Talking With: Clicktale VP Michal Harel on customer experience trends
Clicktale Vice President Michal Harel, who leads the firm’s consulting services group, offers up her insights on a big misconception many retailers have in providing a relevant and dynamic customer experience and predicts what's to come, including how true personalization is six to 10 years out at this point.
Retail Customer Experience: What is your view or description of customer retail experience at this point?
Michal Harel: The first big challenge is trying to get the customers onto the website or landing page. The next challenge is to get them to move beyond that point through the website, to make the actual purchase. Customer experience should be about ease of use. We see many companies focusing on loyalty programs and trying to push as many sales as possible. But from the user’s point of view, they have multiple devices and are looking for the smoothest experience possible. The customer has to trust the company in order to remain loyal to it, and a user-friendly multi-device website, plays a major role in building that trust.
Companies too often try to keep customers in the funnel by exposing them to more sales, promotions or programs, when all the customer wants to do is make his or her purchase as quickly as possible. One example of this from my own experience was when a company placed a VIP banner and membership option right above the checkout chart. Customers were drawn to clicking on this banner and dropped out of making their final purchase, resulting in a loss of that sale. Keeping the customer’s experience in mind and making small changes can make a big difference at the end of the day.
RCE: Is there any one top focus for retailers aiming to enhance the experience?
Harel: One of the top focuses for retailers to keep in mind is that mobile is not a different world. People today are switching devices all the time, so when companies focus on one device, that is a big mistake. You have to look at the entire multi-channel platform. Often you find various teams managing different apps and functionalities - for example, one group manages the desktop site, the other the mobile site. The visitor, however, navigates from the desktop and switches to the mobile and often faces different experiences on the differences devices. It is important to consider the entire visitor experience in order to keep things consistent.
As for loyalty, this depends on the size of the e-commerce site. The focus for those with large databases may be to concentrate on the returning customer, but smaller sites may want to focus on attracting unique visitors. It is also important to note that the focus changes throughout the year, as retailers shift from concentrating on their loyalty programs in the off-season to driving more sales in the holiday seasons, where the focus is more about increasing traffic and less about customer loyalty.
RCE: What common misstep you see retailers doing when it comes to boosting customer experience?
Harel: Retailers try to boost customer experience by offering numerous different options. This is a common mistake as it only makes things harder for the visitor to find what they are looking for. Retailers often present many deals and banners with various promotions and category pages all happening at once. This can easily create confusion for customers.
Another mistake we see is that the filtering process is not adequate. Many times customers are required to filter three or four times before they find what they are looking for. Retailers need to invest more in their search functionalities. We have seen, for example, that someone who was looking for yellow socks was offered all items in yellow and all items relating to socks, but no items that represented actual yellow socks.
Another common misstep is pushing loyalty programs too aggressively - for example, putting it before the checkout. As a result, we’ve witnessed many visitors dropping out of the checkout process altogether. It is far better to offer the loyalty program once they have checked out and you have all their details already so they do not need to fill in all their information again.
Retailers also have to remember that there should be a balance when using new technologies to promote their branding. Especially when using long videos and many moving elements on a page, people tend to get lost.
RCE: Is there a common misconception out in the retail industry about customer experience?
Harel: The main misconception today is that companies are focused on the numbers, rather than their actual, real-life visitors. They utilize tools like Google and Adobe to see the numbers and the data, yet they lose sight of their customers’ digital journey. Data is important, and there is certainly no shortage of data today, but it’s better to use that as a starting point from which to better understand how different groups of visitors interact with your digital brand.
More and more executives are requesting analysts to get more qualitative information - not just numbers. They are also asking to see why things are happening, why the ‘numbers’ are what they are. They need to have an explanation and understand the impact which the retail experience has on their customers and therefore should be looking at the visual experience as well.
RCE: What do you expect to see in three years and then out in 10 years with regard to customer experience technology and capabilities?
Harel: In the coming years I expect that we will be moving away from tablets and mobile to more flexi-screens. Devices will be more responsive and have the ability to physically expand. Smart phones are still extremely popular, while tablets are experiencing flatline growth. More people are carrying smart phones and leaving their tablets at home. We see already Samsung is working on a device that can change according to the desire of the user.
There will also be a change in the use of passwords. Biometrics will soon take the place of passwords, making it easier to provide personal details. This will take away the question of whether people need to register on a site or not.
In addition to all of this, we will see more use of voice-activation technology, which will demand a change in the way websites are built and monitored, and will change the entire customer experience completely.
Seven to 10 years down the line, I expect to see real personalization. We have almost no real personalization today. Down the line, however, I anticipate content and sales that are relevant to us, far more advanced than we have today.