Director of Sales, EMEA PCMS
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Agility or fragility? There's more to CX

3rd Jul 2017
Director of Sales, EMEA PCMS
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Retailers know that to increase average order value, improve brand loyalty and grow market share, customer centricity is key.

The challenge for them is that customers do not act in a homogenous, predictable way; their behaviour is diverse, and becoming even more so as the number of channels and touchpoints they can interact with, and purchase through, continues to grow.

To respond effectively, retailers need to have operational agility; the technical systems and appropriate business processes in place to react quickly and flexibly to meet customer demands and expectations.

To benchmark how effectively retailers are doing this at present we surveyed 1,000 UK consumers and found that there are some aspects of the customer experience that are currently stronger online than in-store, and vice versa.

Online, the product tends to ‘shine’, with shoppers believing presentation, price and availability are better than in bricks-and-mortar stores. But perhaps more interesting is the fact that shoppers feel retailers are better at cross-selling and upselling over the web – things you might imagine that real-live staff would be encouraging and practicing.

But staff certainly play an important role in-store, where their warmth and capabilities are highly valued. As such, personalisation, problem solving and product demonstration rate much higher in-store than via digital channels.

However, that said, customer service varies considerably – almost half (47%) of shoppers surveyed found the speed and quality of the customer service they experienced was inconsistent.

This inconsistency needs careful consideration and rectifying especially when customer service is proving the biggest influence on customer retention and loyalty – almost half the consumers we questioned for our survey (49%) said helpful customer service is the decisive factor in whether they would buy from the same retailer in future, with an additional 35% rating quick customer service as their reason to return to a retailer. Currently, ecommerce is slightly ahead in both areas, receiving a higher average satisfaction score in our study (3.7 out of 5) versus in-store’s service score of 3.5 out of 5.

This insight is valuable today but, as we all know, shopper expectations are forever in flux. This is why it is vital to underpin customer interactions with agile systems and processes that can respond effectively to these changes in behaviour.

With the rapid rise of ecommerce, it is somewhat unsurprising that our survey respondents cited ‘greater channel consistency’ (25%) as one of the key areas they would like retailers to focus on getting right. Shoppers want retailers to align their online, mobile and in-store visits to create a seamless experience across the brand’s multiple channels.

Within five years, 63% of consumers said they wanted in-store staff to be able to talk about products that are available in-store and online at the same time. To meet this demand, retailers need to look at in-store technology, such as the point of sale, to better obtain a single view of stock availability and product information.

Additionally, shoppers crave more cross-channel transaction capabilities. Over half (55%) want be able to pay for items in their online cart at the same time as making an in-store purchase. For example, this is useful if the store does not have a certain item available, but online does, or if the customer had begun making an ecommerce purchase but had failed to complete it at an earlier date. Although relatively few retailers are offering this ‘mixed basket’ service at present, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose have trialled it successfully and so we expect this to be an increasingly adopted option in the coming years.

Retailers need to obtain a clear view of their strengths and weaknesses to determine what adjustments are needed to meet the demands and expectations of their target audience and existing customers. However, no matter what those strengths and weaknesses are, there are certain steps that every retailer should be considering.

For example, retailers need to develop a deeper understanding of how, when and why their shoppers choose to use particular channels, and how they move between them. And once they have this understanding they can make the information available across their business, particularly in-store, where mobile point of sale technology can enable greater customer support and personalisation.

It’s vital also to ensure that any technology solutions are flexible enough to cater for the widest possible variety of customer demands and it needs to be scalable to extend and develop as the business grows, without disrupting existing operations.

The ability to be more agile in the retail environment is achievable now, meaning retailers need to adopt this approach soon to ensure their businesses have a firm footing for the future.

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