How real-time data empowers retailers to act with precisionby
Tim Waterton explores the advantages of real-time customer experience data, and reveals how retailers can leverage in-moment insights to enhance their performance, and get out of survival mode.
It’s no secret that data is the key to success for modern businesses. Ever since the pandemic, and arguably before that disruption, there has been an increasing pressure on businesses to become hyper vigilant and reactive to consumers' behaviours and expectations. As a result, procuring access to instant and real-time customer feedback insights has become a top priority for retailers.
One of the most significant consequences of the mass migration to ecommerce consumer demand. Confined by restrictions, convenience became paramount during the pandemic. Equally, customers warmed to the instant gratification of online shopping, accessing goods and services at the click of a button. While those extreme restrictions have fortunately been confined to history, these heightened expectations have remained and continue to influence consumer choice. Now, the challenge is for brick-and-mortar businesses to swiftly adapt their operations and optimise every interaction in their customers’ journey.
At this point, digital transformation programs that incorporate customer feedback have become invaluable for retailers in understanding the changing dynamics of consumer expectation. By actively collecting and analysing customer data, stores can gain rapid insights into critical areas, allowing them to track, react, and measure customer satisfaction levels.
So, in what ways can real-time feedback take centre stage in meeting and exceeding customer expectations?
Exceeding customer demands with exceptional service
Given that customers are seeking a more distinctive and frictionless journey, retailers are confronted with a new reality of balancing in-store and online experience. According to recent findings, 64% of consumers consider customer experience a paramount factor when making a purchase decision. However, understanding the intricacies of the customer journey has proved both challenging and time-consuming. Even now, many stores still rely on outdated approaches to collecting information about customer interactions and satisfaction. In so many cases, issues with slow systems offering limited out-of-date data are common. This in part explains why retailers with a less evolved customer-centric culture often struggle to maintain a competitive edge.
Even now, many stores still rely on outdated approaches to collecting information about customer interactions and satisfaction.
To thrive in an era driven by consumer preferences, stores need to shift away from spontaneous strategies and guessing what the customer is thinking, to proactive optimisation. Leveraging the power of real-time data, retailers can swiftly grasp consumer behaviour and actively respond to their evolving needs. A key component of this transformation is access to technology capable of delivering these detailed customer insights. Integrating these systems into the operational data fabric creates an interactive, instant and continuous feedback loop between buyers and managers. Once this has been established, stores can efficiently filter and visualise customer analytics and begin to make valuable changes that are supported by data.
Applying and integrating real-time data into core retail operations resonates throughout the retail experience. It allows stores to pinpoint bottlenecks and address issues immediately. From minimising queue times to refining store layouts. Similarly stores can fine-tune staff allocation and communication, while also tailoring their operations with real precision to optimise the customer journey. Put simply, access to actionable data enables retailers to learn exactly what their customers need, and most of all, where and when they need it.
Address the changing landscape
It has also become abundantly clear that the pandemic reshaped the expectations for in-store experiences, placing an emphasis on safety, cleanliness, and convenience. It is reported that a staggering 53% of customers now expect cleanliness to be a top priority, while the discomfort felt in crowded areas has intensified. In response, manufacturing hygiene-friendly conditions has undeniably become the cornerstone for gaining a competitive advantage in the retail industry.
As previously discussed, real-time data empowers retailers to address a wide range of challenges. So, when it comes to adapting to the safety and hygiene demands, the ability to digitally manage and monitor all store operations is extremely valuable. These systems can then be used to quickly solve issues related to aisle cleanliness and store capacity. Aside from helping prevent issues from escalating, this approach also means that staff can be deployed more effectively. Ultimately assuring that the path to purchase is convenient, safe, and secure.
Integrate online and in-person experiences
Despite a surge in online purchases, customers still value in-person exchanges. One hurdle for retailers lies in offering a seamless transition between online shopping and in-person collection. With 59% of consumers showing reliance on in-store pick-up, retailers are expected to support e-commerce by providing hassle-free collection services.
Despite a surge in online purchases, customers still value in-person exchanges.
To reduce friction, these additional services and collection points need to run like clockwork. Maintaining smooth operations during busy periods can be tough and requires a significant level of preparation. Through the combination of historical data and real-time analytics, retailers can receive impressively accurate predictions about their store. Consulting these data forecasts, gives stores a crystal ball through which they can optimise product placements, adjust warehouse capabilities, and allocate resources for pick-up services effectively.
Crucially, by eliminating unnecessary delays and streamlining processes, stores can relieve huge amounts of stress on both the customer and their employees. Lifting this burden is an essential part of running a slick operation, capable of thriving during busy seasonal periods.
Foster customer-centricity for store success
Through digital transformation, stores can efficiently process thousands of feedback responses and statistics. Thereby allowing managers to create individual customer profiles (ICPs) and personalise interactions based on their customers' explicit recommendations. On top of this, by comparing metrics like conversion, browsing time, and pre/post-customer satisfaction, retailers can elevate their performance levels by identifying and adapting to the expectations of their customers. Tapping into the realm of real-time data elevates the speed and level at which retailers can tailor all these elements.
Acknowledging that many of the operational changes actually take place on the frontline, sharing data insights with employees is also a great way to ingrain a customer-centric store environment. This knowledge yields efficient collaboration and enables employees to address complaints promptly. Sharing insights in a digestible way also helps staff understand the data-informed process and rationale behind the changes as they are implemented.
Ultimately, digital systems are key for retailers to predict and prepare for the needs and expectations of tomorrow’s customers. Through strategic investments in real-time data, stores can unlock the power of multilayered insights, resulting in enhanced operations and propelling the customer journey to new heights. Retailers should be encouraged by the positive changes new technology can make, embrace the opportunity and resist becoming overly attached to legacy approaches.