By Dr. Gary Edwards, chief customer officer, Mindshare Technologies
Customer experiences are more important than ever in retail. Motivated by an increasingly sophisticated range of online and offline shopping opportunities, consumers are eager to be delighted by retailers in ways that improve the quality of shopping events and their relationships with their favorite retail brands.
In 2014, the push for truly remarkable customer experiences will become even more intense. In most cases, the retailers that rise above the marketplace will be those that are adept at capturing multichannel customer feedback and converting it into meaningful customer experience improvements.
The feedback of individual customers is important. But for today’s retail brands, successful customer experiences aren’t limited to reacting to the comments and complaints of individual shoppers — they are about the aggregation of feedback from many different sources into actionable insights that target multiple dimensions of the customer experience.
With that in mind, there are at least four trends that will help shape the retail customer experience in 2014.
Integrated, Omnichannel Feedback
Savvy retailers are recognizing the problem with siloed feedback. When feedback collected from offline and online sources are treated independently, consumer insights are disconnected, causing the customer experience to become disjointed.
Retailers are quickly moving toward the consolidation of feedback from multiple, disparate sources into unified customer insights. By bringing together feedback from all available sources, retailers are better able to achieve a single view of the customer — and are better equipped to implement customer experience improvements that dazzle consumers.
Combined Solicited and Unsolicited Feedback
Too often, retailers have prioritized solicited feedback in the form of customer surveys or call center data in customer experience improvements. Solicited feedback is extremely valuable, but unsolicited feedback can be just as useful for identifying and informing the creation of world-class customer experiences.
In retail, unsolicited feedback usually comes in the form of product reviews, social media mentions and other user-generated content that directly influences consumer buying decisions. This year, retailers will continue to invest in technologies and strategies that combine unsolicited and solicited feedback insights to improve the consistency of the customer experience.
Evaluating Branded Behaviors
It’s no secret that effective retail isn’t just about product quality anymore. Many retailers are also selling services and atmospheres that elicit emotional responses from consumers, making them feel happier, healthier or more attractive.
In 2014, many retailers will invest in technologies that enable them to quantify these feelings and incorporate branded behavioral data into their brands’ Voice of Customer (VoC) strategies. With these technologies, retailers will gain important insights that allow them to reinforce and validate branded behaviors, or point to customer experience changes that will amplify desired feelings and sentiments.
Big data is still a big story in retail. Although data captured from exceptionally large and diverse data sets has the potential to deliver important insights related to the customer experience, the use of big data to create customer experience improvements at the local level has been limited, at best.
Why? In many cases, it’s because local store managers simply lack the time and ability to distill big data into actionable customer experience insights. By sourcing local managers with action plans and insights culled from big data sources, retail brands will make better use of big data in 2014 and beyond.
The one thing that won’t change in 2014 is that successful retail continues to be customer-focused. Across the board, retailers that recognize the value of feedback and data from all channels and sources will have the advantage in creating exceptional customer experiences and capturing more than their fair share of the retail marketplace.