Customer experience can make or break your business. How does your’s measure up?
In my last article about Customer Insight, I discussed the importance of understanding your customers:
- their behaviour
- their values
- how and why they use your products.
This insight, however, is useless unless it’s used to drive how you operate in your business. There’s no point learning that your customers care about accessibility but doing nothing about the step up to your front door.
It’s also worth noting that customer experience starts before they even enter your physical or online store. Your customer’s experience of your business starts when they first become aware of it. Whether that’s through content, advertising, or word of mouth. Obviously, you can’t be in complete control of all of this. But, by being aware of it and then using that awareness to bring intention to the experience you want for your customers will give you much more control.
It’s true that how customer say they will behave doesn’t always reflect what they actually do, but there are some key industry level stats worth considering alongside any other customer insight you have.
Covid restrictions have severely disrupted customers’ access to physical stores which has driven people online. The good news for physical stores though is that 62% of shoppers are looking forward to buying in-store again once the pandemic is over1. The same research also indicated that there has been a positive response to to some of the technical innovations who’s implementation was accelerated during the pandemic, such as self-service kiosks and contactless payments. Fifty nine percent of respondents said they wanted these to remain in place. Whether these work for your business or not though is only something that you can tell based on your branding and your own customer research.
These are some broad industry insights, and there are further implications when it comes to digital disruption which I’ll be discussing below. But what do your own customer insights mean for your physical store experience? Is the experience congruent with your brand’s stated values? Are you being intentional about how you want your customers to feel, think, and act because of your in-store experience?
Unsurprisingly, online purchasing has surged during the pandemic. With national and local lockdowns, consumers have had very little option but to buy online. This has further accelerated a trend that has been growing for years. An additional 28% of shoppers buying online for the first time leading up to Christmas 2020. It’s a trend that’s set to continue, with £3 out of every £10 being spend online (up from £2 in every £10 before the pandemic)2 so embracing it is now a ‘bread and butter’ requirement for any serious retailer.
But what does being online actually mean? We come again to being intentional about the customer experience, which should be driven by customer insight and brand values.
At the very least, your online store should be congruent with your physical store (unless, of course, you have adopted a fully online approach). But an online presence is so much more flexible than a physical store. Why waste that opportunity to take advantage of the additional insights that you can gain and use? The more insights you have and use will help you to further drive customer engagement and, ultimately, sales.
For example, are you are a specialist or niche store? Then why not cover related events that you know that you customers will have attended or will be interested in? For all stores, why not build an email list by offering something of value for customers who subscribe and who you can then keep in touch with?
A word of caution. It may be tempting to go down the route of joining a market place type site to gain greater virtual ‘footfall’. Whilst this can, and does work, you should look into the experiences of others on the marketplace in case there have been any instances of abusive practices3.
Bringing it together – Seamless Omni-Channel Customer Experience
The holy grail right now is to create an omni-channel customer experience where customers move seamlessly from digital to in-store experiences. Now I realise this might feel like this is only for the larger players with big technology budgets. But even augmented reality apps come with an affordable price-tag these days. And, there are many simpler things you can do, from click-and-collect, to postal returns for in-store purchases.
Ultimately, the winners in the tough arena that is retail are going to be those that really ‘get’ their customers, and who use their insight to give their customers the type of experience they want whether that’s in-store, online, or over a combination of both.
If all of this makes you feel overwhelmed, or you feel stuck and don’t know where to start, don’t struggle alone. Get in touch for a no obligation discovery call.
In the next, and final article in this series, I’m going to be discussing other recent trends and what these mean in terms of opportunities for local innovation.