Optimising Customer Experience in Retail Starts with Unified Customer Intelligence

2022-04-28

By Bradley Lawrence

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Customer behaviour in retail has dramatically changed in recent years.

More of us are shopping online. More retailers have entered the market. Customers are now inundated with choice.

Research of 2000 UK shoppers by Censuswide for Fresh Relevance reveals that there’s been a dramatic shift in buying behaviour, with more brand switching since the start of the pandemic. Almost one in four consumers purchased from a brand they had not tried before the pandemic. Loyalty and retention are today enormous challenges for retailers.

Combined, these factors mean that it’s never been more critical for retailers to up their game when it comes to customer experience.

Why customer experience in retail is so important

To win customers today and stand out from your competitors, having the lowest prices, the most comprehensive product range, and a massive marketing budget isn’t enough.

Though you might initially get people through the physical or virtual doors using these methods, with so many competitors in the retail space, unless you deliver memorable customer experiences, you’re highly unlikely to promote loyalty and drive retention. In today’s market, customer experience is business-critical.

Why? Because if you can deliver unique, memorable experiences, you build emotional bonds with your customers – even as your competitors fight back by lowering their prices and trying to match your product range. Think about Apple, for example. They have higher prices and arguably less advanced products than their competitors, yet we all still come back for more.

Partly, this is down to their brand, of course. But more than that, it’s the consistently high-quality, omnichannel retail experience – where in-store experiences and online experiences match up, while at the same time effusing quality.

The same can be said for retail brands like Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret, Made.com, and Ugg. People pay more for unique retail experiences. And the data backs it up.

Bain & Co found that 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. Capgemini's research showed similar results, finding that 8 in 10 customers would increase their spending with a brand in return for better experiences.

While this might not be new news to you, Capgemini's research shows that businesses are still not delivering exceptional customer experiences. 75% of surveyed companies believe themselves customer-centric, but only 30% of consumers agree.

So, while we know that delivering exceptional customer experiences matters in retail, many of us still have some work to do to match (and potentially even exceed) the likes of Apple, Ralph Lauren, and Made.com on customer experience.

Improving in-store retail experiences

In-store retail experiences are undergoing radical changes – this is something we’ve seen over the past few years.

While safety protocols may now be less stringent than they were at the height of the pandemic, hand sanitiser and new, more spacious store layouts haven’t been the only change in customer expectations.

Customers today increasingly want experiences that align with the simple, fast, highly personalised ones they can now get online. And they want them to align and be consistent with your digital offerings.

Today, in-store retail experiences need to be much more part of your overall omnichannel customer experience than they perhaps once were. No longer can in-store be treated as a stand-alone customer journey. Your in-store retail experience is an incredibly significant cog in an increasingly complex CX strategy.

To get a complete picture of how you’re performing in delivering exceptional in-store retail experiences, you need to understand what your customers actually think about what you’re providing – from your products, to your customer service, your pricing to your store layouts. And you need an understanding that’s based on reality rather than just immovable numbers in a spreadsheet or anecdotal evidence.

The key to understanding what your customers really think is unifying your in-store experience data and data from online customer feedback, customer support, and conversations, and analysing them together at scale to spot consistent themes that underlie the success (and potential failures) in your retail experience.

Chattermill’s Unified Customer Intelligence enables you to unify your in-store and online customer feedback and analyse it to understand what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs improvement.

This can be done at scale to get a broad picture on a store-by-store or region-by-region basis to find out what needs to be improved locally and even on a product line by product line. It’s the key to enhancing your in-store retail experience in today’s omnichannel retail environment.

How to Track and Improve In-store Retail Performance

Optimising digital retail experiences

The rate of digital adoption in retail has been so rapid that it’s almost impossible to comprehend. Though accelerated by the pandemic, customers have rapidly moved online for the past decade. And the move online shows no signs of slowing. For many consumers, it’s now become the default way to shop.

But though more retail customers than ever are browsing and shopping online, retaining customers has become increasingly difficult. Customers now have more choice than ever. In the past five years especially, customer-centric challenger brands have disrupted the market, while legacy retailers have begun to catch up. To stand out, be competitive, and drive retention, you need to deliver the best experiences your customers have ever had.

Doing the basics well is an obvious place to start. Ensuring your website is easy to navigate, easy to find through search engines, and delivers a friction-free user experience is critical – as is offering fast and easy payment options and competitive deliveries and returns.

As discussed in the last section, you also need to ensure that your experiences match those that you deliver in-store.

But perhaps the most critical factor in optimising digital retail experiences is listening to your customers and delivering the experiences they actually want. This may seem challenging to do when you have millions of customers. But it is possible.

The key to this is understanding the sentiment that lies behind your customer data. It can seem like a bit of a minefield with chatbots, review sites, digital customer support, and app store reviews to consider. So what should one do?

Again, the key here is using a platform to unify and understand this data at scale. Chattermill enables you to do just this. We integrate with almost every customer data source to unify your data, and analyse in minutes to give you the intelligence and insights you need to make changes to your retail experience based on the reality of what your customers think, feel, and want.

You can then use this intelligence to constantly and consistently improve customer experiences right now, while also having the insights you need to make intelligent predictions that will help guide your decisions in the future.

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Unified Customer Intelligence is business-critical for retail brands

Retail customer experience today is all-encompassing. There are hundreds of customer journeys, thousands of customer interactions in-store and online, and millions of customer data points. It touches many parts of your business – from customer service representatives to product designers, in-store employees to logistics and delivery.

Understanding customers in this complex context is business-critical because it directly impacts customer loyalty, satisfaction, and retention (which ultimately helps decide how successful your business is) and the people who represent your business.

Whether it’s Chattermill’s Unified Customer Intelligence platform, or similar, you need something that enables you to unify, analyse, and act on data from across your business – and present intelligence and insights to the right people at the right time.

Having one unifying platform like Chattermill enables you to get a complete, comprehensive, and holistic view of your customers, unify, understand, and act on data from disparate sources, and spot trends that will ultimately enable you to deliver retail experiences that not only delight your customers today but will continue to do so in the future.

Mission-critical? In today’s retail industry, it might just well be.

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