The customer experience is a serious battleground in retail. For many retailers, price and product-led differentiation is increasingly difficult and the path to genuine customer loyalty lies in delivering a better experience than your competitors.
What is a “better” customer experience? This varies of course, depending not only on the type of retailer, but on the consumers themselves. In the newly-launched report, 2016 Retail Customer Experience Top 100, by RetailCustomerExperience.com, there are four categories against which retailers were judged: Best Customer Service, Best Online Experience, Best Brick-And-Mortar Experience and Best Overall Customer Experience.
A key focus for the report this year was mobile – a vital component in most retailers’ strategies given that in the US 56.8 percent of shoppers use mobile devices to research and compare products. For some retailers, this has been core strategy for years. Others are now playing catch up as they deal with the reality that consumers want to be able to research products at a time that suits them. “Cracks in the day”, while waiting for a train, commuting or in line elsewhere are now not so much wasted time, as an opportunity to research an upcoming purchase. And in many cases, make that purchase.
It will surprise almost no one that brands such as Amazon and Apple feature highly in the report. For many consumers, they are almost synonymous with the phrase “customer experience” with industry-leading approaches to everything from designing a smooth customer journey, to creating a whole ecosystem and ethos around their brands.
For many smaller, or struggling retailers, the idea of emulating these retails giants is daunting – but it also misses the point of the customer experience. Imitation may be a sincere form of flattery, but businesses looking to drive outstanding experiences need to tread their own path. To do this they must understand the experiences they offer now and customer expectations – and then take a good look at the delta between them. Only then can they establish the steps to improvement.
A programmatic, structured – and above all – actionable, Voice of the Customer program is critical to improving the customer experience. By understanding your customers at EVERY touchpoint (and that’s not just in store or on your website!) then you begin to build the critical insights you need to take steps that will ensure you deliver customer experiences that will delight your customers.
To be inspired by the retailers getting it right, you can download the Top 100, 2016 report here.