How brands can deliver a superior customer journey

8th Aug 2022

Revolutionary technology, combined with a once in a lifetime pandemic, has significantly and permanently influenced the customer journey. Today, the majority of consumers no longer distinguish between online and offline. Instead, they expect the best of both worlds regardless of how or where they shop. And their expectations of a seamless hybrid customer experience that combines online and offline touchpoints, no matter the channel, has shifted from a luxury to a necessity for many. 

For businesses, adapting to these changing demands – especially during a period where prices are rising and the state of shopping still remains influx – will be essential in a world that’s gradually becoming more hybrid. But what changes should businesses, and industries at-large, make to tailor to the modern consumer? And are they meeting the moment?

To further examine these changing trends, Uberall commissioned a study at Forrester Consulting that takes a closer look at why it’s important for businesses to adapt to the demands and expectations of today’s customer landscape. Unsurprisingly, today’s customers crave a well-integrated mixture of digital and in-person touchpoints.

The study, called “Reignite Growth with Hybrid Customer Experiences”, features responses from more than 200 U.S. and European decision-makers at companies with 150 or more locations. Here’s a closer look at the findings. 

Fragmented teams and solutions create fragmented experiences

The study found that 25% of activities related to the beginning and end of the customer journey are outsourced, while 75% are managed in-house. However, aligning teams that work to deliver a seamless hybrid customer experience ranks as the second most common challenge. This is the result of how most companies organize themselves by using a collection of standalone solutions, which can hinder progress, with important customer experience data locked away in silos. The study found that the top three standalone solutions include social listening tools (76%), intelligent communications solutions (i.e. chatbots) (70%) and ratings and review management solutions (70%).

To solve this problem, companies should better align their teams to support end-to-end customer journeys, ensuring team priorities, responsibilities and KPIs are all in sync.. Businesses leading the way in hybrid customer experience recognize it as an enterprise-wide initiative and such collaboration across teams will lead to long-term customer engagement and value.

Customer engagement is a high priority post-pandemic

As we slowly make our way out of the pandemic, priorities have shifted for many businesses. Now, a greater emphasis has been put on customer relationships. In fact, the survey discovered that 70% of businesses indicate that a deeper understanding of their customers is more important now than it was before the pandemic began. In addition, customer engagement has become increasingly important, with 74% looking to connect with customers more via social media and 72% looking to increase customer retention and loyalty. 

Tracking and analyzing real-time customer behavior has emerged to be challenging for most brands though. Nearly two-thirds of businesses (65%) feel their organization's ability to track and understand customer behavior across end-to-end customer journeys as “average”, “fair” or “poor”. So applying a holistic approach to hybrid customer experience and the right technology solutions can set businesses apart from the competition, as they gain a deeper understanding of the customer and their quickly changing expectations thanks to real-time insights. In addition to this, it is critical these insights are shared in an actionable format across the business, enabling everyone from store managers to senior executives to prioritize their focus.

Digital in-store capabilities are critical

Even as people slowly become more comfortable with in-person activities, the digital conveniences they adopted and grew used to during the pandemic won’t disappear. And now, companies who take the time to engage with customers both digitally and in the real world will be the ones who win their loyalty and trust. According to the study, almost three-fourths (73%) of decision-makers feel that it’s more important now than before the pandemic to have digital capabilities in physical locations (i.e. QR codes, self-checkout, contactless payment). However, 45% of those surveyed believe that implementing digital capabilities in physical locations is one of the most challenging objectives they face. 

Investing in connected technology and systems is a big part of the answer. The importance of creating a unified view of customer interactions across digital and physical touchpoints to improve customer understanding and provide better experiences cannot be understated. Some of the available technologies now include digital queues that allow you to shop while you wait, augmented reality that can produce unique experiences and location-based personalization that provides consumers with a custome journey.

The technology all exists today to enable state of the art hybrid experiences. But with customer expectations being extremely high, there’s no time to waste. Business leaders need to evaluate the most critical needs of their customers and understand how to meet them, while ensuring a seamless and consistent experience.

The study found that 70% of decision-makers at businesses feel their organization’s ability to provide seamless customer journeys across all digital and physical touchpoints is either “average”, “fair” or even “poor.” However, 72% were “interested” or “very interested” in a platform that addresses multiple marketing and customer experience needs. This shows that businesses are recognizing the issue and are beginning to take the steps necessary to address it. 

While the challenges and barriers to the delivery of seamless hybrid customer experiences are real, the businesses who put in the time and effort and break down silos with a unified approach, will come out on top.

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