Business blogger, Megan Webb-Morgan argues the importance of technology in helping retail brands focus on customer experience as a differentiator
“Customer experience encompasses every contact your customer has with your company,” she told Retail Technology. This includes marketing and advertisements, emails, instore interactions, customer service, and more. In total, only 37% of brands in the US rated a score of “good” or better.
In an economic climate that’s still struggling to add jobs and increase revenues, Webb-Morgan said retailers cannot ignore the importance of focusing on customer experience with their brands. Poor quality customer experiences – those provided by 64% of brands – cost US businesses an estimated $83 billion every year, according to Parature
“In order to avoid losing customers and revenues, focus on providing a positive customer experience every time your customer comes in contact with your store’s brand,”she advised. “You can do this by incorporating technology such as tablets into your interactions or take advantage of current technologies, like your PoS
[point-of-sale] system; all of which will improve overall experience, from start to finish.”
Improving the brand experience
Key questions Webb-Morgan said retailers should ask include: How do you portray your retail establishment in your marketing? Is it a repository of every product your customer could possibly want? Is it a place where customers can relax and enjoy personalised service? Is it where all the tech gurus hang out to talk about the latest products?
“Customers need to connect the image created by your marketing to their actual instore experience,” she explained. “If there’s a clear disconnect between the image and reality, customers will experience confusion that will make them wonder if they’re in the right place – and possibly send them straight out the door.”
Webb-Morgan offered the following tip: Use consistent marketing messages to create a store’s company brand – the images, ideas, and expectations associated with the business. Whatever message chosen to convey to customers, it should be the same whether they are viewing ads online, reading a direct mail at home, or walking through the retailer’s front door,” she added.
Updating the instore experience
Once customers are inside the store, the battle for customer experience really begins. “No matter how you’ve branded your business, you need to fulfil the promises of that branding and provide customers with a positive experience that exceeds their expectations,” she continued.
“A huge facet of this experience is the customer’s interactions with your sales associates – which is why focusing on customer experience starts with your hiring practices. Be sure to hire employees who are helpful, good listeners, and committed to providing customers with the experience that you want them to have. An inexperienced applicant with the right attitude is far more valuable in the long run than an applicant who knows what they’re doing but doesn’t place any value on the customer.”
Webb-Morgan said that well-trained associates, who are knowledgeable about products close 33% more sales on average, according to Bluewolf
: “You can augment each associate’s knowledge by providing them with a mobile device, with which they can look up additional product information.
“Your associates should be calling your customers by name – if only because they just pulled it up in your PoS system
,” she added. “Addressing customers by name makes them feel recognised and valued as an individual, not a revenue stream.”
Develop a customer-centric strategy
Nearly three quarters (74%) of companies don’t have a well-developed strategy in place for improving the experience of their customers, according to Econsultancy
. “Without a plan, your efforts will be unfocused, inconsistent, and uncoordinated,” Webb-Morgan concluded. “Examine your retail establishment’s branding, marketing, employees, and instore experience to identify areas where your customers are not having a positive experience.
“Focusing on customer experience will help your business clear the hurdles of a poor economy and continue to succeed.”