3 Necessities for Seamless, Stand-Out Retail Experiences

It is no secret that today’s retailers are faced with unique challenges. The rapidly-changing, ever-evolving retail landscape continues to present questions, roadblocks, and pain points that retailers need to address. These tribulations can take many forms; defining customer loyalty in emerging consumers, creating seamless retail experiences across channels, tracking a customer base that seems to be in multiple places at once, and keeping up with a digital landscape that changes as frequently as the Cleveland Browns change quarterbacks. 

In such a fast-paced environment, how are retail brands expected to succeed? The keys lie in your customer data—and how you leverage it. 

3 Necessities for Stand-Out, Seamless Customer Experiences in Retail

  1. Integrate Data From Everywhere Into Your CX Platform
  2. Increase Experience Awareness
  3. Encourage a Culture of Commitment 

#1: Integrate Data From Everywhere Into Your CX Platform

One of the most important keys to deliver seamless customer experiences is to have seamless data integration from everywhere into your CX platform. In order to form a holistic view of your customer’s experience, you need to be able to analyze every data point you can. 

Your customer’s data comes in many different forms (you can learn more about customer data in this article from InMoment Customer Insights Expert Jessica Petrie). Whether it be surveys, review sites, or social media. If you only look at one or two of those data sources, your view of the customer is incomplete, and it may cause you to make decisions for a customer base that you don’t fully understand. 

To continue to provide stand-out experiences, you need to view the customer experience from every angle, and across every channel. This is done by making sure your CX platform is capable of ingesting all of your data and displaying it in an easily accessible, centralized location so that you can access holistic customer insights whenever you need. 

#2: Increase Experience Awareness

Across the hundreds of brands and partners we’ve worked with here at InMoment, we have learned what works, formed a cohesive and proven approach, and can now guide our clients toward a successful CX governance strategy. This strategy will look different depending on the size and structure of your organization. 

Regardless of what you call it or where it lives, you need to have a plan for how you will make your CX program an organization-wide, customer-centric initiative—and keep it that way. It has to be more than just saying you are customer-centric, or having the word “customer” in your mission statement. 

Every department should have a window into the insights you gain from your CX program—and be able to leverage them in their decision making. The information you receive from customers needs to be shared with all other departments and teams, not siloed in different departments, otherwise, you could be sitting on insights that could make a huge difference in your bottomline. When you break down those silos and create channels of communication across departments, your business will see more success in the areas that matter most!

The first step to creating that kind of organizational support and buy-in for your CX program is to create a cross-functional council. This council, made up of representatives from every part of the organization, should be chaired by the CEO or a high-level CX champion. 

This council should aim to manage the activities of the tactical working teams that are striving to improve the customer experience as well as communicate expectations throughout the company and particularly to the customer-facing associates. 

For example, many large organizations have a Chief Customer Officer, an executive professional in charge of the company’s relationship with the customer, who reports to the CEO.   

Truly best in class CX companies will often have what we call CX Champions, Ambassadors or Champions scattered throughout the company that are championing or spearheading efforts within each of the silos we discussed.

#3: Encourage a Culture of Commitment 

A “Culture of Commitment” is the ultimate goal of any customer experience program. In a company with a true Culture of Commitment, every single employee is invested in making experiences better for customers. Whether it be in store, over the phone, or online, these employees are the face of your CX program, and they understand the impact they are making on customer experiences every day. 

When your employees are engaged in the experience, your organization will benefit. Did you know that 70% of the time, a person will become a repeat customer when their complaint is resolved? And that engaged employees can increase an organization’s sales by up to 20%? 

By having engaged, customer-centric employees, you will see an increase in the frontline metrics that matter to your organization. Frontline employees are the biggest customer facing assets your organization has. While executive sponsorship is important, your CX program needs buy-in from everyone in the organization in order to be successful. 

How a Global Footwear Retailer & InMoment Client Started with Customer Data, Fostered CX Governance, and Inspired a Culture of Customer Commitment

One of our clients, a global footwear retailer, leveraged all three of these strategies to move toward a fully customer-centric approach to business. 

It started a few years ago, when an operations team leader, who was passionate about his team being customer-centric, started using customer data points as supporting points in conversations with his team. 

These conversations would look like “Did you know that when our associates offer additional merchandise at the point of purchase, there is a 17% average transaction size uplift.” or “Did you know when our associates are successful helping a customer try on a shoe, they are 3x more likely to make a purchase.”  

This CX champion was able to leverage these customer insights to socialize this information, and make other departments and employees aware of how they could improve the customer experience. Through these actions, a small cross-functional CX governance committee was formed. 

This team was able to get the attention of the executives with their data-driven decision making and were therefore able to help the c-suite realize that factors such as employee behavior, customer behavior, and customer insights are all important factors that drive sales and increase the bottom line. 

After the C-suite executives realized the importance of a CX program, they invested more into it. The CX program adapted and started to utilize an integrated approach to customer experience, where they combined insights from different areas of the organization. And with that approach, they are set to set off the same cycle of success over and over again!

So What? 

Based on our expertise and the lessons we have learned from all the CX programs we have helped grow, we have formulated a list of next steps that will help you make progress towards integrated CX!

Step #1: Go Beyond Surveys

Integrated CX isn’t just about surveys. Find other signals in your organization, and integrate them into your program. 

Step #2: Understand Emerging Customers

Continue to understand your customers. But, you also need to listen to the non-purchaser. Having a deep understanding of your future or potential customers will help you make business decisions. 

Step #3: Get Ahead, Stay Ahead

Having a plan in place is key to your CX success. At InMoment, we often talk about designing with the end in mind. Knowing where you want your CX program to go and what you want to accomplish is key for starting out in a CX program. 

Step #4: Action, Action, Action

Go to work. Identify the initiatives that will have an economic impact. All action taken should be tied back to a specific outcome. 

If you want to learn more about leveraging customer data to craft seamless, differentiated experiences in store & online, watch the full webinar here!

Shopping for Experiences, Not Products: A Primer on Retail Customer Experience in the Experience Economy

Retail brands’ primary objective used to be providing a great product, but as competition heats up and consumer expectations grow more complex, retailers need to find new, bolder ways to stand out from the crowd. And that’s why the retail customer experience is more important than ever before.

Consumers are no longer satisfied with “just” a product and are finding different, more fundamental means of identifying (and spending money) with brands.

Andrew Park, Vice President of Customer Experience Strategy & Enablement at InMoment, sat down with The Retail Focus Podcast to break down:

  1. Where customers’ expectations have been 
  2. Where they’re going
  3. What retailers can do to keep up with it all

What Is the Experience Economy?

As previously mentioned, customers used to consider a great product the end-all-be-all of an experience, but as those expectations have since evolved—and so must retail brands’ strategy. These days, retail customers prefer to spend money with brands that deliver great experiences, and great experiences go far beyond what’s on a store shelf.

It used to be that a retail experience consisted only of an in-store visit, but in this modern era (and especially since COVID), a customer’s retail experience spans so many different channels. For a customer, their overall experience is informed by a combination of the following:

  • Brand Identity 
  • Online Reviews
  • In-App Experience
  • Website Experience
  • In-Store Experience
  • Employee Interactions
  • And So Much More!

You might sense what we’re getting at here: customers consider experiences to be journeys, not single stops—and brands that fail to approach their experience accordingly won’t be able to differentiate in the experience economy.

For example, an airline may consider a passenger’s flight the extent of that individual’s experience, but this view fails to account for buying a ticket, waiting in the airport, finding a hotel, and all the other parts of the journey besides ‘just’ the flight.

What Makes for a Great Retail Customer Experience Journey?

Brands that focus only on one aspect of the experience are missing a huge opportunity. The winning organizations in the modern experience landscape create journeys that are:

Seamless

Customers should receive the same quality of experience whether they are online, in store or in app. Obviously, there will be some differences in the actual experience (in store purchases provide instant satisfaction, while online requires customers to wait for shipping), but the quality must remain the same.

A positive example of consistency comes from one of our home furnishing clients, who prides itself on the knowledgeability of its staff in store. It wanted to provide that same quality of service on their e-commerce site, and was ultimately able to stand up an online chat that gave its customers instant access to expertise.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s extremely disruptive to a customer when a product’s online and in-store price tags differ. Customers have come to expect seamless experiences—it’s key for brands to deliver on that expectation.

End-to-End

If you’re a regular on the InMoment Blog, you’ll be familiar with our phrase, “design with the end in mind.” And there’s a reason why we return to it time and time again. When it comes to retail customer experience (and really anything in life), if you aren’t actively thinking about your desired outcome when you’re in the planning stages, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll end up with the results you want. 

So, when you are designing a customer journey, be sure to think about every step of the process, but especially the end result. Do you want customers to post about their new product? Share their excitement with friends and family? Come back for more next month? There is so much you can do to influence these actions, if only you plan for them.

Consistent

This one is pretty straightforward. If you provide consistently disappointing experiences (out of stock items, check out lines a mile long, etc.) you will be hard pressed to convince customers to return—or make a purchase in the first place. If you provide consistently excellent experiences, customers will be excited for the next time they get to shop with you, they’ll tell your friends about you, and they’ll likely buy more when they shop with you.

Now, creating consistency across multiple locations with numerous employees is a lot of work, but it is so worth it. Our proprietary research has even found that customers will spend more money with a company that provides a great experience. If you’re looking for strategies to increase consistency, check out this post or this post (centered more around your employees).

Say it with us: Designing best-in-class retail customer experience journeys is a worthwhile investment! In our decades of experience working with the world’s best known retailers, we’ve found that great customer experiences have big business pay off in these four areas:

  1. Acquiring Customers
  2. Retaining Customers
  3. Increasing Customer Lifetime Value
  4. Reducing Business Costs

Learn more about how here!

Customers Expect Great Retail Customer Experiences

It’s become common in the last 5-10 years for retailers to be compared not just to each other, but to brands from other industries and the experiences they provide. It probably comes as little surprise to most retailers that customers frequently compare them to Amazon, but what about a restaurant? 

Restaurants are not retail outlets, but if they provide a great experience, customers will come to expect similar commitment from retailers and vice-versa. The same is true of other types of businesses. (You can learn more about this cross-industry experience expectations in our Retail Experience Trends Report here.)

The final word here is just that: expectation. As we mentioned up top, customers’ expectations are growing more complex as countless brands vie for their attention. This means that, no matter whether a brand sells shoes, cars, meals, or airline tickets, it’s no longer enough to focus solely on a product. 

Make no mistake, offering a quality product is obviously still important, but it’s no longer enough to capture and hold customers’ attention. Experience is the differentiator now, and brands that endeavor to deliver a great experience will come out on top in both their verticals and in customers’ eyes.

To hear more about retail customer experience in the experience economy, listen to the full podcast episode today!

Luxury Retail: Three Elements to Closing the Physical and Digital Experience Gap

Black Friday is right around the corner and you know what that means. Shopping, shopping, and more shopping! But not just any kind of shopping. This once a year occasion means customers are looking for the perfect gift for someone special—and the best deals they can find for the best and most luxurious products on the market.

The thing is, any customer making a luxury purchase will have high expectations for not only the product, but the experience—whether it’s online or in store.Bridging that physical and digital gap is about as easy as finding a parking spot at the mall on Black Friday, and the need for an accessible online experience is only growing as customers prioritize ease and convenience. 

Here are three elements for luxury retail brands’ to consider when closing the gap and delivering that premium level customer journey!

Element #1: Let Customers Speak—and Listen When They Do

Just as you ask for feedback in store, provide those same opportunities for customers when they shop online. Physical and online shopping experiences are significantly different, so you need to collect and analyze feedback from both channels. 

Knowing what’s working and what’s not in each type of experience can teach you how to create a smoother and more connected experience for customers. And it’s most important to communicate back to your customers that you’re listening, you’ve acted, and change is quickly coming.

Element #2: Don’t Choose Online Retail Over Physical, You Need Both

Digital experiences aren’t meant to entirely replace physical ones. They’re meant to allow customers other options that might better suit their needs. Factors like flexibility and convenience influence how customers shop, but it doesn’t mean one experience is objectively better than the other. The best experience isn’t digital or physical. It’s one that fully matches the customer’s preferences. The goal then is to make physical and digital experiences work in harmony. 

Element #3: Keep Your Brand on Point to Tell a Consistent Story

Your digital and physical customer journeys must not only match in quality, but in branding as well. The way you communicate to customers along each digital touchpoint, whether it be a newsletter sent out by email or a personalized message on the website after they purchase something, should keep consistent with your brand’s style, messaging, and tone of voice.

It’s also vital that the digital experience adheres to human-like interactions as if the customer was actually in the store. And that comes through with a unique branding voice and character. Customers shouldn’t feel like they’re purchasing from a robot dispensing products and services, but a human being behind their screen.

Of course, we know that digital and physical experiences aren’t the only aspect of the customer journey that luxury retail brands need to pay attention to. Read this report if you want to learn more about bridging the experience gap and how to improve personalization and emotional intelligence in the new luxury retail age.

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