There are certain moments of truth in any retail purchasing experience that heavily influence customer engagement. Strategy gurus recommend mapping out every touch point where customers interact with a company in order to understand the customer experience throughout the purchase cycle. A Voice of the Customer program can help you understand how engagement ebbs and flows during the three phases of a customer’s life-cycle described below.
Your brand reputation precedes you. The customer life-cycle begins long before a customer actually sets foot in your store. Companies often rely on advertising to influence customers in the pre-purchase stage. We have found that customer recommendations are the most effective form of advertising, since 90% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know (Nielsen, 2009). A strong customer engagement strategy for retailers should involve methods of encouraging current customers to provide recommendations.
Once they realize that they actually want a certain product, retail consumers begin researching their purchasing options. Of course, many of us make sporadic retail purchases, but it isn’t unusual for customers to carefully investigate the market. For instance, studies have found that 75% of consumers conduct in-depth research before purchasing electronics. The more positive reviews there are for your brand, products, and services, the more likely a customer in the researching, pre-purchase stage is to choose your company. Regularly collecting customer feedback will allow you to gather real customer comments on your products – share these comments with your marketing department to help them understand what Passionate Promoters love about what you have to offer.
This is usually the most influential moment in the purchasing life-cycle. Although most retailers assume that price and product quality are the main drivers of the purchasing decision, our research has found that these metrics are less “sticky” than emotional components. Customers have no qualms about hopping from brand to brand for a lower price or a better product. However, once they are emotionally invested in a brand, they are less likely to switch to a different company. In this sense, the moment of purchase is an opportunity to create a positive emotional bond between the customer and the employee delivering your company’s service or product.
Uplifting, exceptional customer service isn’t easy to deliver—in fact, it usually requires a unique solution for each company. Therefore, your customer engagement strategy should include a Voice of the Customer program, to help you understand how customers feel as they interact with your employees, and a Voice of the Employee program, to capitalize on insights employees can deliver about the customer experience.
Especially in this digitally rich age, customers have plenty of distractions. They are unlikely to think back on their experience with you unless you provide a reminder. This can be as simple as an automatically sent thank-you note, or as complex as following up large retail purchases with a personal phone call. For larger retailers, loyalty programs may be a fruitful method of encouraging repeat purchases. However, you can’t really know what kind of post-purchase care your customers want unless you ask them—that’s where a Voice of the Customer program comes in handy. From a customer engagement strategy perspective, the post-purchase part of the customer life-cycle is important because it is when you will gather the data that will drive your future as a retail company.Baggu via andrewarchy at Flickr]