Customer Experience and the Future of Retail

It’s clear that the pandemic has brought changes and challenges to almost every industry. It’s made businesses take stock of how they operate – re-examine their business models and revenue streams while forcing them to look with fresh eyes on things that had previously been taken for granted. 

Of course, retail is no exception. As brands look to map paths forward in this new, post-COVID-19 landscape, they need to remain agile, adaptable, and continually assess what’s working and what’s not. 

Prioritise Customer Experience

Many brands turned to digital channels throughout 2020, and rightly so. It’s clear that the COVID-19 shutdowns caused an acceleration in ecommerce (as reported by Australia Post among many others). Indeed, Channel Advisor has reported that now 46% of consumers shop online more frequently than they did pre COVID-19, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. 

While there’s no doubt that digital channels are an integral part of any comprehensive marketing strategy, the physical retail landscape isn’t dying – it’s evolving.  

Physical retail will remain an important cornerstone of commerce for all major brands. And while a store’s original purpose of product discovery and browsing will likely remain, retailers not only need to develop strategies that enable consumers to do this comfortably and independently — consumer experience will become central to success.

Captivate and convert

An emphasis on immersive experiences, in conjunction with contactless purchase capabilities, creates a compelling proposition for consumers — enabling them to ‘experience’ the product firsthand before making a purchase, all while minimising contact. Stores adopting this model will serve as destinations in themselves and will create their own captive markets instore. 

Retailers can create this elevated brick-and-mortar experience by rethinking their physical and digital displays and incorporating new, immersive elements. For example, interactive displays instore that complement store windows and digital displays provide a level of immersion that can’t be experienced online. This delivers a more memorable physical experience while providing continuity with digital marketing efforts, increasing conversions both instore and online, post store visit.

There’s no question that consumer desires and expectations are changing, and with them the entire landscape of physical retail. It’s our job as the industry to remain agile – innovate, measure, iterate and repeat. We need to understand what our customers want and provide memorable experiences that exceed their expectations. 

Maximise Impact with Omni-Channel Marketing

As we deal with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, digital transformation is a major focus for many businesses. And while there’s no doubt digital marketing is incredibly valuable — we must remember that we are selling to humans, who still care about making a connection with brands and who seek out enjoyable experiences. In many cases, this means going to physical stores to do their shopping.

For this reason, aligning your online and offline marketing strategies and promotional activities is not just effective, it’s becoming increasingly critical. In the current environment, customers seek a consistent experience with the brands they buy from as they switch between physical and digital worlds. 

Customers move along buyers’ journeys made up varied combinations of both digital and physical touchpoints. So, to optimise customer relationships and improve experience and engagement, we should view our online and offline marketing channels as complementary instead of competitive.

A great case in point is Amazon’s US$13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods: America’s largest supermarket chain specialising in organic foods. Amazon saw the value in this because it understands that despite high levels of interaction with devices and digital services, most sales still happen in physical stores.

Google itself has reported that 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby, will visit a business within a day, and 28% of those searches result in a purchase. Likewise, Shopify has estimated that 80% of retail sales will still happen in stores beyond 2021.

But while the majority of sales do take place in stores, our physical marketing efforts shouldn’t be made in isolation. Indeed, Hubspot has reported that 81% of consumers will research online before making a purchase. This is why it’s imperative to execute a cohesive, omni-channel strategy, ensuring customers get the same experience as they move between digital and physical properties. 

Despite this, many brands still aren’t set up to meet these expectations and are consequently leaving customers dissatisfied with the service and experience they get in physical stores. While it can be all-too tempting to focus on optimising individual touchpoints, this targeted activity can create even greater variance along the consumer journey and magnify inconsistencies. In this situation, no matter how successful a single touchpoint is, customer confusion and dissatisfaction will arise as they invariably move between touchpoints. 

To ensure we nurture and grow our customer base, we should build on traditional principles and adopt a customer-centric approach to build a stronger reputation, both online and offline. Consumers move seamlessly between digital and physical worlds — they use their phones to find store locations and they check for sales and stock availability before they visit. Remembering this will not only see our marketing efforts become more effective, but we’ll also build trust and elevate our customer relationships.

Increase Sales and Customer Satisfaction with a Cross Selling Strategy

To increase both sales and customer satisfaction in retail, it’s imperative to have a solid strategy in place. You need to understand your customers’ wants and needs, the use cases of the products you’re selling and where the two intersect. 

This isn’t as complicated as it may sound and, in many cases, can boil down to implementing a cross selling strategy. This is arguably one of the most effective methods for increasing sales and is perhaps most easily summed up in six words: Would you like fries with that? By effectively bundling complementary products, you’re making the purchase decision easier for customers, increasing perceived value, customer satisfaction — and overall sales while you’re at it. 

In retail, cross selling can be as simple as bundling related products so customers don’t have to spend time working out and looking for what they need in store. For example, a customer purchasing a camera would very likely be interested in a bundle that included a memory card, camera case and (depending on the camera) even a tripod. Offering a discounted price makes the offer even more compelling. 

Effective cross selling will not only help to increase sales and category profitability, but you’ll also drive customer loyalty by offering them a great shopping experience. This will in turn strengthen your brand reputation, differentiate you from your competition, and increase foot traffic to your store. 

Dynamic displays that tell the story of the central product and clearly demonstrate how the other products in the bundle work together, are key to successful cross selling. And when implemented correctly, they can be used as a psychological draw to bring customers in and guide them through your store – increasing conversions further while making the shopping experience more exciting and satisfying for the customer. 

These displays essentially work as ‘silent sales staff’, communicating the product’s value proposition in a simple, appealing way. Counter spaces, sales registers, end caps on aisles, and high traffic areas within the relevant category are perfect places to install this kind of display. 

Engaging displays are an incredibly effective part of any retail cross selling strategy as they not only educate the customer on what’s available but explain why an add on product is desirable. What’s more, they do this passively, so the customer feels more in control of their purchase decision as opposed to having sales staff ‘push’ another product on them. 

When implemented well, cross selling is extremely effective in helping customers discover products they weren’t looking for but do actually need. It also helps customers save time by placing everything they need in one place. You’re essentially helping the customer find what they need to make the most of the central product they’re planning to purchase — and that’s a win for you and your customers alike.

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If you’d like to maximise the impact of your next event or campaign, or just find out more about how we can help — get in touch, we’d love to chat!