Brighter business / The importance of customer experience in retail

The importance of customer experience in retail

17th March 2020

If you’ve ever been on a website with the intent to buy something but abandoned that purchase at the last minute because something about the process was frustrating, then you’ve had a negative customer experience.

Customer experience, or CX, is a catch-all term. It describes the overall impression created by every possible touchpoint between your business and your customers throughout every stage of the customer journey.

CX is necessarily broad. It includes advertising, marketing, the mapping of a customer’s digital journey; it is as much about the face-to-face interaction and in-store experience as it is post-sale customer service and word-of-mouth recommendations to their friends and relatives.

Consumer behaviour: What does the research say?

Deloitte University Press has published an insightful report on consumer behaviour in a retail context. The report highlights three Rs which determine customer behaviour: Research, Recommendations (or Reviews), and Returns.

Increasingly, consumers have better access to information about the things they want to buy and actively research before committing to a purchase. This means that they are clued up about where they can find these goods at the best price or the most convenient location. Consumers also learn about retailers via customer reviews and recommendations. Reviews sites are a battleground for business reputation and can heavily influence consumer actions.

Finally, returns policies are a driver of consumer behaviour. The Deloitte report highlights shifting consumer preferences, and while flexible returns policies may attract custom they are also changing the nature of the retailer-consumer relationship.

Improving CX in-store

Knowledge is power, so awareness of trust and flexibility as drivers of customer behaviour means that you can identify the areas of your store that need improvement.

Another concern for consumers is time: 40% of respondents cited long lines in-store as a barrier to positive experience, while a further 24% cited slow checkouts and inconvenient opening hours (10%).

The value of time is a common thread, but also a problematic one; how do you reduce the amount of time a customer spends in store while improving the experience? Fast payment by contactless card, for example, or online ordering with click-and-collect are just two examples which may make a difference.

Finally, the physical design of a retail unit can incorporate certain design elements to improve the in-store experience in subtle ways, helping to turn a normal visit into a more distinguished experience.

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Improving CX online

In terms of online presence, knowing how your customers use your website and the logical journey across it can inform better design and lead to improve experience.

Think about some of the big players in retail and how their websites are designed to optimise the customer experience. Amazon and ASOS, for example, have revolutionised online commerce with customer-centric service, quick delivery and flexible returns policies.

In both instances, success has been achieved through a focus on CX. Both companies focus on making life easy for customers, with navigable websites, quick delivery, and flexible and hassle-free returns policies.

As exclusively online retailers, both companies have lower overhead costs which has allowed them to focus spend on creating user-centric websites and user-centric policies and products like Amazon Prime and ASOS Premier Delivery.

User-centric design also means that you need to think about how your customers are accessing your website.

Over the last number of years, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets have become the de facto device of choice amongst consumers for browsing and making purchases; in 2017, 58% of ASOS’s global orders were placed on mobile.

This means you should think about optimising your website for mobile devices, as a significant proportion of viewers and sales may originate from mobile as opposed to desktop devices or laptops. A website which renders well on mobile devices offers improved user experience, whether that’s browsing or shopping, and can improve sales.

Ultimately, positive CX should create a lasting impression, encouraging brand loyalty and repeat custom. You could start with simple initiatives to improve customer loyalty; develop existing relationships by introducing loyalty cards, personalised discounts and so on. Identify areas where you can improve and start strategising!