“In 2018, traditional retailers must begin to accept that customer experiences are no longer benchmarked against specific competitors, but rather by those offered by digital brands like Amazon , Ocado , and Netflix . Yes, these digital brands have an advantage over traditional retailers in that they operate through a single, online channel – making the collection, analysis and use of data for personalisation easier. In that sense, to continue to compete in this increasingly digital-first environment, traditional retailers must learn how to collect and use data to improve the customer experience at a local level.
“This will be made easier by the continued evolution of data analytics technologies. Not only will these technologies enable a holistic view of the customer, but also - by combining customer feedback with wider datasets to make feedback more actionable - the democratisation of data to local customer-facing stakeholders. And this is where the true benefit will be felt by traditional retailers. By sharing actionable feedback with customer-facing stakeholders - from central senior managers to shop floor workers – retailers will empower their local teams to ‘listen and act’ immediately, enabling the improvement of customer experience at a local level.
“The real challenge will appear when changing organisations’ processes to make this happen. The best retailers will be those managing it through strong central leadership, technology, and by creating a culture in which everyone knows the role they play in the customer’s experience.”
What the big market players are doing to further stretch the limits of customer experience
“Unlocking the value of customer data will still be a big focus for retailers in 2018. In order to do this, big market players will further invest in data analytics and automation technology to enable enhanced personalisation for communication purposes, as well as to determine appropriate solutions to customer issues.
“While retailers will still be focused on using data to create moments of customer delight during the purchase journey, they will be equally as motivated to maintain high performing websites, remembering previous purchases and other hygiene factors. Although this won’t lead to higher levels of customer loyalty, it will ensure that customers don’t abandon purchases or worse still, brands. Think ‘Spotify for groceries’ - where previous interactions are documented and used only to create an intuitive experience – such as suggesting products based on previous orders or baskets.”
The human touch is still essential
“2017 was certainly the year of the chatbot, and for most retailers, this has been great. As retailers like Amazon have seen, customers have no issue interacting with machines as long as their queries are answered in a timely and reasonable manner. Yet, as customers become savvier to the use of chatbots and proactively seek out alternative customer service channels, the key challenge for retailers will be deciding when to escalate a machine response to a human one. Amazon is particularly good at this. They guide in-bound, online customer queries through a series of automated pre-questions, which then recommend the best route to contact Amazon – be it via a live chat, email, or calling an agent - ensuring that customers are guided to the best contact channel to resolve their query. In 2018, this is what other retailers should be focusing on.”
"In the immediate future, we’re more likely to see retailers using drones in similar ways to the commercial real estate industry. The next decade will likely see retailers using drones to secure warehouses and store parameters with video. Site selection and construction management is another way that retailers may use drones."