What is Digital Customer Experience2 1

Customer Experience in Retail

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With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, we could see many retail stores closing and leaving customers with the uncertainty of future in-store experience. However, to continue the business and serve customers many retailers shifted gears and adopted more online approaches. 

Brick-and-mortar stores, cash only, and in-store experience turned into an e-commerce website, cashless payments, and deliveries. 

Along with retailers, there was a shift seen in customer behavior as well. Customers adapted to the online shopping experience, with high expectations for a more positive experience than in-store. 

According to McKinsey;

  • In the US, 17% of customers are switching from primary stores to online retail due to hygiene considerations. 
  • BOPIS, or Buy Online, Pick-up in Store saw a growth of 28% in February 2020 in comparison to the 18% in January. Grocery delivery too increased up to 57%. 

Retailers have started shifting their CX focus from physical stores to digital platforms. The industry is embracing a more balanced CX in retail, by blending offline and online experiences to serve the customers. 

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How to meet Customer Experience in Retail?

From the moment a customer sees your store until they leave; all the interaction and moments in between sum up a Retail Customer Experience. It involves a customer browsing in the store, purchasing, and packaging. 

It is not so different in your e-commerce retail platform. Instead of a physical store, customers browse through your website, purchase, and wait for the package. They interact with your customer service instead of store employees to get help with their questions and issues. 

With so many innovations and creative solutions in the market, you have many opportunities to refine customer experience be it online or offline. Customer-company interaction has changed. And, savvy retailers are blending their physical stores with online channels by embracing Omnichannel strategies. 

As everyone is starting to get attuned to this “new normal”, these digital enhancements in retail are here to stay for the long term. So, here are some ways you can enhance CX in retail, both online and offline. 

Focus on digital experience:

Customer Experience in Retail Customer

Change in customers’ shopping behavior greatly impacted on the CAGR of online sales. The compound annual growth rate which increased by 14% over the past four years, increased by 25% in March 2020 in two weeks, led by grocery sales. 

Customer expectation is increasing for digital experience. This means that your e-commerce website should be optimized for a smooth journey – minimum loading time, faster payment, stable site, and also faster delivery times. The ideal load time of a website is 2.7 seconds for a peak conversion. 

Make sure there is zero friction in a customer’s experience when they interact with your website. Your e-commerce site should be easy for customers to navigate through. Customers should not feel frustrated trying to find the product that they are looking for. You can display the highest-selling or discounted products on the home page to help customers. 

Many customers, nowadays, use mobile devices to make online purchases. You must ensure that your site is compatible with mobile devices, and also that all digital channels are integrated. For example, the shopping cart should be updated in real-time and allow the customer to continue their journey from any device without losing their cart items. 

Omnichannel experience:

There is hype in the retail industry for Omnichannel. It is considered to be the future for a successful business. But, in the world of customers, they don’t differentiate between online and offline shopping experiences. They are not keenly aware of Omnichannel service when they switch from mobile to desktop while doing online shopping. 

  • In a report by HBR, 73% of customers use multiple platforms to explore and purchase products. 

For customers, the digital and physical channel is a blur. What they care about is seamless experience and interaction in all channels. Retailers need to adopt Omnichannel strategies to meet the rising expectation of customers. Your Omnichannel strategy should make it easy for customers to switch devices or channels mid-shopping while not losing any items in the wishlist or shopping cart. It should allow them multiple payment options. 

Whatever strategy you adopt you need to remember that customers expect a better experience in online and offline channels. They don’t differentiate between the channels, and neither should you. 

Provide in-store experience digitally:

Customer Experience in Retail Customer

The satisfaction and assurance of seeing, touching, and trying out products before purchasing them, is what makes the in-store experience special. Many retailers are trying to bring this special feeling to the digital world. Virtual appointments, livestreaming, and VR/AR are the modern ways that retailers are providing in-store experiences through their online platforms. 

VR or virtual reality offers customers the experience of trying the product on to see how they would look before they decide to purchase. In Shopify, merchants are allowed to add 3-D models to their product pages. This led to an increase in conversion rate by 250%, as it allowed customers to experience the product via AR. 

Some retailers also made good use of virtual appointments and livestreaming. Replacing the personalized in-store experience, virtual appointment involves sales reps helping customers to find products that they need using video-conferencing. Livestreaming is another way sales associates share content and promote products (new launches) with the customers to increase revenue. 

BOPIS and safe delivery:

Customer Experience in Retail Customer

Hygiene consideration has made safe deliveries a top priority for the customers. Whether it is curbside pickup or home delivery, safe delivery is in high demand and is a key factor for better CX. 

Buy online, Pick-up in Store is a practice that has made its way in the retail CX. This saves customer’s time and effort from having to explore aisles for their product, waiting in line for payment, and most importantly being in crowded places. Similarly, many retailers launched grocery deliveries all the way to customer’s homes, thus offering convenience and a valuable customer experience. 

Panera is one such example in the retail industry that did both. The company developed and launched a grocery delivery service in two weeks. The system allows customers to order entrees from the primary business and also add groceries to an integrated online cart. When the cafés started to close, Panera launched curbside orders and pick-ups within two weeks. 

Contactless experience in store:

Customer Experience in Retail Customer

Decontamination and deep cleaning of your store is a new normal for retailers, however, customers are still not comfortable to be in physical stores and in-person interactions. They want to be in and out of the store as quickly as possible. Therefore, it is important that retailers implement policies – safe distance, sanitize surface – to ease customer’s concerns. 

A simple way to address customer safety and experience is by introducing contactless technology. Contactless payments or mobile payments during checkout can make the in-store experience seamless and wait time shorter.

Capgemini found in its study that:

  • 59% of customers would prefer to use facial recognition or voice interface instead of a touch-based system. 
  • 73% of retailers believe that this change in customer behavior will surge post-pandemic. 

Leveraging the power of social media:

  • 3.60 billion people use social media platforms as of 2021. 
  • In 2018, 55% of online consumers made purchases through social media platforms.

As we know, customers use social media to refer and explore products before making decisions of whether or not to buy. This has led to many social media companies exploring ways to integrate payment gateways into the platform. 

Instagram found that 70% of users browse through the app for product discovery. The company used the opportunity and launched Instagram Checkout. This new feature allows users to purchase products directly from the app. Now, 60% of users use the platform to discover and buy items. 

Retailers can leverage social media to promote and bring their stores in front of a wide audience. The channels can help improve conversions since you are still targeting your customers while also reaching prospects.

Adopt agile model:

Customer behavior, expectation, and needs are rapidly changing to keep up with the pace you need real-time customer insight. You need to embrace a more agile model to operate to utilize the insights in order to provide a high-quality CX in retail. 

To refine customer experience, what better way than surveying customers and involving them in the process. 

Use survey platforms to send out quantitative surveys after every key interaction to gather data, while the experience is still fresh in the customer’s mind. Surveys can bring your insight to ensure that the new changes and new products are meeting their needs and expectations. You can also gather qualitative feedback from the customers asking them for suggestions and ideas to meet their needs. 

Tracking digital fingerprints is another way you can gather real-time data. Customers are using more and more digital channels; this means they are leaving crumbs of data all over the internet. You can extract these data for insight and develop targeted messages and offers to offer a personalized experience. 

Along with real-time insight, you also need to adopt the agile practice. You need to improve the speed by which you analyze the insight and develop new offerings or plans to offer customers. As mentioned above Panera introduced a grocery-delivery service in the span of two weeks; this shows a true agile operating model. 

To sum up all,

Customers are already getting attuned to the new normal. They are also shifting their business to those businesses that can keep up with the pace and meet customer needs. Retailers should focus on CX and respond to customers with agility in their digital experience to perform better and strengthen their relationships with customers. 

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