Commentary

Customer Experience (CX) Top Strategic Choice For Retail Marketers

According to The Retailer’s Imperative: A Strategic Approach to Customer Experience, with customers’ ability to easily search and compare prices and products online, read hundreds of peer reviews, and get instant feedback from friends on social media, the original retail brand goal of differentiating on product is becoming harder to defend. That’s why, says the report, providing an exceptional customer experience is the single most important strategic choice that retailers can make now, and in the years ahead.

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89% of the retailers surveyed for this report agreed or strongly agreed to the statement “Our customer experience is our brand.” They recognize that it is simply the best way to nurture shoppers throughout their entire journey; from initial research to purchase, to repeat buying and eventual customer advocacy, across all channels.

However, the execution of a robust customer experience strategy brings its own set of challenges:

  • How do you deliver a consistent customer experience across all channels and devices, especially when shoppers expect to receive information instantaneously?
  • How do you balance featuring merchandise the shopper will like with merchandise that provides the highest margin or other business KPI?
  • With so much analytical data available, how do you make sense of it all, and turn it into something actionable and profitable?
  • How do you create personalized experiences on a macro level?

“Customer experience” is an old idea that is sparking a very modern revolution, says the report. Across most consumer sectors, companies are under pressure from digital-first competitors, commoditization and an increasingly mobile customer base. Control and choice have redefined how we all discover, research and purchase products. This experience level sets both a floor for performance and an opportunity for differentiation.

Customer journeys are increasingly complex, with multiple touch-points and influencing factors from initial research through to purchase and, for some, ongoing loyalty. Consumers on this journey have come to expect it to be consistent and valuable, says the report. The best customer interactions are seamless and personal, regardless of the device being used or the time between each interaction.

When asked how important integration across their customer experience management technologies was to them, 97% of respondets said that customer experience management integration was important, with 45% seeing it as vital to their growth.

Importance Of Integration Across Customer Experience Management

  • Vital to our growth            45%
  • Very important            44%
  • Important            8%

Customer experience management technologies that marketers in the retail sector currently have in place show that 72% have a web content management system, followed by 66% who have an ecommerce platformin place.

Customer Experience Management Technologies Currently In Place

Experience

% of Respondents

Web content management/CMS/digital asset management

72%

Ecommerce platform

66

Customer analytics (single view)

64

Search and merchandising

62

Personalization

55

Campaign management

50

Testing A/B

37

Source: Econsultancy and Adobe, February 2015

In this era of rapid product development and rapid commoditization of many product lines every company struggles with how to differentiate themselves and protect margins, says the report. The upside of digital is that it evens the field for smaller and digital-only players to compete with international brands. The downside is that digital research can slant the relationship to price instead of service.

Primary Ways That The Company Can Differentiate Itself In Attracting New Customers (% of Respondents)

  • Product offering   (54%)
  • Price   (45%)
  • Content designed for attracting new customers   (44%)
  • Mobile   (35%)
  • Omnichannel   (22%)

And, How Is The Impact Of Customer Experience Measured?

  • Customer satisfaction surveys   (63%)
  • Customer loyalty (membership)   (57%)
  • Average order size   (46%)
  • Return purchase/visit   (43%)
  • Total revenue   (28%)

The limitation of revenue as a measurement, from a strategic perspective, is that it’s a slice in time. Its directionality is important, of course, but today’s revenue doesn’t predict tomorrow’s customer behaviors, says the report. For these, marketers may be better served by looking at return purchases, loyalty and order value as well as other metrics that reflect the experience, not just a single point of financial data.

Retail is one of the sectors that have been most affected by the digital era. Technology and culture have conspired to affect consumer behavior across gender, age and income. Retailers are responding by actively attempting to evolve their organization to better meet these needs, but it’s difficult, expensive and often a tough sell internally.

The challenge for bricks and clicksretailers is threefold; creating a great experience offline and online, and making sure the two work well together, says the report. Today retailers are emphasizing the cross-platform convenience of in-store pickup and other digital to offline features. After all, brands are defined by their weakest link and must be consistent. For example, the online experience can’t be about “bargains” if the offline experience is defined by “luxury.”

The need for effective customer experience management in retail has been top of the rulebook since far before the age of the internet. A good experience increases the likelihood of a customer converting and returning, concludes the report; a bad experience will send them to the nearest competitor. This fact is as true for a grocery store as for an ecommerce giant like Amazon. So it is unsurprising that company culture was only selected by 12% of respondents; those arguing against an investment in customer experience are a non-existent minority in retail.

The Greatest Barriers To Successful Customer Experience Management

Barrier

% of Respondents

Investment in technology

52%

Integration of technology

51

C-level and executive sponsorship

23

Measurement and ROI of CX initiatives

23

Lack of internal skills

18

Company culture

12

Technology limitations

11

Source: SDL with Econsultancy, February 2015

For additional information, please access eConsultancy here: https://econsultancy.com/reports/the-retailers-imperative/

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