In the world of retail, the customer experience is taking center stage as a primary differentiator. As consumers become more comfortable with jumping from one channel to the next, retailers are striving to deliver an experience that exceeds customer’s expectations.
For retailers to stay on track in their efforts to master customer experience in the age of e-commerce, here is a look at some of the most significant trends in the space, the key obstacles retailers face and how they should go about overcoming them.
1. Devices gain newfound power
As brand leaders craft stronger experiences for their shoppers, they'll need to understand how consumers are navigating the digital environment. eMarketer revealed that 40 percent of consumers view mobile devices as their most important resource for making purchase decisions, and they're using smartphones to check product availability, read reviews and look for coupons online. In some cases, these devices are used to make the purchase itself.
With these trends in mind, retailers need to place a much greater emphasis on mobile as they refine their marketing efforts, e-commerce platforms and customer support systems. This means that brands should focus on collecting data from the mobile domain and creating more streamlined transitions between these devices and more traditional shopping methods. After all, eMarketer estimated that the United States had 146 million mobile shoppers this year, up 23 million from 2013 - a substantial leap that cannot be ignored.
2. The impact of digital can’t be ignored
While smartphones and tablets may represent the exciting new frontier for e-commerce, retailers can't forget that a streamlined shopping experience is the end goal. eMarketer pointed out, physical stores are still the preferred channel when it comes time to make a purchase, with 72 percent of surveyed shoppers citing their importance. But, interestingly, Danielle Bailey, principal at L2 Think Tank told eMarketer that, “90 percent of department store sales still occur in-store, but 70 percent of those sales are influenced by digital.” This means that in-store and online can’t be pegged against each other but instead need to cooperate together to maximize retail revenue.
3. Beacon technology is starting to take off
The in-store experience is undergoing a digital shakeup with the immergence of technology such as Apple Beacon. Beacon technology presents retailers with a big opportunity to bring personalization and recommendations into the store experience. According to a Business Insider article, “Since beacon-powered apps will collect valuable data on consumers' in-store activity, they could result in highly personalized and targeted offers.” Also, beacon technology presents new ways for retailers to better understand the in-store experience with the ability to engage directly with customers for feedback while in-store. Today, beacon technology only influences $4 billion worth of US retail sales but according to BI Intelligence this is set to grow to over $44 billion by 2016. Beacon technology might still be in its infancy but presents a huge opportunity for innovators willing to invest now as they will gain a competitive advantage as the industry catches up.
4. Data underpins the retail experience
The retail experience is and will always be driven by data. But, according to eMarketer, the next frontier in analytics is creating a unified view of the customer across platforms. By having an individual view, retailers will be able to deliver far more targeted messages both online and offline. Judy Shapiro, CEO of Engage Simply, stated that, “Conversations are shifting in digital from billions of impressions to thousands of quality impressions.” This means that as retailers create a single view of customers it will be imperative to fill the view with quality first-party data such as Voice of the Customer(VoC) insights. With first-party data, retailers will be able to move towards tailored experiences that create a one to one interaction with customers.
The bottom line is that it’s all about the customer experience. As you go about creating your retail strategies for the future remember the key is better understanding your customers and becoming more customer-centric.