Expedited by the pandemic, the competitive retail sector faces big challenges in customer loyalty
With higher expectations, increased flexibility and ease of shopping, customers are now willing to walk away from brands that don’t deliver on the customer experience (CX) they want and need. Research shows around 40% of consumers tried new brands or retailers during the pandemic, and as many as 80% said they’ve ditched brands because of a negative CX.
The retail experience is a crucial differentiator for brands. While price, value and service remain important, it’s the overall CX that turns a casual browser into a committed brand advocate.
The everyday retail CX contains a multitude of touchpoints that can spark negative or positive emotions for a customer. Different customers value different touchpoints; therefore, all CX journeys should be thoughtful and executed with care.
Retailers need to put measures in place to understand who their customers are and what they expect from their CX – and then take clear action based on this insight, in order to build trust and customer loyalty.
A one-size-fits-all approach will not work
The best way to determine how to cater to the needs of customers is to listen and act. It’s crucial to understand what they want from a brand, what they like and dislike about their experience – including product offering and service proposition – and what should be kept, cut or adapted. When acted upon in the right way, this insight can help build the next generation of CX that will drive brand loyalty and trust.
According to research, 73% of consumers say CX is an important factor in their purchasing decisions and 86% say they’re willing to pay more for a better CX. Therefore, good CX not only increases trust and brand loyalty but also drives profitable growth for the business.
But there is growing competition as customers are more demanding and increasingly open to other brands. To stay ahead, retailers need to go beyond just responding to upset customers; they need to switch from reactive to proactive by listening to the emotions, sentiments, and beliefs of customers. They should be listening to data from all areas – structured, unstructured, solicited, unsolicited, direct and indirect – and they should segment this to more easily address and have a stronger understanding of customer interactions in order to develop a personalised CX.
Consolidating customer feedback
Customers think of in-store and digital as one. Retailers must build a unified view of the customer by bringing together feedback across multiple touchpoints along their journey. Qualtrics research shows that today’s consumers use an average of six channels when making a purchase and therefore companies have data sat across multiple systems.
As a result, their understanding of the customer is siloed, making it difficult to design personalised experiences that engage customers on their own terms, and harder still to understand how the channels work together for the benefit of the consumer.
Understanding multiple data points easily
Using technologies such as AI and machine learning, retailers can collect and analyse real-time insights from social platforms, online reviews, voice and chat functions. Through this, they can begin to predict customer behaviour to deliver on their wants and needs before they have the chance to express discontent with their experience or find another brand that meets their expectations.
By bringing data together into one, consolidated system, retailers are able to better understand the individual journeys customers take – from their preferred methods of communication to purchase history and buying habits. Similarly, they can learn how previous interactions with the company have shaped the customer’s current perception and their future actions, i.e. more frequent purchasing or otherwise.
Employees are fundamental to great CX
Having the right insights into CX is a good start, but businesses also need to acknowledge that CX and employee experience (EX) go hand-in-hand. At least two thirds (67%) of the workforce is disengaged according to research, with disengaged employees delivering a far inferior CX than engaged employees.
Engaged employees are more willing to go the extra mile to help unhappy customers because they understand the business benefits – they are invested in the company and understand the pivotal role they play in providing feedback on customer expectations, mood, and perceptions to enhance CX.
Ultimately, when employees are listened to, they feel valued and are empowered to deliver on the vision for good CX. This, coupled with the effective use of data insights to create a holistic view of each customer, will mean employees are empowered to provide the personalised experiences that customers expect, want and need from the brands they are most loyal to.
About the Author
Matt Trickett is Customer Experience Strategist at Qualtrics. Qualtrics Experience Management (XM) is the only software platform that helps brands continually assess the quality of their four core experiences—customers, employees, products, and brands. With Qualtrics XM, organizations can be at every meaningful touchpoint, for every experience, and predict which changes will resonate most with stakeholders.
Featured image: ©GreenButterfly