How Retail Technologies Champion Customer Experience

Read Time: 4 minutes

Author - Olga Kamylevich

Olga Kamylevich
Published: January 22, 2019

How Retail Technologies Champion Customer Experience

Retail is Not Dead

It may seem like the entire retail industry is still struggling but according to the Mastercard SpendingPuls report, holiday retail sales grew at their fastest pace in six years, topping $850 billion. Total holiday retail sales from Nov. 1-Dec. 24 rose 5.1% vs. a year earlier, with online spending surging 19.1%. This marks an increase from the 2017 holiday retail sales gain of 4.9% and online shopping growth of 18.1%. Drill down to specific categories though and the story begins to vary.

  • Electronics and appliances dropped 0.7% while home furnishings had an uptick of 2.3%.
  • Department store sales slid 1.3% from 2017, affected by store closures.
  • But the online sales were much more upbeat, with 10.2% holiday sales growth.

Now that it’s a new year, what are retailers doing to improve if they had a slip in sales or continue their momentum after the 2018 holiday season? It’s cheaper to focus on developing sales with existing customers. On the flipside, the fastest way for a brand to grow is to attract new customers. Or they can put in place a strategy aligned with both of these goals.

More than Customer Service

Customer experience is and will continue to be a major driving force in growing customer loyalty. The value of an excellent customer experience can substantially impact a brand’s identity as well as its bottom line. These are just a few of the tactics retailers use to build a great in-store and brand customer experience:

Face-to-Face Selling – Having knowledgeable sales associates who are helpful and informative create a real desire for return customer visits. A strong workforce can help a brand sell for the long run rather than a one-off. Most buying journeys start online with product and pricing research, however many purchases still are completed in a store. For high-value purchases, such as fine jewelry, this is especially true. Having a sales associate with strong product knowledge can, not only assure the customer and close the sale they can also compel a customer to return for future purchases.

74% of consumers globally and in North America think that knowledgeable in-store staff is important to their brand experience (Oracle).

In-store Experiences – This tactic is all about creating immersive and personalized experiences for the customer from the time they walk in the store. Brands that work to delight their customers from their first visit always benefit.  Ulta offers a broad assortment of hair and beauty products. Besides offering these products, Ulta also offers in-store services such as hair, skin and brow treatments, differentiating itself from other retailers that sell beauty products.

80% of consumers say they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences (Edelman)

Retail Operations Technology – Perhaps the most overlooked tactic is a transformation within the not so exciting department of Operations. Technological integrations here can strengthen the customer experiences a retailer is offering.

Mobile POS Systems: Smartphone or Tablet-based POS systems allow sales staff to combat customer frustration and cart abandonment. Associates can break up a long queue and check customers out faster. These mobile systems allow sales associates to access a customer’s buying history, making personalized recommendations possible.

Analytics: These types of technologies are business intelligence investments that can inform and improve the customer experience. Smart camera and video analytics can help decide product placement, avoid overcrowding and minimize service times. 

Customer Relationship Management Platform (CRM): The data captured in a CRM, including preferences and demographic data, enables segmentation and personalization. This data can inform the type of shopping environment a brand creates and allows a market segment or an individual to be targeted with promotions that appeal to them.   

Scheduling Software: Another technology growing in adoption by retailers to evolve the customer experience is scheduling software. Currently used by 29% of the respondents in the NAPCO Media survey, this technology fits comfortably within the omnichannel direction retailers are taking in giving customers the experience they have come to expect. The value of this technology can contribute significantly to a brand’s customer experience strategy.

This technology plays a strong role in a brand’s omnichannel customer experience strategy, unifying online and offline interactions. Brands offering self-scheduling on their websites are not only creating a positive customer experience they are also helping shift their customers from an online visitor to an in-store shopper. The convenience of booking an in-store appointment online shows their customers their needs are a priority.

Self-scheduling an in-store appointment allows a retail customer:

  • to book an appointment at any store location
  • to have direct access to a knowledgeable sales associate
  • to skip the line or not wait in line at all

Exceed Your Customer’s Expectations 

The Year of the Customer has been a yearly declaration over the past few years. Walker’s Customer 2020 report, however, forecasted the importance of the customer experience back in 2013.

“Enlightened companies must view the customer experience as a strategic, C-level initiative. In the future, the responsibility of a “chief customer champion” will become more common, serving one purpose – to create an unrelenting focus on the customer throughout the enterprise.” 

Current data continues to reinforce the importance of a customer experience strategy. By pursuing excellence in the customer experience, there is no need to decide on whether to chase new customers or concentrate on existing ones. Managing the customer experience can serve both purposes. What is your brand doing to create personalized positive retail customer experiences?

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