With today’s consumers looking for more out of their retail experiences and actively seeking out opportunities to build relationships with the brands that matter to them, the best retailers appreciate the importance of delivering exceptional customer experiences.
To improve consumer-brand connections, retailers must employ innovative strategies to inspire customers to feel a personal connection with the brand. In today’s environment, businesses face the challenge of amassing customer feedback across all channels and streamlining that information into a cohesive strategy that creates personalized, gratifying customer experiences.
Top Customer Experience Management Trends in Retail
Collectively, retailers excel at adapting their products and delivery systems to the needs of the marketplace. However, they must pay attention to customer experience management trends that will help the brand stay attuned to the marketplace through the translation of customer feedback into enhanced retail experiences.
1. Omni-channel Customer Feedback
Today’s brands understand the urgency of proactively connecting with consumers across all channels. To truly capitalize on omni-channel opportunities, retailers need to capture customer feedback to gather insights to help shape customer experience efforts. Retailers should integrate multi-channel feedback from different sources into consolidated customer experience insights, rather than handling feedback from different channels separately in organizational silos.
By aggregating feedback captured from multiple sources in a unified view, retailers can create more consistent customer experiences. Additionally, retailers should implement technology that tracks the customer experience throughout the entire purchase cycle to engage consumers on a cohesive basis across channels.
If retailers fail to effectively leverage customer feedback collected through multiple sources, they face the risk of disconnected actions as a result of the feedback and, in the worst case, a disjointed customer experience across channels. The customer doesn’t view the channels separately — neither should brands.
2. Integrating Solicited and Unsolicited Responses
Solicited feedback, such as online customer surveys and call center data, provides retailers with valuable insights into consumer satisfaction. This is not the only useful source of customer feedback however and shouldn’t be kept separate from feedback captured through other channels.
Unsolicited feedback from social media mentions, customer product reviews and responses on websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are great resources for brands looking for consumer insights. The customer experience feedback on these social channels are highly relevant to today’s consumers because they trust other customers’ opinions and it often directly influences their buying decisions. In fact, a 2012 survey by Forbes found that 81 percent of US respondents said that friends’ social media posts directly influenced their purchase decision.
In 2013, retailers must capitalize on customer feedback from both solicited and unsolicited sources to create more consistent customer experiences. By utilizing both types of feedback, brands increase their ability to listen to their customers and to improve brand-consumer relationships.
3. Delivering on the Brand Promise
Successful retail is about more than product quality. When a customer enters a retail establishment, they expect to find a pleasant, enjoyable atmosphere and respectful, attentive staff. When executed correctly, these attributes can make customers feel happier, healthier or more attractive.
Typically, brands struggle to quantify and measure these feelings, making it difficult to adjust customer experiences at the local level. However, we know that these emotional attributes of the experience are extremely important to building customer loyalty. The challenge for businesses is to implement technologies that will help them better understand the branded behaviors that elicit these feelings, and to create customer experiences that are more engaging and satisfying.
By exploring the branded behaviors that enforce their “social currency,” retailers can reinforce the behaviors that strengthen consumer-brand relationships or change behaviors to address customer needs and create a more desirable customer experience.
4. Breaking Down Big Data
Big data, or data collected from large and complex data sets, offers myriad insights into the experience customers are having with the brand. However, local brand managers often have difficulty understanding how to leverage data at the local level.
To overcome this barrier between general consumer insights and localized action, retailers should provide research-based advice and coaching to local managers in an effort to help individualize and improve local customer experiences.
It is essential for retailers to understand that advances in technology have fundamentally changed the nature of consumer-brand interactions. Customers are constantly in contact with their favorite brands through social media, and they expect transparency from retailers in return for their brand loyalty. For retailers, the most important lesson is to create highly personal and consistent customer experiences by leveraging feedback across all available channels and providing role specific insights for each level of the organization.
Dr. Gary Edwards is chief customer officer at Mindshare Technologies, a leading global provider of Voice of the Customer (VoC) solutions to the world’s most respected multi-unit enterprises. Gary is responsible for oversight of Market Insights and Sales. At Mindshare, Gary is actively involved in helping brands solve business challenges with research and technology solutions.