The past year and a half changed retail dramatically. Early adopters of retail trends, such as expanded fulfillment options, pulled ahead with customers. Laggards in areas such as mobile transacting suffered. Now that the dust is settling, what pieces of the retail puzzle should you pick up and how do you fit them together to meet the challenge of delivering on new consumer expectations?
1. Think holistically about CXto differentiate your business and its brand, but rely on the basics to plot your next move; personas and journey maps are still vital components of a solid CX strategy. Get reacquainted with your customers because their habits and preferences have likely changed. Re-examine every touchpoint you have with them – old and new – to plot out various opportunities to connect and make the moments as meaningful and productive as possible. Journey maps can even be used for optimizing your product assortment and pricing, and reimagining the physical store experience. And remember to design the digital experience into every step along the journey.
2. The continued growth of ecommerce has been a long-term trend, but there’s still much work to be done to optimize ecommerce as part of the total customer experience. COVID dramatically accelerated multiple years of ecommerce advancements into the last 12 months. A comprehensive ecommerce experience allows customers to research, transact, communicate, and prepare for their trip to your physical store. Most retailers continue to have big opportunities to make ecommerce easier for customers and improve operational efficiencies on the back end.
3. Mobile transacting has exploded. Now the phone is the preferred device for interactions, outpacing the computer. Until recently, shoppers still relied on a browser for product information, reading reviews, preparing for a store trip, or using AR to try out products virtually. Now consumers expect to be able to complete all those tasks on a mobile device. Make everything that’s possible on the computer possible on the phone. Mobile must be at the forefront of the design of both digital and physical experiences.
4. If you’re not personalizing, you’re not connecting. Amazon was the first retailer to deliver deep personalization, but gone are those early days of cold, transactional-focused recommendations. Today’s personalization comes in many modern forms, including individually curated messages based on the customer’s behavior — content that is served up with a purpose, not just an algorithm.
5. The ability to fulfill anywhere at any time is now table stakes. Companies that invested in fulfillment innovation before the pandemic had a great start heading into a time when flexible fulfillment became make-or-break for consumers hesitant to shop in stores during COVID. Brands that were unprepared played catch up with technology and processes that felt clunky and dated, and some relied on third-party fulfillment services that cut into profits and outsourced the experience. All retailers must upgrade their fulfillment strategy and techniques and take charge of their own fulfillment to keep customers close and loyal – fulfilling through their own websites and apps, owning their data, and managing their own financial models. Brick-and-mortar retailers must dedicate more of their physical footprint to picking and packing, which will help balance the massively ‘overstored’ environment we still have in the U.S.
6. Painful supply chain disruptioncaused retailers to rethink just-in-time inventory and get savvier with routing, sales forecasting, and locating inventory to be available from multiple sources, in multiple places. Retailers also must build more safeguards into their supply chains to hedge against future shortages. Despite the circumstances, customers will continue to expect access to products where and when they want them, at acceptable prices.
7. Safety and security stays top of mind. Retailers must let their customers know that they are transacting in ways that are safe and secure. Customers will continue to be willing to give up a certain amount of their data if they recognize a good return for it; they’ll be unwilling to hand over data when the benefits aren’t worth it, or they don’t feel their data is secure.
8. Household essentials will be bought online. The allure is gone for trips to the store to buy toothpaste and detergent. Consumers have been trained to buy these items online and pick them up curbside; they’re less interested in picking everyday items off the shelf. Thus investing in the experience, including better service and an immersive and differentiated shopping environment, will become even more critical if retailers want to continue to drive foot traffic into their stores.
9. Stitch together tech systems that support the CX vision. With a knowledgeable, experienced technology partner, retailers can identify and implement the right platforms to bring their ideal experience to life while connecting seamlessly to existing technologies. By leveraging CX best practices, critical insights into customer behavior, and the most cutting-edge technologies, any retailer can turn these challenges into a source of competitive advantage.
Brian Lannan recently joined Avtex from Target, where he led the Guest Experience team and was responsible for experience strategy and insights, guest-centric culture development, voice of guest, and brand and reputation insights. Brian has 15 years of retail experience developing and leading strategy, insights, and customer experience capabilities. At Avtex, he leads the retail experience team in developing go-to-market strategy and new IP to expand offerings to the retail industry, helping Avtex customers transform and differentiate by delivering innovative, personalized, and engaging experiences for customers.