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The saying "Customer is king" has been part of our vocabulary for nearly a century. However, its meaning and relevance have changed significantly over the last few decades.
In today's world, where consumers have numerous options, the quality and prices offered by various brands often appear quite similar. In such a scenario, a crucial factor that sets a brand apart from its competition is the individual retail customer experience.
If that wasn’t enough, here are some noteworthy statistics that show why it might be the right time for your business to improve retail customer experience.
👉 The value customers place on their experience can sometimes even outweigh price or product quality considerations, as highlighted in a survey by PwC that found that nearly 60 percent of people would abandon a brand after encountering multiple negative retail experiences, even if they have a fondness for the products.
Thus, it is safe to conclude that in today's context, the quality of customer service can make or break a brand’s business.
In this article, we will explore what factors determine a consumer’s experience in retail and how brands can effectively improve this experience to build credibility and grow.
How to improve retail customer experience: 10 effective strategies
Here are 10 effective strategies to improve retail customer experience.
1. Understanding customer expectations in retail
Customer needs and expectations are evolving. Modern-day customers are significantly different from traditional customers. They do not seek to shop to fulfill material needs but to enjoy the entire shopping experience.
The first step to improving retail customer experience is to understand what they are looking for. A stellar customer experience strategy, as per Genesys’s findings, accounts for three crucial factors- convenience, personalization, and engagement.
Brands can see significant improvement in customer attraction and retention by making their products conveniently available, tailored to meet specific customer needs, and presented in an engaging way.
Sephora introduced in-store classes and workshops on various makeup techniques after understanding that customers expect experiential retail and value learning while shopping.
Sephora understood that customers often hesitate to invest in full-sized products without trying them first. Therefore, they offer customized samples in-store, allowing customers to try products before making a purchase decision. In
2. Personalization and customer data
In today's digital era, online shopping is all the rage. Thanks to modern day data tracking platforms, making the collection and analysis of customer data is now easier than ever before.
You now have the ability to track customers through every step of their buying journey, from their initial interaction to the finer details of their age, location, and preferences. Armed with this invaluable data, you can plan and deliver a highly personalized shopping experience to your customers.
A recent survey by Gartner drives home the impact of leveraging customer data by revealing that over 80% of companies compete based solely on customer experience. The report further states that almost 50% of the responding companies claim to receive noticeable financial gains when they undertake customer experience improvement projects.
One thing to keep in mind while tracking your customer’s data is to respect the fine line between data utilization and privacy invasion. Brands that overstep this boundary risk losing credibility and facing public backlash. The best way forward is to maintain a balance between offering personalization and adhering to moral boundaries.
One global giant that exemplifies this balance is Amazon. With a sprawling global presence, Amazon delivers services tailored to local preferences and patterns, showcasing the power of respectful and localized personalization. However, the brand has always maintained an ethical distance from invading anyone’s privacy and is thus generally well loved by its customers.
3. Technology and innovation
An essential component of a smooth retail customer experience is the effective and up to date integration of relevant technology. According to a Google report, nearly 60 percent of buyers consider mobile purchasing options when choosing where to shop.
The importance of convenient technology in retail spaces was also emphasized in a 2020 Deloitte report that stated that even a 0.1 percent reduction in mobile site load time can boost conversion rates by 8 percent and reduce bounce rates by the same percentage.
Statista's data further restates the significance of technology adoption in customer experience by highlighting that over 60 percent of global retail professionals recognize AI's potential in enhancing physical store operations to meet customer service expectations more effectively. To bring home the point, a report by Grandview Research revealed that the retail segment thrived in 2021, accounting for nearly 60 percent of global revenue, largely attributed to the adoption of contactless payments.
This showcases the paramount importance customers place on cutting-edge and speedy technology in their shopping journeys. The trend is even embraced by top brands like PayPal, which issued a new app in the light of these customer preferences to retain a stake in the growing market.
A worth noting lesson here is that simply adopting technology isn’t enough, brands need to constantly improve it and adapt to the latest trend in order to create a stable difference in their retail customer experience.
4. Employee training and engagement
The interactions between your employees and customers hold immense influence over the quality of the overall customer experience. To ensure a seamless and exceptional customer journey, it is imperative to maintain a well-trained and motivated staff.
A brand can achieve this by organizing workshops and mentorship programs to keep their team updated on the latest and best customer experience practices. Remember, this training and information serve no purpose if your staff does not understand or feels prompted to go through with the suggestions.
To ensure maximum cooperation, you must also make efforts to keep your employees happy and driven. Motivation is key, and you can foster it through pay hikes, recreational activities, employee-centric policies, bonuses and reward systems, etc.
Additionally, establishing clearly defined roles and responsibilities empower your staff to independently handle customer interactions without error, further enhancing the retail customer experience.
5. In-store design and layout
As we've discussed, today's customers seek more than just shopping; they desire a complete shopping experience. PwC's report confirms this by stating that 43 percent of people are willing to pay more for a welcoming, friendly, and convenient shopping experience.
To capitalize on the human preference for ease and engagement, it is essential to create a visually appealing and convenient retail space. This can be achieved by optimizing the store layout for improved flow and visibility. A prime brand that utilizes this strategy is Target. Their well-lit, properly organized stores with informative signage are naturally attractive to customers.
They enhance the experience further with seasonal decorations, loyalty programs, and a commitment to exceptional service and sales. All these factors combined make them a strong name in the retail space and a common customer favorite.
6. Seamless omnichannel integration
In today's world, even as online shopping gains popularity, the importance of physical stores remains undeniable. As per McKinsey, 60-70 percent of consumers prefer omnichannel shopping over other options.
Customers seek both the convenience of online shopping and the personalized touch of brick and mortar stores. The key here is to strike a balance between the two, and offer a seamless and unified shopping experience by intelligently integrating multiple channels through technology.
Even top brands have accepted this way forward. Walmart stands out as a prime example of successful omnichannel integration. Their user-friendly mobile app and efficient supply chain management make both 'order online' and 'pick up at store' options equally convenient for their customers.
Similarly, global giant Nike employs a comparable approach, combining online and offline shopping options to provide customers with a cohesive and exceptional shopping experience.
7. Sustainability and ethical practices
Sustainability and ethics play a pivotal role in shaping consumer choices today. Customers increasingly value a brand's eco-friendliness and moral integrity as crucial factors influencing their purchasing decisions.
According to Statista's 2022 report, global consumers are willing to pay premiums of up to 24 percent for environmentally responsible products. In the wake of this trend, it is advisable for brands to adopt sustainable and ethical practices as well as actively market themselves as a sustainable name. This commitment builds a credible brand image and fosters long-lasting customer loyalty.
8. Social Responsibility and Community Engagement
Retailers wield substantial influence in shaping societal perspectives and actions. As per a Harvard Business Review article, 77 percent of customers prefer buying products from socially responsible companies, while 73 percent of investors believe that such companies make for a better investment.
Not too long ago, fairness creams dominated the market with advertisements that perpetuated negative stereotypes about darker complexions. However, contemporary consumers have called out these malpractices and have chosen to boycott brands that engage in such messaging.
Today, brand communication revolves around inclusivity, diversity, and social support. Unilever is a notable example of a socially responsible brand. It has famously taken up initiatives on various social causes through its brands like Dove and Pond’s.
Their commitment to empowering campaigns and advertisements has contributed to their enduring success over the decades, allowing them to maintain a stable, majority market share in huge economies like India.
Customers trust Unilever not only for quality products but also for its dedication to societal growth and betterment.
9. Feedback and Continuous Improvement
Meeting customer expectations goes beyond simply offering them what you think they want. It requires a continuous commitment to service quality and a genuine interest in gathering feedback for improvement.
This principle applies across all aspects of business, from fine-tuning product quality to refining feedback processes and addressing grievances promptly. A 2022 Statista survey highlights the significance of customer service quality, revealing that 78 percent of customers base their purchase decisions on it.
Furthermore, an impressive 80 percent of individuals are willing to forgive brand mistakes when they receive excellent customer service. To excel in customer service, brands can take the following proactive steps:
- Ensure that your team consists of qualified and courteous representatives capable of engaging effectively with customers.
- Implement incentive programs to encourage customers to share valuable feedback and compensation plans to address complaints promptly.
- Establish clear, user-friendly, and transparent channels for receiving and acting upon customer feedback.
These measures, not only enhance the overall retail customer experience but also cultivate lasting loyalty and trust in your brand.
In conclusion, the retail industry's success hinges on delivering exceptional customer experiences in today's dynamic landscape. To navigate the evolving customer expectations, brands must prioritize personalization, convenience, and engagement.
Achieving this involves various strategies, such as harnessing technology to enhance convenience, creating interactive retail spaces, cultivating a skilled and motivated workforce, and seamlessly integrating omnichannel experiences.
Moreover, a brand's capacity to actively solicit and respond to feedback and its commitment to social responsibility significantly influence its overall retail customer experience.
By adopting these proven principles and continuously refining their customer-centric strategies, brands can thrive in a competitive market, foster customer loyalty, and cement their position as leaders in the ever-evolving world of retail.
Here are some frequently asked questions about retail customer experience.
1. What is retail customer experience?
Retail customer experience refers to the perceptions, emotions, and reactions that a customer has while interacting with a retail brand, from the moment of discovery to post-purchase interactions.
2. Why is customer experience important in retail?
Here is why customer experience is important in retail:
- Satisfied customers tend to return and become loyal shoppers.
- Positive experiences lead to recommendations, driving new customers to the business.
- Great customer experience often translates to increased spending.
- Differentiates retailers from competitors in a crowded market.
- A good experience reduces the likelihood of customers switching to competitors.
- Positive experiences bolster a brand's image and value in the market.
- Happy customers tend to make more frequent purchases over time.
3. How can retailers enhance the customer experience?
Retailers can improve the customer experience by understanding customer needs, offering personalized experiences, ensuring seamless omnichannel interactions, and providing excellent customer service.
4. What role does technology play in enhancing the retail customer experience?
Technology, like AI, AR, and chatbots, can offer personalized shopping experiences, streamline checkouts, manage inventory in real-time, and facilitate easier online-to-offline transitions.
5. How do online and offline retail experiences differ?
While online retail offers convenience and a vast selection, offline retail provides tactile experiences and immediate gratification. The key is integrating both for a seamless omnichannel experience.
6. How can feedback be utilized to improve the retail customer experience?
Feedback provides valuable insights into customer preferences and pain points. Retailers can use this information to refine their offerings, address issues, and better meet customer expectations.
7. How can retailers measure customer experience?
Retailers can measure customer experience using tools like Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer satisfaction surveys, and feedback forms, and by analyzing sales and return data.
8. What is omnichannel retailing and how does it affect customer experience?
Omnichannel retailing integrates multiple channels (online, offline, mobile) to offer a consistent and unified customer experience. It allows customers to shop how, when, and where they prefer, enhancing their overall experience.
9. How do loyalty programs impact the retail customer experience?
Loyalty programs reward repeat purchases and engagements, fostering a deeper relationship between the brand and the customer. They incentivize customers to return, leading to increased loyalty and a more positive overall experience.