4 secrets of customer loyalty from successful retailers
By Chad Hendren
Think about the large retailers today who are struggling: Sears, JCPenney, Aeropostale and many others. Big brands that, for many reasons, have not been able to keep up with the pace of consumer demand. But it's not the merchandise, locations or prices that have caused consumers to shy away. It's the customer experience.
Without an exceptional customer experience, it is impossible to create loyalty. And without loyalty, retailers fail.
It's suggested it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one, so why aren't retailers focusing more time and effort on building loyalty by creating amazing experiences?
Well, some are. Here are four activities that successful retailers engage in to create great experiences and loyal, return customers:
Tap data to truly know your customers
With the volume of data available today, there's no longer an excuse for not knowing your customer. Opportunities exist to boost loyalty based on insights from the initial search-engine query, to in-store purchases, to customer support interaction.
The key is turning data points into real-time action. Smart retailers know how to categorize customer-specific data into events. Events are then analyzed and business logic is applied to drive dynamic, personalized experiences.
By capturing important moments in the customer journey, and analyzing this customer-specific activity, smart retailers can help navigate customers through the ideal interaction points to reach desired outcomes.
For example, using data from all vantage points, such as purchase history in the customer relationship management system, website browsing and social media activity, a retailer can predict the products a customer will most likely be interested in and offer personalized options in real time across any number of channels.
Know what your customers need before they do
Once an opportunity to improve a customer's experience is identified, think about the preferred next step and execute. For instance, establish a proactive engagement practice to avoid as many abandoned shopping carts as possible. Sometimes a reminder email or text message with a discount can be enough to complete the transaction. Additionally, offering click-to-call back or chat can appeal to customers with product questions. The value is in identifying what methods work best for each scenario and maximizing the opportunity by engaging as many customers as possible.
By proactively engaging your "prone to abandon" consumers at these moments, retailers personalize and improve the customer experience, and foster brand loyalty. Retailers that reach out to engage customers are seen as helpful. They understand consumer behavior and take steps to help the buyer fulfill their need. This creates value for the customer, resulting in a greater opportunity to win loyalty.
For example, Costco discovered its proactive efforts were popular with customers. The company initially deployed a call-back solution to decrease hold times for members calling into the service center. CostcoOperations Manager Gentry Valley reported the biggest improvement was to customer satisfaction. Costco agents reported an immediate change in the demeanor of customers, and customers mentioned how they appreciated the fact Costco proactively addressed the negative issue of sitting on hold with a positive call-back option.
Help your customers navigate the journey
Optimizing the customer journey cannot be effective when applied to only one channel. Today, customers use a variety of channels, and it't up to retailers to connect the dots so customers don't get lost crossing from channel to channel. In fact, 89 percent of customers express frustration by the context lost when they switch between channel. The conversation between your company and the customer should be seamless across all channels to eliminate the need for the customer to repeat their issue.
Successful retailers use an integrated, customer-outcome management system that captures details about customer activity spanning multiple interactions across all channels, and moves this data with the customer as they are navigated through appropriate channels. This type of system makes real-time, next-step recommendations based on event data, existing context and business logic to achieve superior customer experience and desired business outcomes.
Be omnichannel and serve your customer everywhere
The past five years have highlighted the importance of omnichannel solutions in retail operations. Retailers are looking for ways to manage multiple channels to create a seamless, end-to-end customer experience. By helping consumers interact across channels, such as in-store, online, mobile, phone and more, a brand creates a positive experience and customer loyalty.
For example, a customer browses a retail website and then later visits the physical store. With the search history available to a store associate and a trigger to let them know the shopper has entered the store (via beacons or scanning a loyalty card), the associate can personalize the experience for the shopper. The retailer also could send an SMS message to the consumer's mobile device, helping them find the items viewed online or even offering a promotion.
By bringing multiple channels together, retail brands can exceed customer expectations by creating a seamless experience centered on customer needs while achieving desired business outcomes.
Chad Hendren is the director of solution innovation at Virtual Hold Technology. His focus is on innovating new ways to improve customer experience and desired business outcomes through Virtual Hold Technology's software solutions.