Long gone are the leisurely Saturdays spent window shopping at the mall. Now, customers rely on technology to provide product recommendations and to conveniently deliver items to their front doors. But today’s retail customer isn’t that much different than before – they still want a great experience. And just as department stores of yore invested a great deal of resources in providing a unique and positive in-store customer experience, successful modern retailers are still focusing on delivering exceptional experiences for their shoppers.
Customer experience isn’t just a buzzword – it’s a key differentiator and a driver of sales. According to Gartner, 89% of companies today are competing primarily on customer experience. That is up from 36% in 2010. However, there is some disparity. Nearly 80% of companies say they deliver top-notch experiences but just 8% of customers agree. On the surface, that may seem like a dreary statistic, but it is really an opportunity for retailers. By focusing on the customer experience, retailers can position themselves to strengthen relationships and boost their bottom lines.
The Rise of the Omnichannel Experience
In the past, customers had just two options for shopping. They could visit the store in person, or they could shop from a mail-order catalog from their favorite retailers. Today, shoppers have many more options. Brick-and-mortar stores, catalogs, websites, apps and even social media and in some cases text and chat.
Regardless of the way a customer chooses to interact, nearly every person expects to be served on demand and to receive the same personalized attention they would get in a face-to-face experience. Some 73% of consumers use multiple channels to shop for products with 87% of consumers beginning their shopping journey with digital channels, a jump from 71% in 2017.
Customers expect that a brand’s messaging and experience are the same whether they shop in the store, on an app, on a desktop, or online. Disjointed experiences frustrate customers and ultimately fracture relationships. Retailers that are winning the omnichannel experience put real focus on creating a singular feeling and a seamless experience from one channel to the next.
Convenience Is The Cornerstone of Customer Experience
Because customers expect to be served on demand and because it’s very simple to click away from one website to another, a poor digital experience can cost retailers big bucks. Just as customers will abandon a store if the experience proves to be difficult or poor, they will also abandon online shopping if the experience isn’t up to par.
53% of customers will leave a mobile site if it takes more than three seconds to load and for every second delay in a mobile page’s loading, conversion can fall by up to 20%. 84% of customers will abandon a purchase if the website isn’t secure, 87% of customers will abandon their online carts if the checkout process is too difficult and the majority of customers (58%) say their top reason for leaving a shopping cart is high shipping costs.
Time is money, but online seconds can cost millions over time. The technology behind websites and apps matters and it is important to develop a user experience that is simple, streamlined and reliable.
How Can You Deliver the Experience Your Customers Want?
Customers do not care about a retailer’s budgets or investment priorities. They simply want to shop the way they prefer to shop, and they expect to be treated to experiences that align with their expectations. However, differing preferences can be a challenge to address with so many channels to choose from – especially when many of those channels are expensive. Where do you put your efforts when there is so much segmentation in preferences? Should you sacrifice adding new channels at the risk of others? Knowing where to spend time and invest resources is more challenging than ever before. However, to create a positive customer experience, retailers must know what their customers want – and they must deliver.
Knowing what type of experience customers want starts with data. Every retailer has a unique customer base, and it is important to dig deep to identify patterns in customer behavior to make smart, data-driven decisions to determine investment and develop solutions that will provide the exceptional experience every customer demands.