We’re running a series of pieces exploring predictions for how multichannel and e-commerce retail might change over the coming year. Today we consider the customer experience
Adapting as customer expectations change
Adapting to the ever-growing changes in consumer expectations rapidly enough will be the biggest challenge. That will be tough for companies with under-pressure profit margins, legacy systems and operational methodologies no longer able to support growth as maybe they have done historically. A business can feel caught in a perpetual cycle of not reinvesting due to not making as much money as previously, or losing market share. Yet without investing, businesses won’t be able to grow or adapt to the market demands. It could be tough if you don’t overcome these challenges.
Customer experience will continue to be the number one priority, with an increase in recruitment for roles in this space. It shows how much of a differentiator this can be for a retailer. More investment in technology can help a retailer understand the consumer, listening to what they say, gaining that insight and actually committing to turning that insight into action in a timeframe that effects positive change.
Matt West, chief executive, Feefo
Focus on the basics of customer experience
Modern customers demand convenience. How many of us have walked away from a self-service till when buying a bottle of wine because a staff member wasn’t available? Or, indeed, abandoned an online basket because the delivery time was too long? You aren’t alone – 45% of shoppers do the same.
Another essential part of customer journey mapping is the prediction of such friction points. That’s why the delivery of a simple and smooth customer experience will be a key focus for retailers in 2020. Perhaps some will take cues from Tangar, an app that allows customers to build shopping lists at home and then shows them how to navigate around the store to pick up the products when they arrive.
This year, retailers will be looking to offer more of this type of convenience. Using a mix of data collection and a deep interrogation of shopper behaviours, we will see a gradual improvement in the identification of those pain points, and ever more novel approaches to eliminating them.
Ian Scott, retail innovation manager, Tag
Immersive and engaging experiences happen online
In the early days of ecommerce, the very fact of being online was enough to entice shoppers: convenience was – and still is – a big draw.
But as we’ve taken to living more and more of our lives online, we’re no longer happy to settle for purely transactional interactions with retailers. In 2020, we’ll see more retailers recognising that shift and accommodating shoppers with engaging shopping experiences unique to online shopping.
Furniture sellers, for example, may offer more augmented reality (AR) applications so shoppers can see products in their homes, in the actual context they’d use them. Values-focused brands might offer VR tours of their sustainable headquarters or their manufacturing processes.
A recent PriceWaterhouseCooper study found that 73% of shoppers say customer experience is an important factor in their buying decisions. That’s more than the number who cite either price or quality as important.
Companies have taken notice: in 2018, three-quarters of organisations increased their spend on marketing technology aimed at improving the customer experience.
These investments will pay off in 2020, when we’ll start to see brands cultivating thoughtful, intentional experiences for online and mobile shoppers that acknowledge digital channels are here to stay and that they will be most lucrative as a complement to – rather than a replacement for – bricks-and-mortar experiences.
Katy Collins is a senior account executive for Threekit,
Understanding the customer journey
Understanding the customer journey is something of a cliché, but like a lot of clichés, it’s a necessity.
Now there are more channels and touchpoints than ever and many retailers use third-party technology as part of their marketing. That makes obtaining accurate customer feedback quite a challenge for many retailers.
Retail brands need the ability to pull all these disparate channels together so they can extract sentiment quickly and accurately. That calls for investment in technology – especially applications integrating artificial intelligence (AI). Customer expectations, fads and trends change so rapidly that consumer-facing brands cannot afford to be in the dark at any time.
Neil McIlroy, head of product innovations at Feefo