Originally posted at InReality.com, check out the blog over there for more customer experience & measurement insights.
Retail is at a crossroads… According to Gartner, by 2020, the customer will manage 85% of the relationship with a brand or retailer without interacting with a human. And, with over 800 different paths to purchase available to the 2016 customer (Cisco), more than ever, brands and retailers need to create not only unique and engaging customer experiences, but optimized ones that convert as well.
Here are 8 tactics to optimize your customer experience this year:
Slower or faster… Don’t get caught in the middle
Online the race is on for the last mile: same-day, even 1-hr delivery is a reality today. Similarly, in-store tools like interactive store maps, Apple Pay, mobile POS systems are helping busy customers get in and out of the door quicker. However, on the other end of the spectrum, some of the most successful retail launches of the last few years have focused on more time… creating destination-type, stress-free shopping, and blurring the boundaries between shopping, community, and entertainment.
As we move forward, you’ll need to pick your battle—either lightning fast or carefully orchestrated experiences. Whatever you do, don’t get caught in the middle—in this case it isn’t the safest place. Today’s consumers do not want to spend an afternoon “running errands”.
Feature by feature mobile devices are starting to train us to expect predictive behavior (the map App asking “Are you on your way home?”). What if your brand’s story in-store could take a similar approach? Easily adapt itself for each customer… respond to them… predict their behavior?
Various in-store analytics solutions exist to capture and process daily insights on in-store shopper behavioral & demographic data—all taking us one step closer to this predictive experience.
Embrace Rapid Iterations
Innovation is happening faster and faster. We see frequent feature releases in software, apps and technologies. So it’s only natural that shoppers are now expecting new and changing retail environments as well.
The good news is, as more and more experiences are digitally delivered, targeted content, promotions and product information can be remotely managed, delivered and measured in real-time inside brick-and-mortar, just like online. Ultimately, these kinds of iterative and flexible experiences will allow brands and retailers to employ more agile in-store strategies designed to respond swiftly to meet the ever-expanding needs of today’s consumers.
Obviously personalization is important—we’ve seen it reap huge successes online— but, be careful not to let technology take things too far. For example, 74% of consumers find a salesperson greeting them by name when they enter a store to be creepy (RichRelevance).
It’s not about “impressing” your customers with how much you’ve been secretly gathering about them. It’s about wisely interpreting that data, so you can serve them the right information at the right time and put your best foot forward when they need you. Knowing a customer’s name is a lot less important than understanding what a customer wants and how to help them achieve that goal faster.
Curate: Focus on One Point of Differentiation
Recent years have seen the emergence of new products and services at rapid paces (Uber, Airbnb, Lulu Lemon, just to name a few). The commonality? One feature, one angle, one entry point—simple to understand for the consumer.
One is enough! One is better! What is the one story you want to tell your customer? What is the one thing they should experience in the store? Be relentless about perfecting that one thing, make it a true stand-out element of the experience, and it will do amazing things for your brand.
After waves of apps for just about any situation in life, we are observing a backlash. U.S. consumers are still signing up for loyalty programs in droves—memberships jumped 25.5%, to 3.3 billion, from 2012-2014, but more than half of these consumers didn’t even bother to participate in those memberships, much less become loyal, engaged, enthusiastic program members (Colloquy).
Customers will be more willing to engage with your brand through mobile if you reserve apps for something valuable. Think about: How are they using their mobile devices to aid their path to purchase? What types of information are they gathering? And, how are you rewarding them for engaging with your brand… what happens if they leave a review, take a survey or refer a friend?
Use Human Storytelling
Stories are the fuel of societies, and stories are deeply connected to successful commerce. After an era of mass media, consumers are expecting stories to be told in new, more personal and better ways. Right now advertising is losing its impact—grabbing the attention of only 30% of consumers (Deloitte).
One obvious place to start is social media. The other, is brick and mortar—where over 92% of all retail sales take place (U.S. Census Bureau). Focusing on brick-and-mortar can help with the resurgence of the store as a connecting point in communities, it can also help you to truly listen to customers and use the conversation for new product development. Design your customer experiences so your customers are the protagonists in the environment.
Make Digital Seamless
Not all experiences need to be digital. Indeed, it’s not unheard of that consumers might cherish a digital-free environment for its simple, distraction-free feeling.
Use digital to enhance or improve the experience, not just because it’s the latest fad. And, make it invisible. Harness the power of digital in the background—it’s not about the technology; it’s about the experience. For example, analytics for continuous customer experience measurement and improvement… digital content in-store for more targeted messages… smart lighting controls and audio systems that respond dynamically the current in-store traffic… The possibilities are limitless.
We all know that retail success is becoming increasingly connected to the customer experience. In 2016, moving the needle will require more than just the latest technology and a unique experience, it will require strategic planning and careful attention to the customer experience as part of the overall customer lifecycle. Is your customer experience ready for 2016?