With the growing level of consumer connectedness demanding retailers shift their customer experience strategies from a multichannel approach to an omnichannel one, it’s easy to lose track of the essentials of what goes into crafting such a plan in the first place.
Mobile connectivity, consistency among separate retail channels, and delivering a satisfying degree of high-tech capabilities are all extremely important pieces to the customer experience puzzle, but the core tenants of the now well-established customer experience cycle should always serve as a foundation to inform your strategy adjustments.
The cycle as we know it today, consists of a series of steps which when realized as a moving system, make up the consumer’s overall retail experience. Before ideas like multichannel or omnichannel retailing came around, the contents of these steps were relatively narrow in scope—catalogs were essentially the only way customers could access products outside of the store itself, and customer retention rarely meant more than a mailing list.
Today, the complexity of eCommerce, mobile connectivity, and social media among other things, are changing not only the way consumers are finding and purchasing products, but also the way they’re sharing information about their experiences.
Let’s fit these new retail considerations into the cycle in order to start looking at ways to adapt effectively:
Attracting and Connecting the Consumer
One of the new channels creating an interesting and potentially powerful new means of customer-to-company connection is social media.
Brands willing to step outside of traditional marketing and advertising strategies to foster a rich communicative environment on Facebook and Twitter are realizing that when given a reason to post a recommendation or praise the company for its products and services, it’s possible to build your brand directly via your audience.
Customer Orientation and Transactions
The underlying question that drives any customer experience strategy always revolves around how you as a company can better serve your customers in a way which is easiest for them to adapt to as your brand changes and shifts over time.
With high-tech tools constantly at their fingertips, consumers have begun to expect a more targeted shopping experience from their retailers.
For retail companies, this means implementing a more personalized customer experience when it comes to communication. One of the fastest growing areas of customer orientation is the fusing of mobile and in-store retail activity. With customers increasingly turning to mobile devices to find, compare and ultimately buy goods, we’re still nowhere close to having a phone that can actually place the product in the palm of your hands.
This is precisely where mobile integration and the in-store environment meet.
A seamless integration between these environments is without a doubt the best way to orient the customer to your brand effectively. Jill Puleri, a retail leader with IBM put it succinctly saying, “Retailers can win over this empowered consumer based on re-establishing a trusted relationship and building loyalty through improving the store environment, product assortment and store communications.”
Retaining Your Customers Through Each Channel
One of the less obvious advantages of the omnichannel environment is the ability to engage with consumers both before they purchase as well as afterward.
According to a recent survey by Loyalty360, 24% of companies plan to begin using social media for customer retention purposes. Yet, the same study found that nearly half of the companies surveyed say less than 10% of their employees are focused on retaining customers.
With such low importance placed on fostering loyal customers in an age where price comparisons among a variety of stores are driving a growing number of consumer traffic to low prices and the better deals, reaching out and generating memorable shopping experiences are becoming an important part of retention for all kinds of retailers.
This is an area where a substantial social media following can be leveraged to sustain customer interest and bring people back into the store time and time again.
A potential strategy that takes aim at customer retention could be as simple as actually updating and maintaining social media pages on a regular basis. Given the time and resources, larger-scale plans might include premium discount opportunities for those who “Like” the page, as well as contests where winners are rewarded for engaging with prizes and deals.