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Researching the customer experience

Internet Retailing’s first customer journey research report looked at the steps within the customer journey and how retailers were tackling them to improve the service and experience both on site and in store. Research Editor Liz Morrell explains what will be covered in the second report.

In 2014, in our second report, the focus on customer experience as an integral part of the customer journey remains more important than ever. Only now the goalposts have changed slightly. It’s no longer simply about introducing new technologies to steal a lead but now also about how those technologies, processes and more importantly the different parts of the retailer’s business themselves, work together to provide a unified experience – whether that is online, in store, on mobile or through a mix of channels – that actually delivers on the brand promise made by the retailer.

Once again our research will examine and assess the challenges and opportunities that high impact, sustainable multichannel customer experiences can have on profits and, more importantly will reveal the lessons the retailers we survey have learned to show how they can deliver the very best experiences for their customers to delight and, by turn, boost sales.

From how customers communicate between themselves, to the new ways that retailers can communicate with them, customer experience is more important than ever. Service and in particular the personal touch is absolutely key in today’s winning retail environment. Retailers can no longer afford to sit back and let their customers serve themselves but instead do all that they can to help without overcomplicating the heart of the journey itself in the process.

It’s here that our research sponsors come in. We are pleased to welcome SLI Systems, Sitecore and Solocal Group as sponsors of the report. At SLI it’s all about further improving the retail experience by connecting shoppers with the products they are most likely to buy. The company’s offers include site search, navigation, merchandising, mobile, product recommendations and user-generated SEO. It is this, claims Marcus Law, SLI Systems’ Head of Marketing EMEA, that makes SLI the most chosen cloud-based site search provider to Internet Retailer Top 1,000 retailers.

In the same way that any good sales assistant works, the company’s patented technology continuously learns from the actions of visitors to deliver the most relevant results possible, explains Law. The results of this are obvious. “This increases conversion rates, secures brand loyalty and results in higher order values,” he says.

Indeed, it is this element of experience that is at the heart of SLI’s offering. “We put the customer and their experience at the centre of all SLI Systems’ technology,” says Law.

This makes the Internet Retailing Customer Experience research report an integral part of SLI’s plans. “We hope the Customer Experience research project will not only show the ROI our products have for retail clients, but also demonstrate how our solutions fit into the multichannel ecosystem and accelerate ecommerce,” says Law.

Indeed the benefits will be evidenced by interviews with some of SLI Systems’ largest customers who will be helping us in the research, revealing the opportunities and lessons that they have learnt from their own experiences to create high-impact, high-profit and sustainable multichannel customer experiences.

Our second sponsor Sitecore claims to be the global leader in customer experience management. The company helps brands deliver highly relevant content and personalised digital experiences that delight audiences, build loyalty and drive revenue with technology that helps retailers truly know their customers.

“With the Sitecore Experience Platform, marketers can own the experience of every customer that engages with their brand, across every channel,” says Shawn Cabral, Vice President of Global Brand Marketing at Sitecore.

He points out that more than 3,500 of the world’s leading brands – including American Express, Carnival Cruise Lines, easyJet, Heineken and L’Oréal – already use the services of Sitecore. “They trust Sitecore to help them deliver the meaningful interactions that win customers for life,” he says.

He believes the opportunities for retailers, especially currently, are huge in terms of the different touchpoints and ways that retailers can interact with customers and prove themselves better than their competitors to improve the customer experience. “It’s exciting to think where retailers will go next, as the pace of innovation is unrelenting in the quest to offer a more engaging experience for consumers,” he says.

Doing so helps to drive loyalty and lifelong custom and it’s this challenge that all brands and retailers must live up to if they want to continue to thrive. “Customers are judging brands more and more on the experience they provide, and are much less tolerant of brands where the basics aren’t in place, such as a poor mobile website experience, or where there are holes in the service delivery,” says Cabral.

Our third sponsor, Solocal Group, is a market specialist in cost effective multichannel marketing, supporting businesses with the online to in-store customer journey by connecting customers with brands.

Its portfolio of solutions including Horyzon, Leadformance and Timendo solutions help over 700,000 clients engage with customers and drive online traffic in-store through display advertising, store locator and real-time online booking services.

For Solocal Group being part of the Customer Experience report was a perfect fit according to Bruno Berthezene, Senior Manager Partnerships and Business Development at Solocal Group. “Solocal Group’s partnership with Internet Retailing in the Customer Experience research project relies naturally on Solocal Group’s conviction that the customer must be put at the centre of each business, be it a large brand or an independent business,” says Berthezene.

He says that the multichannel customer experience in particular for the “Research Online Purchase Offline” consumer still needs to be optimized to move the customer experience from good to great. “Some 88% of purchases are in store rather than via ecommerce and 80% of the customers purchasing offline are researching online prior to their purchase,” he says. “Therefore, it should be crucial for brands to make sure the customer journey from online research to offline purchase is optimized in a way that makes sure the consumer remains engaged with the brand and does not choose one of the brand’s competitors during his or her journey.

“Multichannel is a great challenge and opportunity for brands and much needs to be done for many of them to provide a great customer experience taking into account the interactions between online and offline, pre-store research and in-store purchase,” he says.

These are just some of the questions and topics that the Internet Retailing Customer Experience research report 2014 will aim to answer. Our research programme will once again comprise a survey of retailers and readers as well as further in-depth interviews and case studies on those that deliver this promise well – showcasing best practice lessons in this area. Do keep an eye out for the survey when it hits your inbox later this year as well as for details of our Live event where you will be able to meet our sponsors and hear exclusive presentations covering the results of the research.

In the meantime, if you have questions you want answers to, suggestions for the research to cover or you just want to get involved to showcase what you as a retailer are doing in terms of delivering a great customer experience, then please email the Research Editor on

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