience most vulnerable?
While the exact recipe for a great customer experience will be unique to each retailer, there are certain fundamentals that make up a satisfactory shopper encounter. However, there is huge variety in the standard of customer service between retailers.
Take stock availability in the store as an example. While consumers accept that bricks-and-mortar will not have the same endless aisle capabilities as online, they at least want to be able to order something if the shelf is empty. However, not every retailer has a digital information point to place orders in the store, or gives store associates the mobile POS technology needed to place an order on the customer’s behalf.
This raises another key vulnerability in the store experience: front-line staff. Now more than ever, store associates
are the lynchpin between digital and physical shopping. They have the capacity to combine information-rich ecommerce experiences with human warmth and empathy, to deliver on a practical and emotional level.
If you walk into two stores today, though, chances are you’ll encounter two very different types of customer service. Relatively few retailers are investing in the omnichannel technology their store staff need to bring the best of the web to a bricks-and-mortar setting; enabling them to access detail product information, look up demonstration videos and product reviews, and collect customer data to inform and personalize future purchases.
Given that most of the information I’ve just outlined is readily available online, it is no wonder that many shoppers can feel let down by a brand’s physical retail experience after using their ecommerce channel.
How can retailers create better in-store customer experiences?
As I’ve already mentioned, retail stores have the opportunity to impress shoppers by creating a ‘best of both worlds’ experience, which brings digital capabilities into physical encounters. Connected store technologies play a critical role here, as they will give front-line staff the knowledge and the freedom to provide prospective customers with a richer, more informed service.
Not only that, but mobile store technology can bring them out from behind the counter, to build experiences around the customer.
It is worth noting, though, that technology alone is not the answer. Raising the customer service benchmark depends on integrating that technology seamlessly within its environment, and training the workforce so that users feel both comfortable and confident blending digital and physical. Tech needs to enhance the store associate’s existing capabilities, not compensate for their inadequacies.
What are the benefits of a better customer experience?
While convenience can drive incremental sales, a great customer experience provides a true differentiator, which can ensure shoppers come back time and time again.
Retailers don’t necessarily even have to be the cheapest on the market if they can offer customers something that makes it worth their while, and a great experience can provide that added value. It’s the ability to go above and beyond, to make the experience relevant to their needs, and to personalize where appropriate that will nurture long-term relationships.