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GUEST COMMENT Consumer reliance on digital services: risk and reward for retailers in the ‘era of the digital reflex’

Spending fell year-on-year in August, says the IMRG. Image: Fotolia

Spending fell year-on-year in August, says the IMRG. Image: Fotolia

The way consumers interact and engage with digital services and applications is undergoing a seismic shift. More so than ever, these digital dependencies impact consumers’ expectations of the businesses and brands they engage with. The quality of customer experience is more important than ever in establishing, nurturing and growing a successful business. But for the first time, it is the digital customer experience – rather than the in-store or face-to-face experience – that is considered more important to the consumer. Consumers now demand a flawless digital experience and retailers need to keep pace with both their customers and the competition, and embrace the use of real-time, data-driven insights to drive customer loyalty and remain competitive.

Expectations for digital services are increasing 

The digital world has arguably impacted retailers more than any other industry. We’ve seen new entrants disrupting and dominating the market in just a few years, whilst at the other end of the scale, well-known and established brands are shutting shop on a regular basis. Consumers are choosing convenience, with online browsing and shopping are becoming the natural go-to for many. What’s more, consumers’ digital expectations continue to grow. For example, a recent study from AppDynamics found that 70 per cent of consumers claim to be less tolerant of problems with digital services than two years ago. Digital services (and the retailers behind them) are now expected to reward loyalty and to provide tailored, personalised content and experiences. Smooth, personalised digital experiences for customers are now paramount for retailers success. 

Poor digital performance impacts purchasing decisions

To remain competitive, retailers should continually make enhancements to ensure that their digital customer experience meets growing expectations. Customer tolerance for loading errors and broken links, for example, is often close to zero. And worryingly for retailers, according to the App Attention Index, 84% of UK customers are likely to experience problems with digital services without notifying the brand and giving them a chance to put things right, while 64% would actively try to discourage others from using a service or brand if they have a bad digital experience. 

Businesses must recognise that performance issues across their digital services are leaving their customers suffering in silence, or else sharing their negative experiences with others. In fact, sub-standard digital experiences have a more profound, emotional impact on people, with more than half of consumers admitting that problems and frustrations with digital services affect them more or for longer than they would like. Imagine causing that level of upset or frustration in-store. No retailer would allow their customers to leave the store feeling angry or disgruntled, at least without having done everything in their power to address the concerns and go some way to resolving the issue. In the digital world, many retailers are failing to see the effects of poor digital performance on their customers, leaving them shouting at the website or application, or taking to social media to complain about their experiences. Ultimately, a retailer’s poor digital performance can ruin their reputation as customers increasingly take these types of decisive actions.

How retailers can thrive in the era of the digital reflex

There is good news for retailers though as performance issues can be easily detected, often long before the customer is impacted. With application performance monitoring at the heart of the customer experience strategy, retailers can get real-time visibility and insight into their customers’ online experiences, alerting them to issues and enabling them to take action quickly. By leveraging these performance insights, retailers can gain an advantage over the competition, improve customer satisfaction, build greater customer loyalty and drive revenue. 

It’s vital that retailers proactively monitor and manage their end-to-end digital experience from a technical and customer interaction perspective. Additionally, both business and IT teams should be deeply involved in this process, since the know-how to quickly remediate customer issues requires their close partnership. This includes having the ability to:

• Detect which customers are experiencing issues as it’s happening, such as a slow or problematic transaction

• Know the loyalty status of each customer, and what products they were trying to purchase when they encountered issues

• Swiftly diagnose and then remediate the underlying issue so it does not affect any other customers, and use the learnings to prioritise future issues effectively

It’s clear that the bar has been raised for the digital customer experience and that it’s no longer acceptable for a business to provide a sub-par digital experience. Customers will simply not tolerate it – they will take their business elsewhere. Flawless digital performance is now the baseline for all businesses, especially in a competitive environment like retail. The winners will be those that consistently operate above this level, delivering a world-class, seamless digital experience that delights the customer. 

James Harvey is EMEA CTO at Cisco AppDynamics

Image: Fotolia

Author image courtesy of James Harvey/Cisco AppDynamics

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