The elements that matter most in the retail customer shopping experience
By Sue Yasav
When it comes to shopping behavior, price is always a key motivator. However, to sustain a customer’s loyalty over the long term, retailers often find it valuable to focus on the customer experience. But which experiences are most important to shoppers? And how likely are they to influence a change in behavior? Which are the most profitable areas for retailers to focus on and which are the least?
According to a recent Customer Experience and Impact study, sponsored by Synchrony Financial, there are four key shopping customer experience elements, out of 27 tested, that rose to the top. Moreover, 53 percent of consumers would pay a higher price for the experiences they value most. But, the most important impact of great customer experiences is loyalty. The majority say they would be more loyal to stores that provided their personal top three customer experience benefits.
Below are the findings of our Customer Experience Impact Study, and the implication to retailers.
Insight 1 – Customers are looking for ways to feel valued and make their lives easier.
When customers were asked which elements they valued most in the shopping experience, four concepts were rated highest. The elements rated highest were of a practical nature – things that eliminated stress, gave shoppers more control and made their lives easier. Analyzing the top benefits:
- Pick your own sale items. This feature was the highest rated item in the survey, with 42 percent of customers stating it was the most important. This is different from lowest price. It’s about giving shoppers the control to personalize their experiences based on their needs and wants.
- Hassle-free returns. Knowing an item can be returned is valuable to customers, and retail brands with generous return policies are highly regarded. Some best-in-class return policies include: no time limit on returns, no need for a receipt with a return or free postage on shipping returns.
- No coupons needed to always get the sale price. Receiving the lowest price without working for it reduces stress for customers. Retail credit card value propositions sometimes include “best price” programs, particularly for premium customers, so customers don’t need to clip coupons to automatically get the sale price.
- Customers who redeem loyalty points for savings feel valued. Customers love points-based programs and they drive loyal behavior for retailers. If programs are easy for customers to accumulate and redeem points, they often visit more often and spend more.
Insight 2 – Discover which experiences do not matter to customers, in order to focus on areas they value.
Among the 27 elements queried, some were more important to shoppers than others. Knowing which matter most and which matter least is an important way for retailers to focus their efforts and resources on experiences that matter most to customers. But shoppers’ expectations are all different. Some things may not matter to the general population, but among certain retail segments they may be extremely important.
Insight 3 – Factors determining a positive customer experience vary by retail category.
We asked customers to think about the best store experience they had in the past 12 months. Their feedback fell into distinct categories. The percentages represent how often the category was selected. Apparel and department store shoppers were most likely to remember excellent associate interactions, while mass merchant shoppers most often cited stock conditions and selection.
A great customer experience does drive incremental shopping in all categories. Over half of surveyed customers say they will shop a retailer more often because of a positive experience in the store.
Insight 4 – Finding and implementing the top experiences your customers value has an impact on their behavior.
The value of a great customer experience cannot be overstated. Customers tell us they would pay more and remain much more loyal in exchange for a great customer experience. More than half of the customers surveyed say they would pay more if their top benefits were included in their customer experience. Millennials and Gen X’ers are much more likely to pay a bit more for the experiences they value.
The biggest impact of a great customer experience is loyalty — 77 percent indicate that if they received their top three benefits, they would shop at a retailer more often. Once again, millennials are the most responsive group, with 89 percent saying they would be more loyal to retailers offering the benefits they want most.
The customer experience matters and the most compelling experiences do drive increased spend and loyalty. Giving customers what they want doesn’t have to be expensive, it needs to be relevant. Brands who are successful often implement differentiated experiences to simplify the lives of their customers and make them feel valued.
The key is to find out what your customers want and give it to them.
Sue Yasav is research insights leader at Synchrony Financial. The Synchrony Financial sponsored survey of 1,003 individuals was conducted in May, 2015.