Taking the uncertainty out of the customer experience

In an age of GDPR and with the increasing threat of fraud, customers don’t just need to trust retailers to store their data securely – this is a standard expectation. They need to trust that retailers understand the pain points they encounter and can find solutions that make their lives easier. It seems simple, but in practice, it can be anything but. In a recent report, Gartner claimed that uncertainty in the customer experience is the fundamental reason for much of the frustration and disappointment that consumers feel towards brands. Retailers are expected to know the expectations, motivations and needs of their customer base, with no exceptions. However, the uncertainty that currently surrounds many retail journeys, from the payment methods through to understanding the products, is pushing fragile customer loyalty to the limit.

Back to basics

To eradicate this uncertainty retailers must show their customers that they truly understand what they are looking for, rather than just paying lip service to them. Retailers need to offer consumers a flexible and personalised shopping experience, that accommodates the digital demands of the modern consumer. For example, a consumer might decide to purchase an item online and then find it easier to return the item to their local store. This ease of service, that builds itself around the lifestyle of the consumer, is what all brands should be striving towards. An omni-channel payment solution naturally lends itself, and allows retailers, to address this need in a simple and effective manner. Yet even so, it is not a simple click of a button to implement.

Implementation can be challenging and time-consuming. In this timeframe, customers continue to experience the same barriers they did previously. As such retailers must therefore look at methods of getting through to their customers when in the process of taking this step – they need to remaster the basics of good customer experience. Know your customer.

Prioritise the right solutions

Getting these basics right will offer retailers the platform to build great customer experiences for their customers. So, before investing in the technology, organisations must first determine which benefits will give the greatest returns to their business. This can be decided through homing in on the retail issues that matter most for customers. For many consumers, this concerns transparency and proactivity from the retailer – good communication and being able to not just understand but preempt the next ask from the consumer. Take supermarkets as an example, as awareness grows around animal welfare and ethical farming, consumers expect an honest conversation about how and where produce is sourced from. Some of the best retailers are responding to this expectation through taking action. For example, Aldi became the first supermarket to sign The Veg Pledge in commitment to building better relationships with UK farmers. Focusing on both transparency and proactivity is a low-cost, high-impact method of strengthening the customer experience and eliminating customer uncertainty.

Consumers also demand a simple and convenient shopping experience. In the case of supermarkets, this could be offering full meal plans or recipes geared towards certain customers’ personas. For example a few years ago, Sainsbury’s launched ‘feed a family for under £5’ recipes. Retailers are expected to not just understand the fact that most of their consumers are time-poor, but respond accordingly. Furthermore retailers must make the payments experience as transparent and as convenient as the rest of the brand experience. This stage is often overlooked by businesses, but if they don’t get it right, the time and resources spent on perfecting the rest of the customer journey will be wasted.

Once these foundational services are mastered, retailers can build omni-channel models that  enhance their customer experience and help them stand out from their competitors. Implementing omni-channel is one of the best solutions for retailers who want to offer their customers channel consistency, service continuity, and the benefit of the insight that can be gleaned from purchasing data.

The demands of the digital consumer are changing all the time. In order to meet these demands, retailers must not just claim that they understand what their customers want, they must match this with action. This is why it is essential that retailers don’t run before they can walk. If the foundations are not in place, businesses will have no chance of building long-term relationships that will keep their customers coming back for more.

Angus Burrell, general manager at AltaPay, a Valitor company

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