Like most people, as a new year begins I like to reflect on the previous year and think about how this year will be different from the last. As I think about 2013 and what it meant for the Voice of Customer industry, one thing is very clear to me: It was undoubtedly the Year of the Customer for retail brands—customer experiences have become more important than ever.
Motivated by an increasingly sophisticated range of online and offline shopping opportunities, consumers were eager to be delighted by retailers in ways that improve the quality of shopping events and their relationships with their favorite retail brands.
As we enter 2014, the push for truly remarkable customer experiences will become even more intense. In most cases, the retailers that rise above the marketplace will be those that are adept at capturing multichannel customer feedback and converting it into meaningful customer experience improvements.
For today’s retail brands, successful customer experience efforts aren’t limited to reacting to the comments and complaints of individual shoppers. The aggregation of feedback from many different sources offers proactive insights for targeting multiple dimensions of the customer experience.
With that in mind, there are at least four trends that will help shape the retail customer experience in 2014:
1. Omnichannel Feedback Integration
Savvy retailers are recognizing the problem with siloed feedback. When feedback collected from offline and online sources is treated independently, consumer insights are disconnected, causing the customer experience to become disjointed.
Retailers are quickly moving toward the consolidation of feedback from multiple, disparate sources into unified customer insights. By bringing together feedback from all available sources, retailers are better able to achieve a single view of the customer—and are better equipped to implement customer experience improvements that dazzle consumers.
2. Combining Solicited & Unsolicited Feedback
With good reason, retailers have given top priority to their solicited feedback, such as customer surveys and call center data, when making customer experience improvements. Yet, this feedback can be improved. By adding in unsolicited customer feedback, you may be able identify new insights into creating world-class customer experiences.
In retail, unsolicited feedback usually comes in the form of product reviews, social media mentions and other user-generated content that directly influences consumer buying decisions. This year, retailers will continue to invest in technologies and strategies that combine unsolicited and solicited feedback insights to improve the consistency of the customer experience.
3. Evaluating Branded Behaviors
It’s no secret that effective retail isn’t just about product quality anymore. Many retailers are also selling services and atmospheres that elicit emotional responses from consumers, making them feel happier, healthier, or more attractive.
In 2014, many retailers will invest in technologies that enable them to quantify these feelings and incorporate branded behavioral data into their brands’ Voice of the Customer (VoC) strategies. With these technologies, retailers will gain important insights that allow them to reinforce and validate branded behaviors, or point to customer experience changes that will amplify desired feelings and sentiments.
4. Big Data
Big Data is still a big story in retail. Although data captured from exceptionally large and diverse data sets has the potential to deliver important insights related to the customer experience, the use of Big Data to create customer experience improvements at the local level has been limited, at best.
Why? In many cases, it’s because local store managers simply lack the time and ability to distill Big Data into actionable customer experience insights. By using data visualization technology to convert their most complex data into simple stories, retail brands can now quickly relay big insights throughout their organization to instruct and unify.
Across the board, retailers that continue to place emphasis on being customer-focused and recognize the value of feedback and data from all channels and sources will have the advantage in creating exceptional customer experiences and capturing more than their fair share of the retail marketplace.