By Jessica Pumo, Tallwave
The retail industry was particularly shaken up during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a large percentage of brick-and-mortar stores managed to survive by pivoting quickly to offer online shopping. Doing so required them to implement mobile and e-commerce solutions almost overnight, and many systems were rough to begin with. As such, many retailers still struggle to provide a seamless online experience for customers.
With the economic recovery well underway, retailers need to continue to adapt to consumers’ needs and preferences as they evolve in an increasingly competitive market. A recent survey of 1,010 Americans shows 51% of respondents were using online ordering more than in the past, and 26% expected to continue after the pandemic. Using customer data, integrations, and feedback, you can deliver a positive customer experience—one that supports the ongoing demand for online shopping while embracing a return to in-person shopping as consumer comfort increases—without starting from scratch.
Identify The Purpose Of Technology
Before you start taking specific actions, consider WHY you're implementing technology and what you expect it to achieve. The customer experience (CX) is everything—according to a PwC survey, more than one-third of customers would leave a brand they love after a single bad experience. After a great experience, however, 63% of respondents would share more personal information with a company. Most consumers don't think of technology as a defining characteristic of a good customer experience—until it fails and their experience gets disrupted. Ultimately, your technology investment should pay dividends, whether directly or indirectly, in its ability to support and advance the customer experience.
Evaluate Your Existing Tech Stack
To get the most out of your CX technology, you need to understand the company's current tech stack and its capabilities. The tech stack is the group of technological tools your company uses to give customers information about products, accept online orders and payments, and manage aspects of the customer experience and your business.
1.Identify the CX Features
A robust retail tech stack contains features that monitor the customer experience throughout your ecosystem, including:
- mapping the customer journey from the first touchpoint to the last,
- identifying challenges and conflicts during the buying process,
- predicting and suggesting other products customers might find interesting,
- offering and applying appropriate promotions or buying incentives, and
- recording user responses for future analysis and to provide data-driven insights into the evolving customer experience.
- If your company isn't using all your tech stack's features effectively, you're not enjoying all the CX benefits technology can deliver.
2.Pinpoint Supported Integrations
Most tech programs support integration with other applications, which keeps costs down and makes it possible for retailers to use many of the tools already in place. For example, if a company uses email marketing or a social media scheduling app, integrating these with your CRM can help you serve up content tailored to specific segments of your customer base across multiple communication channels. If your process incorporates third-party digital integrations, such as PayPal for payments or the Shop App for deliveries, these also can profoundly affect the customer experience.
3.Assess Connected Systems
One advantage of a healthy and robust CX tech stack is connecting systems that "talk" to each other. While the days of spreadsheets are mostly over, retail IT applications can almost always "talk to" an Excel or comma-delimited (CSV) spreadsheet. Ideally, your tech stack should be able to transfer data instantly from one platform to another without the need for extensive customization at either end.
Find out which of your systems communicate with each other and consider using these to design options like providing a concierge or personalized experience during the decision making moment that makes it easier to buy from you.
Discover What Customers Want
The rise of new technologies has changed the way people interact with brands and changed customers’ expectations of service. Since 82% of U.S. consumers want more human interaction in the customer experience, the CX needs to be human-centered. At the same time, 80% base their rating of a good CX first on speed and efficiency, second on convenience, and third on friendly, knowledgeable service.
Knowing what consumers want enables you to provide a streamlined customer journey. Asking customers to create an account so they can enter their personal data once and have their address and shipping information show up at checkout, for example, reduces the amount of work needed to place their order. Conversely, offering a guest checkout option allows customers to prioritize speed when they’re in a hurry. Offering multiple options, such as guest checkout vs. creating an account, gives your customers a way to prioritize their individual preferences and make those preferences clear to you through their buying behavior.
Feedback is an essential part of discovering what your customers want, so listen to the data signals for direction and guidance. These could include identifying the points on the journey where customers encounter challenges with checkout functionality or features that are clunky and don't behave as expected. Your analytics should show the specific areas in the journey where customers drop out, abandon carts, or switch focus.
Build Trust Intentionally
Taking action to discover what your consumers want will help you to build trust. Since 88% of consumers say the data they are willing to share depends on how much they trust a company, it's essential to build trust and explicit consent into your digital actions intentionally. In turn, this will drive consumer consent to share zero-party data, which is vital as access to third-party data becomes less available.
Problem-Solve And Close The Gaps
Enhance your customer experience by mapping the CX holistically and including all online and offline touchpoints to create a retail experience that flows smoothly from one channel to another. Identify ways to micro-influence customer choices by sending communications through text or email.
Cross-reference customer feedback, complaints, and returns with your analytics to identify and address any areas of friction. Incorporate current trends to eliminate gaps and increase customer gratification.
Make sure your staff is adequately trained and prepared to engage with the technology in a way that enhances the customer experience. Otherwise, technology can create more friction than it solves. Be sure that customer service agents have easy access to all customer data, so they can use the data to enhance human-delivered aspects of CX.
The Next Step
For retail companies wanting to improve their CX, it's essential to involve cross-functional leaders in evaluating your CX. Identify and prioritize improvements needed in individual areas of CX delivery that you can execute at a granular level but maintain a holistic view of the overall customer experience to ensure it remains interconnected and harmonized.
Technology isn't a substitute for human interaction. The magic happens when technology increases the speed and convenience for the customer and empowers employees to deliver their best customer service.
Providing a seamless customer experience is critical for retail companies to engage and retain customers—a factor that consumers rated at an importance level of over 70%. The more integrated and connected your technological solutions are, the smoother the customer's experience is.
About The Author
Jessica Pumo is VP of Marketing at Tallwave, a customer experience company. She has 15+ years experience working for major brands, including Pearson and Massage Envy. Jessica is passionate about experience—both customer experience and employee experience—and how the relationship between the two impacts business outcomes.