How to embrace the ‘age of the customer’ whilst weathering the retail storm

The phrase ‘the customer is always right’ has never been more apt. Today’s customers are savvier than ever before and increasingly shop around, their buying decisions swayed by customer reviews. In this so-called ‘age of the customer’ the top priority for retailers is to deliver a memorable experience that builds loyalty and encourages customers (and their friends) back, time and time again.

Delivering an experience that matters

It may seem like yet another mountain to climb, but embracing the ‘age of the customer’ is more achievable than you think. Retailers today must build a strategy around customers, making their interactions with their brand both seamless and enjoyable. Ultimately, the end goal is to create a shopping experience that customers love and keep coming back for.

Here are some of our top tips on how to do so:

  • Create outstanding customer experiences – strong brand experiences are derived directly from customer insights. By asking “What problem am I trying to solve for the customer?”, retailers can start to live and breathe the customer experience within their organisation across all channels. Indeed, a rewarding customer experience can even dominate the word-of-mouth recommendations that are arguably some of the most powerful marketing tools.
  • Meet your customers’ omnichannel expectations – in the ‘always on’ retail environment, companies need to allow their customers to buy anywhere, fulfil anywhere and return anywhere. Indeed, a recent survey by Medallia and Ipsos found that 56% of online retail shoppers and 49% of bricks-and-mortar shoppers expect consistent levels of service across physical and digital channels.
  • Develop an integrated strategy – where one channel complements and supports the other – and retailers will see the experience pay off, with customers with the best experiences spending 40% more than those with the very worst.
  • Build brand advocacy – with 44% of online retail customers avoiding a company or brand because of their online reputation/negative social reviews, it’s crucial for retailers to build strong brand advocacy. Make it easy for customers to leave feedback, and engage with customers on any negative reviews as they arise.
  • Be agile, be flexible – organisations that can evolve their operations based on customer feedback will stride ahead of the rest. Indeed, those that use customer feedback to fuel innovations are 1.6x more likely to grow revenue than those who don’t. Invest in industry innovation, identify insights and action changes to ensure an enhanced and evolving customer experience.
  • Make it personal – 29% of online retail customers expect personalised experiences and 31% expect companies they do repeat business with to know who they are. Retailers that do this will earn the trust and loyalty of their customers.
  • Make customer centricity a corporate strategy – implementing a customer experience strategy is so much more than a marketing initiative. To be truly successful, a strategy of customer centricity has to be woven into the fabric of an organisation.  Those companies that prioritise customers are twice as likely to perform in the top quartile of CX performance.

Weathering the storm

There’s no hiding from the fact that the retail sector is currently under a dark cloud. Online sales have dominated the market and store footfall has declined. Indeed, a recent report has found that more than 30,000 retailers were in significant financial distress at the end of June 2018.

There are many factors contributing to this plight, and while nothing in the retail world is certain, those retailers that aren’t afraid to ring in the changes and those who strive to make every interaction with customers count, are more likely to ride out the storm.

By Kareena Uttamchandani, senior manager and solutions consultant at Medallia, which aims to create a world where companies are loved by customers and employees alike.

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