Though it might be hard to admit, the customer is king and we are mere street sellers vying for his attention. He is digitally savvy and frivolous to boot, saving true loyalty for exceptional experiences that genuinely delight him. So, all too aware that loyalty is the goal, where do retailers begin in their enchantment of the king?
Sales today are driven by emotion. Customers don’t buy things because they need them… they buy them because they make them feel good.
To them, it’s not just a purchase, but an experience. Your product may be cheaper, snazzier, or even the solution to all their problems, but if they feel undervalued, frustrated, confused, or dissatisfied at any point in their relationship with you, you’ll lose out to a competitor who recognizes the importance of an exceptional customer experience—one in which the customer feels listened to, understood, remembered, and valued, and where all friction has been meticulously smoothed away and replaced with gems and candy.
An experience like this is truly delightful and will not only earn the king’s favour, but will have him coming back for more and telling all his VIP friends. There’s a word for that: loyalty.
So to gain loyalty, all we have to do is get the customer feeling good! But how?
OMNICHANNEL: NOT JUST AN ADD-ON TO MULTI-CHANNEL
A lot of retailers have a beautiful website, are doing a great job at mobile marketing, and are engaging customers via clever social media campaigns.
But the customer experience is no longer just about being accessible via multiple channels and devices. It’s about having every possible point of interaction with your brand consistent, linked, and talking to each other for a truly holistic omnichannel branded experience.
If a brand can’t do the following then they’re missing the point of what it is to be a retailer in today’s world: identify an online customer and remember previous searches made from other devices; lure them in across different channels with relevant ads that respond to their changing interest; automatically email offers on abandoned baskets; and work out which store they are nearest and invite them in when their mobile is in the vicinity. Also they should be able to link up their purchase request on Facebook with their comment on Twitter that earns them a 10% discount; answer their request in Messenger and confirm pickup times via email; and have the in-store sales rep know all the above as they welcome them with a smile (some things never change). The tagged “thanks for your custom” photos on Instagram, and Facebook ads changing from what they just purchased to related products would be the icing on the cake.
The customer’s experience is at the heart of everything. Every interaction they have with you reinforces how much you care about who they are, what they like, how you can support them, and what a valued customer they are. It’s time to get obsessed with your customer.
A Harvard Business Review study of just over 46,000 customers found that just 27% were either online-only or store-only shoppers. The remaining 73% used multiple channels during their shopping journey and loved using the various touchpoints available to them. Previous customer-brand relationships notwithstanding, the study found that not only were omnichannel customers more valuable—spending 4% more in-store and 10% more online than their single-channel counterparts—but they were also more loyal; repeat shopping trips being 23% higher than among single-channelers.
A great customer experience is proven to help strengthen customer relationships, boost advocacy and referrals, boost sales, and nurture loyalty. And it is guaranteed to make customers feel good!
ONLINE/OFFLINE OMNICHANNEL EXCELLENCE IN ACTION
The offline and online worlds are starting to blur and it’s changing the shopping experience. In fact, it’s having huge impacts on branding, marketing, and customer expectations.
A 2015 Forrester study found that 71% of customers consider being able to check the availability of a certain product at a specific physical store to be important, with 39% adding that they wouldn’t shop at a store that didn’t provide such information.
U.K. fashion retailer Oasis is fusing their brick-and-mortar stores, their ecommerce website, and their mobile app into one seamless shopping experience—expanding the online world offline. In-store sales associates are equipped with iPads that customers are able to use for on-the-spot up-to-date information. The associates can then place orders for any out-of-stock items for home delivery and help customers make their in-store purchases directly through the iPad!
Another U.K. fashion brand, Topshop, launched its On the Go app that uses barcode scanning to link users to nearby store locations and information about available stock. But, more creatively, the brand recently erected Twitter-supported digital billboards in 6 major cities across the U.K. during London Fashion Week and displayed tweets containing the #LFW hashtag. They then presented the latest fashions as they appeared on the runway. Any tweets that included trends like hems or pleats appeared alongside some of Topshop’s relevant in-store offerings. Interested onlookers could either walk the 10 minutes to the local store or receive a curated online shopping list by also tweeting trending words to the Topshop Twitter account. This campaign saw a sales boost of nearly 25% across featured products during London Fashion Week.
Department Store, House of Fraser (recently named Best Multichannel Retailer in the 2017 Multichannel Retail Report), is leading the way in omnichannel strategy and success. The company increased customer satisfaction by 40% by reducing friction with their Buy and Collect service that dramatically reduces queue times. Its digitalised home brochure contains augmented reality to help drive interactions with mobile technology and their app (which offers a nearby store locator, loyalty data, and barcode scanning functionality, as well as sends push notifications about promotions) also offers an AR feature that enables immersive-content driven shopping experiences, like videos, music, recipes, and lookbooks.
The company is trying to encourage current single-channel shoppers to become multi-channel with iBeacon technology providing instant mannequin outfit information and shoppable windows that allow window shoppers to buy products even when the store is closed.
According to House of Fraser, customers that engage on a multi-channel level spend more money and during a six-month push in multi-channel innovation, its ecommerce grew by 30.8%, representing 17.5% of sales.
THE FOUNDATIONS OF TRUE OMNICHANNEL SUCCESS
According to recent research by Spigit, only 54% of businesses surveyed saw ‘identifying new products’ as one of their innovation objectives. Higher up the list were streamlining process (79%) and improving customer experience (75%)—a clear reflection of the era we are in: customer experience is everything.
It’s all very well understanding the what, the why, and the who of omnichannel excellence, but the crux comes with how.
Truly exceptional omnichannel customer experiences are enabled by truly sophisticated technology that was designed for (and not adapted to) an omnichannel world. Brands that are doing the impossible for their customers are backed by technology that enables things like future-proof content management (offering one hub for all content that can pushed to any channel), sophisticated contact management (where all cross-channel and cross-device customer data is stored in one place, and can be used for personalisation), and handy collaboration tools—not to be sniffed at, by the way; if the technology you’re using at home isn’t supporting your team to the same degree as it supports your customers, you’re building castles on sand dunes.
Smart brands are getting the technology in place for the radical overhaul of systems, processes, branding, and service delivery needed to respond to this omnichannel world. By designing everything around their brand principles, they’re creating a unified feeling and a single-branded experience for customers. In amplifying who they are and what they stand for consistently, they are differentiating themselves from their peers and gaining a competitive edge.
It stands to reason, that the more loyal brands are to their customers, the more loyal they’re likely to be in return. A consistent brand (in tone, design, and content) is one they can trust. A customer-centric brand (that remembers, assists, and values its customers) is one they can relate to. A brand that offers friction-free experiences (and dots its pathways with gems and candy) is one they would recommend. And a brand that can do all this and top it off with a sprinkling of creative customer enchantment, wins the loyalty of the king.
Author: Duncan Hendy, content strategy manager at Kentico
Image credit: Fotolia