A study by HBR Analytic Services found that getting customer experience (CX) right is more crucial for retail than all other industries combined.
It’s not a revelation that the retail industry is one of the most affected sectors in this pandemic. Be it the closure of physical stores or a sudden pivot to virtual environments, organizations are scrambling day in and day out to reimagine their approach.
Consequentially, companies have gone for a complete 180º shift in the name of digital transformation,customer engagement and to increase market reach. There are many ways to improve customer engagement.
If you think about it, the whole process of discovering, browsing and shopping has adapted to the “new normal.” While plush environments, on-demand assistance and product placement were once the names of the game, they have been replaced by two dominant factors – customer experience (CX) and loyalty.
Plus, at a time when 82% of retailers have enhanced the customer experience as their highest priority for the year ahead, it has become evident that if you’re not boarding the train, you’re preparing to be left behind.
But, let’s be very clear.
The second wave of digital transformation for retail goes beyond simply offering an online shopping portal. The new pressures are about responding to customer challenges in a way that elevates the entire experience to push the brand envelope and the bottom line.
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The dramatic adoption of omnichannel strategies
The blend of physical and online channels has been a far-fetched dream for retailers since the beginning of eCommerce. But, the onset of COVID-19 has changed the possibilities, making this move a necessity rather than a luxury.
Take the sales in apparel, makeup and departmental stores, for instance. Each of them has increased 10% ever since the pandemic has made its way to the globe.
This goes on to confirm that the buying power of the customers is not lost, just redirected. And to re-enter the circle of purchase, retailers shall have to evaluate their current omnichannel offerings.
There are particularly three facets to the shift:
1. A seamless transition from physical stores to digital experiences
Mirroring the in-store experience online has been a 50-50 bet for most businesses. Although the availability of video-conferencing platforms eased the move, the personalized touch of face-to-face interaction has been missing.
Therefore, there comes a need for alternative engagement models. The entire predicament lies in creating trust and mitigating the risks of shopping online without ever seeing the product.
Virtual Try-On is hence a call of the times. A platform that allows users to experiment and preview as they did pre-COVID shall always come out on top in comparison to a site that is simply a carousel of images.
Again, the idea of customer experience takes precedence here, putting the needs of your potential buyers above everything else to deliver a solution that sits well with their preconceived notions.
Download this B2C case study – Learn how this online retailer increased their sales by 12% by improving CX
2. The service shall make a difference
58% of customers report their service expectations are higher than a year ago. Why do you think that it is so?
The increased fluidity between in-store and digital experiences means retailers are expected to meet customer demands at the same pace, irrespective of the platform. Plus, customers are accustomed to on-demand shopping and delivery now, which further adds a layer of expectations to the whole digital transformation pie.
Hence, safe delivery modes that align company responses, accountability and availability with the store format will eventually give companies the competitive edge. CX shall sit at the top of this implementation, consolidating third-party services and aggregators to work like inherent offerings.
3. Reassessment through the adoption of an agile model
Since no one knows what the post-pandemic environment would look like, the ones who adapt to it the fastest shall be the frontrunners of the retail race.
Customer experience shall move ahead from generating foot traffic and purchase recommendations to create an ecosystem backed by dynamic data and immediate insights.
The winners would be the retailers that maintain customer relationships, recalibrating their business model to process information, launch new offerings and meet the audience right where they are – every single time!
Integration, access, data, application and everything in between
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no more a vial of ideas for the future but a reality most people have accepted in their daily lives. With the geometric growth in data, there has come an opportunity for retailers to uplift the customer experience by coupling the right information with the right practices.
Here are 3 ways Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are disrupting the digital retail paradigm:
1. Chatbots and virtual assistants have eliminated the “on hold” problems for the customer service department. Relationships are driven by expected issues, quick answers, and no human intervention.
2. A touch of personalization can now not only be achieved through recommendation engines but also in the marketing models of most companies. Customized content is generated at the click of a button to deliver targeted messages across the spectrum.
3. 24 x 7 availability is just a great CX strategy, to begin with. AI makes this possible by allowing support that goes over and beyond human hours.
With everything said, there must be a continuous effort from the customer experience leaders to deliver on strategies that rebalance the business needs and buyer behaviours. When it comes to the retail sector, CX shall be individualized and distributed through multiple channels, multiple touchpoints and multiple formats.
What makes a retailer’s ecosystem perennial shall be how they evolve the commerce platforms to solve their customer’s main pain points. Ultimately, it’ll all boil down to driving real value to the business while displaying a tech maturity that engages the audience to see, stay and convert.
Now, there is no doubt about the complexity of the whole system here. After all, customer experience is quite often considered a make-or-break piece of digital commerce.
Hence, our experts at Apexon cater to a wide range of clients hailing from retail to manufacturing, delivering solutions that change the face of CX for good.
Reach out to us today to know how your company can make the bridge from customer experience to customer acquisition today.